You are here: August 7, 2019

American University
Washington, DC

Memorandum August 7, 2019

To:
AU Community
From:
Sylvia M. Burwell, President
Subject:
This Past Weekend's Tragic Events

I was heartbroken at the sad and senseless acts of violence this past weekend. Within 24 hours, two separate mass shootings took at least thirty-one lives and injured more than fifty. And let us not forget the similarly terrible incident less than two weeks ago in California. The communities of El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Gilroy, California are grieving. We hold these communities in our hearts. Our AU family is part of these places— our students, our parents, our alumni, and many others have deep ties in these areas. Our entire university reaches out with our condolences and support for the victims, their families, as well as anyone from AU affected by these attacks.

We all struggle to understand these tragedies and to know what we should do next. As a mother, I have to find words to help my children in these moments. As a concerned citizen, I want to know what our country can do to stop these heartbreaks. And as a leader, I want to help bring people together to heal and to act.

In these difficult moments, it’s important to pause, reflect, support, and be willing to reach out for help if needed. Here at AU, if you are a student and need someone to talk with, I would encourage you to visit the AU Counseling Center in room 214 in the Mary Graydon Center or call 202-885-3500. Students who live in a residence hall can reach out at any time to their community director. You can also go to your residence hall community desk for assistance. If you think this could affect your studies, you can speak with your academic advisor or contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 202-885-3300.

Faculty and staff can reach out to the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program at 202-885-2593. And every member of the community is welcome to seek reflection and prayer at the Kay Spiritual Life Center or speak to a chaplain. Take time to care for yourself and for those around you.
 
The stark reality laid bare this weekend is that gun violence has simply taken too many lives in our nation. It is tearing at our social fabric and robbing us of our future. In the El Paso shooting, early reports indicate the gunman specifically targeted people by their race and ethnicity. In the face of such hatred and violence, which has no place in our campus or communities, we cannot afford to succumb to hopelessness or complacency.

We must stand up, come together, and work toward solutions. That can and will take many forms across our community, from helping our friends and neighbors to exploring questions about the causes of these tragedies to seeking potential new ways for society to confront these issues. While we do not have the answers we all seek, American University has always been a place where people take on the world’s greatest challenges. Where we harness our people, our knowledge, and our commitment to community to make an impact bigger than any one of us -- and often bigger than we could have imagined at the outset. And I know that our community will do just that.