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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
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Opinion: A recurring failure to protect students makes AU an unsafe environment

Administration’s lack of care for student safety is an unsurprising story

During my first year at American University, I ran a radio show for WVAU from 1 to 2 a.m. on Monday nights. After an hour of blasting music in the studio, I would take a deep breath and start the eerie, albeit short, walk from the studio in Mary Graydon Center to Centennial Hall.

Although this walk lasted no longer than two minutes, it was hard not to be a bit frightened on my way to my residence hall as I walked past empty buildings on dark sidewalks. The things that gave me solace were the emergency blue light towers.

Fast forward a year, I live on East Campus and still DJ at night for WVAU. As a sophomore more comfortable with the campus, I don’t feel as scared as I used to, but I still like to look for the blue light towers as I walk back to my dorm.

About a month ago I noticed a sign on the tower nearest my dorm.

“Emergency Help Station, Out of Order,” the sign said.

At the bottom, in smaller text: “Technicians have been scheduled to repair this station.”

Technicians have been scheduled to repair this station for almost two months now. Unbeknownst to me, other Eagle staff also recognized this phenomenon. As of Oct. 11, there were eight malfunctioning blue light towers on campus, which is unacceptable. Additionally, a staff editorial condemned administrators at AU for a lack of transparency with safety, which I fully agree with. 

My main concern, though, is that the University has proven time and time again that it does not care about its students. Administrators are ignorant, and I am sick of it. 

Take this example: on Oct. 25, AU President Sylvia Burwell sent an email to the community titled “Threatening Anti-Palestinian Note in Kerwin Hall.” In this email, Burwell instructed students who felt unsafe to “call the AUPD emergency number at 202-885-3636, use the blue light emergency telephones on campus, or use the RAVE Guardian app.” Burwell instructed students to use the blue lights, of which eight were inoperable at the time, if they felt unsafe.

This statement is simply ignorant and shows a lack of connection between Burwell and AU, and the administration needs to do better. I’ve been here for just over a year and have already experienced subpar reactions from AU to antisemitic hate crimes (thrice), an anti-Palestinian threatening note and the sexual assault in Leonard Hall

On Nov. 28, a student was assaulted by robbers carrying a gun at the Nebraska Hall shuttle stop. Afterward, Phil Morse, the assistant vice president of University Police and Emergency Management, sent an email to students. Notably missing sympathetic words for fearful students, Morse offered some general safety tips and urged students to “Use the AU shuttle service whenever possible.”

Recommending this to students is shocking and incredibly ignorant on the University’s behalf. An email with some pre-written tips is completely unacceptable when one of those tips is to do exactly what the student who was robbed was doing — waiting for a University shuttle.

I’m tired of feeling unsafe, and I’m tired of not trusting the people who are paid to protect and stand for our community. These inconsiderate communications after massive security incidents are impermissible on a college campus. The lack of safety on this campus is unacceptable, and the admin has to do better.

Alana Parker is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and School of Communication and a columnist for The Eagle. 

This article was edited by Jelinda Montes, Alexis Bernstein and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Olivia Citarella.

opinion@theeagleonline.com


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