Opinion: The same message a year later: Remove Wesley Bush from AU’s board of trustees

Bush’s presence on the board is representative of University’s hypocrisy

Opinion: The same message a year later: Remove Wesley Bush from AU’s board of trustees

This article is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff. 

Wesley Bush, who has ties to war-profiting companies, was appointed to the American University board of trustees a year ago. Despite continuous student and faculty resistance to his presence on campus, he remains on the board.

AU Dissenters, a campus group that opposes the University’s investment in the war industry, is pushing University administrators to dismiss the former CEO and chairman of Northrop Grumman, which is in the top five largest defense contractors in the U.S. Bush helped lead the business of war and destruction in such high ranking roles. Campus activities are mobilizing to remove Bush and are educating the AU community about militarization.

The campaign to remove Bush started last January after his board appointment. The Eagle published a story that reported student and faculty beliefs that Bush’s appointment didn’t align with the University’s supposed social justice values. 

AU’s School of International Service proudly proclaims its duty to prepare students “to serve the global community as emerging leaders, waging peace and building understanding in our world.” How can AU tout this reputation and have the former CEO of a company that profits from not only the sales of deadly weapons, but also from their impact on war and conflict?

Northrop Grumman executives’ stock saw the largest increase in value after Iranian general Qasem Suleimani was killed by U.S. airstrike. Though Bush is no longer the CEO, his previous shares in company stock allowed his company assets to increase by $4.9 million, totaling $94.5 million following the airstrike. 

Bush left his position amid a year of human rights scandals. This includes surveillance of immigrants at the border, providing services to Saudi Arabia which aided in their bombings of Yemen, among others

Bush’s appointment suggests that AU not only condones militarism and human rights violations, but also instills trust and responsibility in the former chief of these cruelties. Ngakiya Camara, a School of Public Affairs senior and leading member of AU Dissenters, said, “Wes Bush now helps decide where the school’s money goes. AU disregards the fact that the board is supposed to reflect the students’ wants and needs.”

Wes Bush protest

AU Dissenters is a campus chapter of the national movement organization which leads young people in forcing institutions to divest from war and militarism and reinvest in life-giving resources. While the campus group has been working on Bush’s removal since January, Camara notices “now that we’re back on campus, the efforts are more heightened because we’re all sharing space and it’s easier to reach people.”

AU Dissenters ramped up efforts towards Bush’s removal in the national Dissenters #DivestfromDeath campaign the week of Halloween. I became involved in Dissenters work then and assisted Camara with a banner drop in SIS. We taught students and faculty about Bush and AU’s involvement with militarism and circulated a petition for his dismissal that received nearly 300 signatures.

Camara pointed out AU’s hypocrisy of maintaining Bush’s spot on the board while claiming Black Lives Matter due to “how much militarism is involved with oppressing Black people. Police are militarized, and the military does this on a global level. Both use the same harmful weapons and operations to assert power, dominance, and harm, mostly over Black and brown people domestically and abroad.”

Though Bush still sits on AU’s board of trustees, Camara feels hopeful as AU Dissenters “will continue reaching out to administrators and in the meantime, we’ll teach students about how entrenched militarism is in our everyday lives.” Camara and AU Dissenters will strive to make the connection of this global enterprise and the institution of AU for as many community members as possible. Greater awareness on campus will increase the pressure for AU to remove Bush from its board so it can more accurately identify as a peace-waging institution.

AU community members can help apply pressure by signing the petition and sending letters of concern directly to the board at AUBOT@american.edu. To contact Ngakiya Camara and/or plug into AU Dissenter’s work, you can reach her at nc8422a@student.american.edu and follow AU Dissenters on Instagram at @audissenters

Jeni Hollander is a graduate student in the School of Public Affairs.

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