Student newsrooms are more important than ever in a climate that distrusts and attacks journalism.
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Student newsrooms are more important than ever in a climate that distrusts and attacks journalism.
The recent significant updates on fall operations allow American University students to start to picture what the fall semester will look like. With the University deciding to hold almost all classes in-person and implementing a vaccine requirement, the outlook seems positive. Students are eager to get back on campus, but there must be extensive protections in place for student, staff and faculty safety.
The University’s unintentional exposure of student data is alarming. While the data exposed was not particularly sensitive, The Eagle Editorial Board is left wondering whether the University’s extensive collection of highly personal information is actually safe. AU holds a variety of sensitive data, from student financial information to medical records to social security numbers. The information made accessible through this error was AUID numbers and survey responses, which is not so damaging for students, but how can the student body feel safe in the knowledge that another mistake won’t result in the reveal of more personal data? This situation could easily have been much worse if a different set of data was exposed.
It shouldn’t have taken a series of shootings that killed six women of Asian descent for anti-Asian violence to be brought to the forefront of our national and campus conversations. The Eagle needs to take responsibility for this. As a newspaper, we should have pushed harder and sooner to cover this story. The hateful rhetoric that has manifested in countless acts of violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is something that demands attention.
Editor's Note: This article appeared in The Eagle's March 2021 virtual print edition.
American University made the decision to house students on-campus, despite the threat of spreading the coronavirus. The University is now housing students for the Mid-Semester Residential Experience, often referred to as the “mini-mester,” in addition to emergency housing already offered to students who need it. The Nebraska Hall COVID-19 cluster, however, reminds us that the threat of the virus is present and requires constant evaluation by the University.
American University students’ relationship with the AU Police Department has been tenuous since a student was forcibly removed from their apartment by AUPD in September 2019. The “wellness check” resulted in a protest led in part by Black Lives Matter DC and a lawsuit from the student. AUSG President Eric Brock’s proposal of a community advisory board to oversee AUPD is the latest attempt to reform the department after the fall 2019 incident. This proposal, while welcome and forward-thinking, still leaves many questions as to whether this board will actually be implemented at AU and what that process will look like.
Despite closing campus due to coronavirus concerns, American University’s athletic department made the decision to continue athletics in some capacity. The athletic department’s announcement of a shutdown on Feb. 5, however, indicates that the safety of athletes, staff and the surrounding community is likely threatened by the travel and the inevitable close contact in most sports. Despite this threat, communication remains scarce, and there is insufficient understanding of what safety measures are in place. The University has a responsibility to question its COVID-19 procedures for the athletic department during this shutdown brought on by an increase in cases.
Editor’s note: Various members of The Eagle’s staff are involved in, or recently disaffiliated from, social Greek life. None of those students participated in the editorializing, writing or editing of this editorial.
American University released its spring COVID-19 testing plan in the face of a semester with a new, more contagious strain of COVID-19 and an effort to bring over a thousand students to campus. The plan itself raises some questions, but the failure of the administration to make these guidelines more widely known to the AU community prior to the start of the semester is equally concerning. Clarity is essential in a time when mistakes can have grave impacts on people’s lives.
While the events experienced at the Capitol on Jan. 6 touched the lives of people around the country, some members of the American University community were just a few miles away from the violence that threatened foundational processes of the United States government. The weight of that knowledge is undeniable. How do we, as students, faculty and staff, reconcile what the events of that day mean for our collective safety, responsibility to each other and mental health, both as a community and as individuals?
In an email to the University on Nov. 17, Acting Provost Peter Starr announced a new initiative to replace spring break: Wellness Week. Between March 7 and March 13, while classes will still meet synchronously, there will be no written assignments, exams, required readings or quizzes. The goal of this is to relieve stress students are feeling due to the ongoing pandemic, especially as spring break was canceled per President Sylvia Burwell’s email announcing the spring semester plan on Oct. 26. According to the email, spring break was canceled in the interest of preventing further spread of the coronavirus from travel. Winter break has also been extended by one week, with spring classes now beginning on Jan. 19.
Even though American University is unable to bring all students back to campus, University plans are still being made for the future. As reported by The Eagle, the University released an updated version of its 10-year plan beginning in 2021. The major changes proposed in the over 200 page document include a sound barrier along Jacobs Field; renovations to MGC, Bender Library and Kay Spiritual Life Center; and a plan to add more and improve housing on campus. This plan has received approval from the AU Neighborhood Partnership, and has generally involved more community stakeholders outside the University.
Editor's Note: This article appeared in The Eagle's October 2020 virtual print edition.
On Oct. 26, American University announced information about AU’s spring 2021 semester operating status. The semester will begin a week late on Jan. 19 and will expand courses in areas like the sciences, arts, media and select others to meet in-person, as reported by The Eagle. The announcement also included the expansion of on-campus housing for students and, notably, the cancellation of spring break. The majority of classes will remain online for the spring 2021 semester, with the University citing the trajectory of the coronavirus and “lessons” from other universities as factors in their decision-making process.
As announced in an email from Acting Provost Peter Starr, undergraduates may now make two classes this fall semester pass/fail, while graduate students may take one class with this option. This action can be taken after final grades are posted for the semester. This announcement comes after the Faculty Senate pushed for this option for students, with the stress of the coronavirus pandemic being a significant factor. Starr too, acknowledged the role of stress in students’ lives right now. This decision also comes after a petition started by AU chapters of the NAACP, Black Student Union and Black Girls Vote gained over 1,100 as reported by The Eagle.
As reported by The Eagle on Sept. 25, a student filed a lawsuit against American University, alleging discrimination based on mental health condition and race after they were forcibly removed from their apartment in fall 2019. The Eagle Editorial Board chose not to name the student in the interest of minimizing harm to that student. The removal occurred at the Frequency Apartments, where AU leases apartments. The lawsuit names Dean of Students Jeffrey Brown, AUPD officers and Metropolitan Police Department officers. The lawsuit alleges that after hours of pressuring the student to commit themselves to go to a hospital, the student was forcibly removed, wrapped in a blanket with handcuffs, and the student spent the next several days in a hospital.
On Monday Sept. 21, American University announced in an email to the AU community that there would be a change to the employee furlough plan. In June, it announced that there would be a week-long furlough of employees making $40,000 or more in January during the winter break. As reported by The Eagle, now employees have between Nov. 1, 2020, and March 12, 2021, for their five-day furlough, which can be on non-consecutive days. There are over 2,500 employees who will be furloughed, according to Matthew Bennett, AU’s vice president and chief communications officer.
After an unprecedented summer of racial justice and anti-racism activism, many students at American University have heeded the call to better support and listen to students of color, particularly Black students. Silence from many organizations echo loudly now, and it is in that silence that our student-athletes decided to bravely demand better. With demands that could change the Patriot League, their unprecedented organizing needs support.
On Aug. 14, American University launched a new Office of Equity and Title IX coinciding with the implementation of new federal regulations regarding Title IX. These changes from the Department of Education are serious, as they have narrowed the definition of what sexual harassment is on campus. The new rules now require a live hearing for students making formal complaints. This is a change from previous years, when universities had a choice between live hearings or single investigator models.