Burwell announces additional steps toward racial equity at AU

Steps include additional training for police officers and focus on recruiting faculty of color

Burwell announces additional steps toward racial equity at AU

University President Sylvia Burwell discusses her article on mental health on campus in an interview on Nov. 29. 

AU is pursuing multiple initiatives to combat racism and advance racial equity in addition to its Inclusive Excellence plan, President Sylvia Burwell announced in an email to the AU community on Tuesday. 

Ongoing actions include meetings between student, faculty and administration representatives and AUPD on the role of campus police officers and their connection to D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department, discussions about mental health and racial trauma with the Counseling Center and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and updates to the Antiracist Research and Policy Center following the departure of its founder, Ibram X. Kendi. 

Current and future updates on AU’s Inclusive Excellence plan, which launched in 2018, include greater tuition affordability and access measures, enhanced training on racial literacy and equity among leadership, greater focus on the recruitment and retention of faculty of color, the launch of Black affinity housing in the fall, the launch of Inclusive Excellence mini-grants and adjustments to the AUx1 and AUx2 course curriculum. 

“At American University, Black lives matter,” Burwell wrote. “Recent weeks have been difficult for many reasons, especially for our Black community, and demonstrate just how much work we have ahead of us. We know our Black students, faculty, and staff and communities of color have shouldered a disproportionate burden in leading the effort for racial equity on campus and beyond.”

The email follows the announcement of the creation of the Office of Equity and Title IX last week, along with outcry on social media regarding racist and traumatic experiences of Black students at AU. 

Burwell said that AUPD will hold implicit bias training for its officers over the summer, along with additional steps meant to guarantee the security of Black students on campus. 

Burwell said that AU has no contractual relationship with MPD beyond what is required by D.C. law, which mostly concerns instances of significant threat to the community. In recent weeks, following a wave of Black Lives Matter protests, students across the country have called on universities to end all relations with municipal police forces.

In October, students protested the treatment of a student who was removed from her apartment by AUPD officers and D.C. Fire personnel in September. 

Burwell reaffirmed the University’s commitment to using all additional funds from this year’s tuition increase for financial aid, which she announced on June 19. 

“Building an antiracist AU that advances racial equity requires hard work, transparency, and accountability,” Burwell wrote on Tuesday. “It is my commitment to you that we will continue this work as part of our core strategy and values. In the weeks ahead, AU senior leadership will continue to listen and hear, and identify additional key action steps to take moving forward.”

dpapscun@theeagleonline.com 

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