Staff Editorial: Looking back to look forward: The strained relationship between AU administrators and the community
Back-to-back failures in effectively handling student concerns results in desensitization of fruitless promises and a growing campus culture of disapproval toward leadership
In reflection of our coverage in the past semester, there was common theme among the stories: dissatisfaction of institutional action and values. From the questioning of American University administration’s ability to solidify a bright future for students, to adjusting their financial investment in the public safety of the campus, there has been consistent discussion on whether we have the best advocates of our well-being. The Eagle typically focuses on one particular article for its editorials, but for our last editorial of the semester, we decided to look at AU’s semester in review as a whole.
Members of the editorial board, who are also members of the AU community and are directly affected by administrative actions, have routinely voiced in these past few months that AU’s commitment to its students is driven by finances and appeasement of stakeholders keeping the University afloat. In the budget report of fiscal years 2023 and 2024, 2.6 percent of the University’s budget is allocated towards the Office of Campus Life and the Housing and Dining Programs, a 0.9 percent decrease from fiscal years 2020 and 2021. While funding for existing student experience support costs are expected to decrease from $38,687 to $19,204, simultaneously, the funding towards the “Change Can’t Wait” campaign continues to rise, which is symbolic of the University’s craving of good publicity.
Another theme present in this ongoing phenomenon is the rehashed statements and sentiments expressed in email communications to the community from the Office of the President. Last year, in response to antisemetic vandalism in a men’s bathroom stall in Anderson Hall, President Sylvia Burwell characterized the incident as “possible” antisemitism and noted the investigation may be “inconclusive.” The promise of commitment to safety and “sense of belonging” was repeated in the response to the second incidence of the hateful vandalism, yet no further action aside from acknowledgement was made in making that promise a reality. No camera surveillance in the residence halls to prevent of repeated incidents, as later petitioned for in the walkout against the mishandling of Title IX cases. No genuine, consistent effort to keep up with the individual needs of community members that falls too far out of their performative “Change Can’t Wait” platform goals.
In the formulation of our articles, it is at times difficult to pick apart the incidents that occur on campus due to their similar outcomes: email acknowledgements and behind-the-scenes “work” being done to remedy them. The reality that many AU students connect more through shared negative experiences at the University, rather than sports or club events, is a disappointing one.
Once we start the next semester in mid-January, we shouldn’t have to keep outlining the basic needs that students and faculty alike have been protesting, emailing and battling over: formulating a direct connection with the community. Remaining behind computer screens and Zoom cameras only stabilizes the lost connection between AU leadership and AU community members. We hope that the administration will roll out a guaranteed plan to establish a personal direct line of communication between them and the student body and improved ways to respond to on-campus conflict and violence.
As a newspaper, we plan to incorporate a broader range of student voices outside of our staff into our reporting that best reflect the viewpoints of the communities within our larger community. Being one of the largest student media organizations on campus, we have a responsibility to not only highlight the concerns that affect individuals, but also to celebrate the strides being made by our community members to strengthen our sense of solidarity. We know our Editorial Board is not fully representative of the AU community — despite making strides in recent years to have a more diverse staff, we know we still have a lot of work to do.
Regardless of the event or topic we cover in our editorials, one thing remains constant: efforts, coalitions and movements cannot have an expiration date and “change” can no longer be digitized.