American University freshmen reflect on their expectations for the University

Freshman share how perception of the University in the admissions process changed during their first semester

American University freshmen reflect on their expectations for the University

From the Newsstands: This story appeared in The Eagle's November 2022 print edition. You can find the digital version here

When she first arrived on American University’s campus, Melanie Scheel, a freshman in the School of Communication, was expecting an experience full of new friends, academics and finding independence. Instead, and unexpectedly, she was faced with union protests. 

“I started getting emails from my advisor explaining the protests and explaining the union and how he was actually a part of it too,” Scheel said. “Honestly, I was a little worried, because it was like the first impression I had and I was moving in.”

During the Class of 2026 convocation, many first-year students walked out when AU President Sylvia Bur- well began to speak. Scheel said she got to participate in the protest, which she didn’t get the chance to do back home in Guatemala.

“Protests are going to be something part of the D.C. experience. I never had a lot of experience [with] protests surrounding me. I was always taught to avoid them growing up,” Scheel said. “I did walk out with my roommate. And I saw that it mattered a lot to teachers ... I think it actually was a good lesson to see that the University allows for people to speak their mind and join together.”

Kate Travis, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she also expected the University to be very politically active and expected better administrative procedures for processes such as Title IX. She said she expected the school to offer more victim support and better investigative procedures.

“I had heard that the administration was not the greatest, which seems to be the case, especially with Title IX stuff,” Travis said. “[The school] promotes its progressivity a lot, it's unfortunate that they don't put more effort into rectifying the [Title IX] situations.”

Many students are drawn to the University for its politically active student body and progressive marketing. Abigail Nowell, a freshman in the School of International Service, decided to enroll because she liked how accepting the University seemed.

“Everybody seemed to be like, super advocating for change, with a slogan and everything,” Nowell said. “I thought it was interesting, to get here and see all the protests going on. And the response to that versus what [the University] put themselves out to be on the website itself.”

Yet despite everything happening walking into her first semester of freshman year, Travis found it encouraging to see the community come together to advocate for change, a process that she said was good to be a part of.

“On the one hand, I was disappointed to see that my assumptions about the administration being terrible were correct,” Travis said. “But on the other hand, it was nice to see that the workers could join together and that we could actually affect change by protesting.”

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