You are here: American University President Announcements July 20, 2018

American University
Washington, DC

Memorandum July 20, 2018

AU Community
Sylvia M. Burwell, President
A Note of Appreciation and Support

Dear Members of the AU Community,

Wednesday was an anxious day on campus. As soon as I heard the news that afternoon, I called together our AU leadership. For those hours, we were focused on one thing – the safety and well-being of everyone on this campus.

I know that a few days after this lockdown, there are still some lingering questions and concerns. So I’m sending this note today to start a series of updates that you’ll receive from AU on what happened, what went well, and what needs to be improved.

But first, I want to start by saying thank you. Thank you to the students, faculty, staff and visitors – from young children in camps, to conference attendees – for your patience and cooperation. I realize that the lockdown was inconvenient, and it created some anxiety. We felt that, in this situation, caution was important. Our number one priority is the safety and well-being of the people in this community.

Thank you also to the AUPD, the Metropolitan Police Department and our law enforcement partners who swiftly assessed the threat, provided instructions, and cleared and searched hundreds of buildings so that our campus could return to normal.

During the lockdown and after, a few items came to our attention. One example we heard about was a delay in the email notifications sent from our alert system. I want to apologize for those email delays. We quickly tracked down the issue and contacted the software vendor, who fixed the problem. I know it was still confusing and unnerving. We are working to find out how this happened and take steps to ensure it does not happen again.  

As we do that, other members of the AU staff will provide information on how you can ensure you’re subscribed to AU Alert notifications, and more detail to help you fully understand our alert system.

Your physical security is important to me, and your emotional security is too. If you think you might benefit from the support of our counseling resources, the Faculty Staff Assistance Program is available by appointment by contacting the Program at or (202)885-2607, and our Counseling Center is available for students by appointment at (202)885-3500.

In closing, I want you to know that every decision I make and all of the work we do here at American University is based on the best information we have and centered on our highest priority – and my highest priority as your president – the safety of every member of our AU family.