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President's Message | Archive


September 19, 2016

TO:  American University Community

FROM:  Neil Kerwin, President

SUBJECT:  Recent Events and Climate of Inclusion


In recent days, two incidents of unacceptable student behavior were reported that left our African-American students and others shaken, upset, and even feeling unsafe.  The second act of misconduct involved an explicit racist incident in a residence hall. Such acts are reprehensible and are the antithesis of the values and standards we embrace as a university.

I share with many of you deep disappointment and frustration that these events have disrupted our community and challenged our efforts to build an inclusive campus culture.  They simply have no place here.  We will confront racist expressions with forceful condemnation and respond to discrimination with every tool at our disposal.  It is incumbent on the university to respond clearly and to educate those who cause harm with their insensitivity and ignorance. 

Staff have been working tirelessly and directly with students since last week, providing outreach and support, including a town hall meeting last Friday. The first incident was investigated and those involved in the misconduct have been held accountable through the student conduct process. The second is under investigation and a statement released to residents last week specifically calls for anyone with more information to contact Public Safety (; 202-885-2527).  The directors of Housing and Dining have written to all resident students, reminding them to live up to the community standards they participated in establishing.

There will be opportunities to discuss our expectations and our concerns during a series of events, entitled Courageous Conversations, in the weeks to come.  The Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the Counseling Center, Faculty Staff Assistance Program and Kay Spiritual Life Center are places to seek support and solace.  We will speak directly and listen carefully in an effort to help our community heal and overcome the hurt that has been expressed.

Do not be discouraged. We will not be dissuaded from our goal to create a more inclusive climate.  Despite the efforts we have begun, there is still a great deal more to do.  Given the events we have seen across our country in recent months, this work will continue for the foreseeable future.  

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