Staff Editorial: Recent racially-charged incident inspires frustrations that administration must recognize
Administration should be transparent with students if action cannot be taken after incidents occur
A video featuring a former member of Chi Omega saying a racial slur is just another in the string of racially charged incidents that have punctuated AU’s history. Similar situations seem to arise every few months; the administration sends an email with lukewarm sentiments and the AU community dies down till the next time. The University has repeatedly ignored demands for change and proof of accountability, and the question from the student body seems to be, “What now?”
Despite statements from Greek Life and student groups, the administration’s response has remained virtually the same as with previous incidents. It seems that AU students and administration alike have reached a standstill. Demands are repeatedly made and are repeatedly met with carefully crafted statements that absolve the University of any responsibility. Disciplinary action is rarely taken, despite demands for change. Student organizations are forced to express their outrage through their own statements and events because they recognize that the University would like nothing more than to sweep another incident under the rug.
The administration can continue to point out the lack of a hate speech provision in the student conduct code, but it seems the conversation has shifted. But why is there a lack of a hate speech provision in the student conduct code? What does that say about the administration, that they let these actions go unpunished despite their regular and deeply upsetting occurrences?
AUx was established with the primary goal of transitioning freshmen into university life within the context of racial incidents occurring at AU around that time. As those who have gone through the curriculum will remember, however, any discussion of race does not occur until the second semester of their freshman year. The first semester of the AUx course is a series of projects that require students to go to professors' office hours and visit various places on campus. How does this teach students to understand the social responsibilities they undertake by entering a higher education institution? Even AUx, a significant policy initiative created to combat racial insensitivity, refuses to acknowledge the necessity for its own existence.
The administration at AU is almost invisible to the community. Beyond names listed at the end of emails, members of the AU administration appear to be unreachable to students. Student organizations take on the burden of detailing requests and methods to combat these incidents on campus, but the lack of acknowledgment from the administration prevents any certainty that students are being heard. Whether it be a town hall discussion or regular office hours, students deserve a time and place to come face-to-face with important members of the University and walk away with the confidence that they were listened to.
If the administration chooses to prioritize students’ rights to free speech over the impact of hate speech, it needs to say so. If there are other factors preventing the administration from taking any action against those who perpetuate the use of hate speech, it needs to say so. Admitting that there will be inaction on the part of the University is a better response than yet another lengthy statement that essentially means nothing. The University’s position as it stands only serves to leave students wondering what the next incident that impacts the AU community will be.