Opinion: What does it mean to be a student at AU?

AUx should teach newcomers how to navigate campus culture, not campus geography

Opinion: What does it mean to be a student at AU?

The new academic year brought a variety of changes to American University’s campus, from the dining hall food becoming passable, to the construction on campus inconveniencing the second half of campus, rather than the first. What remains relatively unchanged, however, is AU’s freshman transition course, AUx, which is now in its second year as a mandatory class. 

The stated changes made to AUx1 can really be boiled down to switching things around in the curriculum. AUx1, as the class of 2022 will fondly remember, consisted of a lot of useful information, but it was also information that we could have found on our own after a few minutes on AU’s website. The question still remains whether this course (or at least the first semester of it) is a good use of our students’ time. 

One change that made it into this year’s AUx program is that transfer students are now required to take AUx and have their own designated AUx1 classes. This is meant to serve not only as a means to assimilate transfer students to the university’s environment, but also to provide a forum for them to meet and be with other transfers who are likely dealing with similar struggles. 

AUx1’s goal is to teach students not what it means to be a student, but what it means to be a student at American University. But what does that really mean? Knowing where the Counseling Center is? Understanding how to manage your time? What about these topics in the AUx curriculum actually gets to the heart of AU culture? 

If the goal of administration is to actually teach new students about what it means to study and live here, there are much more pressing and obvious issues the curriculum should include. In order to accurately prepare students for AU’s academic, social and political environment while in the middle of experiencing it, AUx needs to tackle specific aspects of AU culture. 

What does it mean to be an AU Eagle? Being an AU student means always competing for the next internship. It means sitting in a class with people preaching a certain worldview and practicing something entirely different in private amongst their friends. It means weaving politics into class discussions while the people involved don’t even have the communicative tools and sensitivity to talk about it in a way that doesn’t alienate an entire group of people, whether that group be within or outside of the classroom. These are the real issues newcomers to AU will face on a daily basis. Navigating around a campus that is barely two blocks long isn’t. 

It’s even more essential that transfer students are able to grasp the culture at AU. These students are coming to AU already worried about how they’re going to graduate on time with the endless core requirements, with AUx 1 and 2 stacked on top of that. If they are going to be subjected to a basic transition course filled largely with information they might have already received at their prior institution, the course should at least teach them what will make their adjustment to AU especially unique. 

If the goal of AUx is to introduce AU’s environment to new students, then the course as it currently stands skirts around that by focusing only on information students don’t need a weekly semester-long course to understand. While it might create a more cohesive experience for students in the course, shifting around aspects of the curriculum does not do enough justice towards aiding the transition into AU culture. In order to really highlight what students have to worry about when figuring out their new lives at American University, AUx needs to convey a better understanding of what the day-to-day experiences of AU students actually are. 

Riya Kohli is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and a columnist for The Eagle. 

rkohli@theeagleonline.com 

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