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Student Conduct

President Kerwin on White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, April 29

The Obama Administration sent a strong signal that sexual assault against students must stop. American University is strongly committed to best-practice strategies to prevent sexual assault or any other kind of violence in our community. The recommendations of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault include proven strategies that American University has already instituted, including regular surveys, bystander intervention training and the hiring of a trained victim advocate. These recommendations, along with other recent initiatives such as Senator Claire McCaskill’s survey of 350 university and college presidents, will draw needed attention to this issue and help the higher education community develop better ways to stop sexual assault. We look forward to participating in the ongoing conversation and to continuing to do everything we can to ensure student safety.

-- Neil Kerwin, President of American University, Washington DC, April 29, 2014.

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April 29, 2014

TO: Campus Community
FROM: Gail Short Hanson, Vice President of Campus Life
SUBJECT: Response to Proposals Addressing Misconduct

We would like to share with the community our response to a series of proposals originating from students to improve our effectiveness in sexual assault prevention and provide for the safety of our students. We thank all who have signed a petition supporting these proposals. We share your outrage and concern over the content of the emails recently released and the behavior they describe. The American University community stands united against behavior that threatens the safety or well-being of any member of our community. Assault, sexual assault, bullying, underage and binge drinking, illicit drug use, misogyny, homophobia, and racism are antithetical to our values. They will not be tolerated.

The university is taking swift and deliberate action to address each of the specific allegations raised by the recent release of e-mails. Investigations are being conducted by Public Safety, in consultation with law enforcement authorities, and by the Office of Campus Life. I will continue to post communications to update the campus community on these matters. We are committed to being transparent about the investigations within the boundaries allowed by the law.

The proposals in the petition call for specific actions related to individual violations of the student conduct code. Our commitment in pursuing code violations is to ensure fairness in our actions. We will afford due process and exercise care to arrive at findings of responsibility that are consistent with the weight of the evidence and sanctions that are commensurate with proven violations.

While we investigate the allegations described in the email messages, we are taking steps to improve the programs that contribute to student safety and compliance with our Student Conduct Code. In this pursuit, we are open to collaboration and to constructive ideas from others about programs and measures that can reduce illegal activity and misconduct, specifically, by groups not recognized by the university and comprised of AU students, operating to the detriment of the AU community.

President Kerwin has assured us that resources will not be the limiting factor in developing responses to the challenges we face. We are evaluating the capacity of our current staff, which already includes a full-time sexual assault prevention coordinator and victim advocate, and we will add resources where there is a demonstrated need and the promise of greater effectiveness.

We are also reviewing our current sexual-assault education and training programs, where these elements figure prominently:

  1. New Students. Campus Life staff and Orientation Leaders conduct Eagle Summit sessions that raise awareness about sexual assault and introduce campus resources. All new students are expected to complete online education through, which includes Haven –a segment on sexual assault. We are exploring ways to enhance the impact of these programs.
  2. New Fraternity/Sorority Members. The Sexual Assault Prevention Coordinator conducts a workshop on sexual assault prevention during Greek Orientation for all new members. Participation is required. Fraternities and sororities are also encouraged to request PEERS workshops throughout the year. We will work with Student Activities and fraternity and sorority leaders to enhance this training and evaluate its effectiveness.
  3. New Student Athletes. The Sexual Assault Prevention Coordinator conducts a workshop for all new student-athletes with a focus on sexual and dating violence. The workshop includes elements of bystander intervention training. Participation is required. We will work with Athletics & Recreation to enhance this training and evaluate its effectiveness.
  4. Male Students. The Sexual Assault Prevention Coordinator facilitates the recognized student club, Men of Strength (MOST), sponsored by the national organization, Men Can Stop Rape. The program helps participants examine and reevaluate their masculinity in order to create healthier, safer, and happier lives for themselves and the men and women they care about. We will work with club leaders to grow their membership and extend their influence.

Actions such as the Panhellenic Council’s decision to implement twice-yearly bystander training, and the Interfraternity Council’s repudiation of the attitudes and methods of the underground group in question are excellent contributions as well.

We are also prepared to work with the AU Club Council and Student Government to explore the proposal regarding mandatory sexual assault education for the executive board members of AU’s more than 200 student clubs and organizations.

We will share additional steps and program enhancements as they are more fully developed and look to you for valuable inputs and additional ideas.

American University will continue to provide a high-quality educational experience in an environment that is safe and that reflects our shared values. That is the American University we cherish and will do our utmost to preserve. Thank you to all who have expressed your concern and commitment to our community.

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April 24, 2014

TO: Campus Community
FROM: Gail Short Hanson, Vice President of Campus Life
SUBJECT: Student Conduct Matters

As the university continues to deal with the serious allegations of misconduct that were brought to our attention last week, I want to address some of the feedback we have received and outline what the community may expect in the weeks and months to come. Our community continues to be outraged by the behaviors described.

First, I want to reiterate that AU takes the allegations seriously. Assault, sexual assault, bullying, underage and binge drinking, illicit drug use, misogyny, homophobia, and racism are antithetical to our values. We will address them head on.

Emails describing the misconduct, provided by an anonymous source, appear to be exchanges on a Google listserv not hosted by the university. They describe actions that, if proven, represent breaches of both our Student Code of Conduct as well as law. We are reviewing the accusations thoroughly and expeditiously to identify what is actionable.

To that end, we have several tools at our disposal. We apply our student code of conduct and local and federal laws. An intense investigation is underway and will determine instances where evidence will support adjudication on campus or in coordination with law enforcement agencies. We are determined to respect the time it takes to complete the process and avoid jeopardizing our ability to hold individuals accountable.

While we carry out the investigations, we will take appropriate measures to protect the safety and well-being of all who are directly involved, including victims and witnesses, as well as the rights of the accused, so that any eventual outcomes are the result of due process and fair treatment without prejudice. Those accused are presumed innocent until found responsible or proven guilty.

Reports are incorrect that the university has done nothing to curtail the activities of the group of individuals that pose as a “brotherhood” and mask themselves in the rituals and social benefits of a fraternity, but uphold none of the traditions of scholarship, leadership, and service. The university started by deploying all of the tools it has available to hold a group accountable. The details of the university’s 2001 sanctions and withdrawal of the group’s recognition are well known and outlined on our website and in mass mailings. For years, the university has warned students to avoid joining or engaging with this group and also warned parents in orientations and in writing.

Whenever credible reports about misconduct have been provided, we have pursued them.

We remind everyone that the results of student conduct hearings are confidential. Arrests, criminal charges and convictions are matters of public record.

As the judicial processes proceed, we are engaging in discussions about how to improve our extensive education and prevention efforts. We encourage the participation of our community to realize the goal of greater and more effective prevention efforts.

Actions such as the Panhellenic Association’s decision to implement twice-yearly bystander training, and the efforts of other community members to work with the administration are important to reinforce our commitment to civility and safety. To succeed we must work together to prevent and confront behaviors that are not consistent with our values and mission.

We will continue to update our community on developments and resources on this website.

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April 21, 2014

TO: Campus Community
FROM: Neil Kerwin, President
SUBJECT: Student Conduct

Members of our campus community have been alerted through anonymous emails to student conduct allegations that demand the university’s immediate attention. The allegations include high risk and harmful behaviors that not only conflict with our values and standards, but also may represent breaches of our student conduct code and of the law.

The emails discuss alleged behaviors by a group that is not recognized by the university. A group by the same name lost national and university recognition 13 years ago, in 2001.
That these alleged behaviors may have occurred within our community reminds us that we are not immune from the problems that have occurred on campuses across the country.

I am determined that we use this disturbing situation as an opportunity to reinforce and uphold the values and standards of this university.

What AU is doing
I assure you that the university is taking the information contained in the emails very seriously. We are taking swift and deliberate action to investigate every one of the alleged behaviors and will apply our student conduct code to its fullest extent.

In addition, we are working closely with appropriate law enforcement agencies on any potential criminal activities that are found.

We will communicate as circumstances warrant and we will continue to promote the highest level of awareness on our campus about student conduct, the behaviors identified in the emails, and the role and responsibilities of fraternities and sororities in our community.

What AU cannot do
Many in our campus community are also outraged by the alleged behaviors and are calling for specific actions and a high level of transparency by the university. However, the university is bound by regulations and statutes regarding the disclosure of names and disciplinary and other actions taken with students and with law enforcement.

We will be as transparent as we can be, but we will not jeopardize due process and the rights of individual privacy. We ask you to understand and respect the university’s governance and legal responsibilities.

Next Steps
This situation cannot be viewed as an isolated set of circumstances. It raises broader concerns about student conduct and high risk and harmful behaviors.

Over the ensuing weeks and months, we will review with the community the steps we have taken to educate and address such issues and solicit ideas about what else might be effective in curtailing dangerous, damaging and illegal behaviors.

Vice President of Campus Life Gail Hanson will communicate soon regarding this matter.

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April 18, 2014

TO: Campus Community
FROM: Gail Short Hanson, Vice President of Campus Life
SUBJECT: Recent information about alleged student conduct

Recently, an anonymous source shared emails and other information with university administrators and selected campus community members. We are outraged by the reprehensible content of this material. It could not be more contrary to American University's values and standards.

The material is under intense analysis by university officials, with attention to the statutes and regulations that guide our behavior. We assure our campus community that we are pursuing these matters deliberately and expeditiously so that violations of the law are addressed and university conduct code standards are upheld.