You are here: American University President Announcements September 15, 2021

AU Memo Letterhead

Dear AU Community,

It is such a joy to see our campus full of life and energy. Every day, our students, faculty, and staff are pursuing their passions and engaging in the collaborations that are a hallmark of our community. One of my favorite examples is our community garden. It is an opportunity for people to come together, learn, enjoy each other’s company, and create some beautiful fruits and vegetables. And it makes a wonderful Friday night dinner!

Gardens are wonderful examples of how hard work leads to growth. We have seen that same pattern in how we responded to COVID-19 and continued our focus on our university priorities. As is often the case, the pandemic and our strategic imperatives intersect, and today’s update is a good illustration of how critical work we already had underway for some time was accelerated by COVID-19 and other major social changes. More than ever, the pandemic and the ongoing reckoning with systemic racism have shown the importance of community and inclusivity. We are best when we come together in common purpose. At American University, our pursuit of inclusive excellence began before the pandemic; it is a key imperative of our Changemakers strategic plan; and it will be a core focus long after COVID-19. We have made important progress to date, and we have critical areas where we need to improve.

Today, we published the Year Three outcomes of our Inclusive Excellence plan. The plan, first launched in 2018 and now entering Year Four, demonstrates our fundamental commitment to inclusion and advances specific actions to enhance systems, policies, curriculum, research, and resources. It is grounded in the central ideal that we cannot be truly excellent unless we are fully inclusive. The inclusive excellence plan emerged from tragedy and trauma that hurt our community. It has helped sustain and grow our work after the racial reckoning of the summer 2020 and the damaging rise in antisemitism, Islamophobia, and hate and violence against Asian and Asian American communities. The plan and the work continue to move us forward as we look to a more inclusive future.

But plans are only as good as the effort we put into them. We measure our progress by the actions we take and the changes we’ve made. Let’s talk about Year Three results:

  • Our leadership, including the President’s Council and the Board of Trustees, engaged in a year-long training program on racial literacy and intercultural competence.
  • We opened Black Affinity Housing with approximately 50 residents.
  • More than 1,900 students designated chosen names, pronouns, or gender identity in AU’s new self-service tool.
  • We hired Leslie Annexstein and three investigators to operationalize the new Office of Equity and Title IX.
  • More than 380 faculty members participated in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) trainings in AY 20–21, a 34 percent increase from 2020.
  • Among the 690 faculty and staff who participated in DEI trainings in AY 20–21, 80 percent of those who responded to post-training surveys reported learning something they will use to make their work more inclusive.
  • One hundred percent of AUPD officers have been trained on implicit bias and fair and equitable policing.
  • Forty-seven percent of new tenure line faculty and 28 percent of new term faculty hired for fall 2020 self-identify as faculty of color.
  • We have 48 Antiracist Research and Policy Center (ARPC) faculty affiliates from across AU schools and we just welcomed Sarah Kaplan as the new ARPC executive director.
  • We have raised $1.35 million for access and equity-focused student scholarships, AU’s second-best year on record.
  • The Board of Trustees established a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and put the committee chair on the Executive Committee.

I hope you will review the new Year Three Outcomes on the inclusive excellence website. We know there is much work to be done in pursuit of our values, but our commitment is unwavering, and our work continues every day. As we begin Year Four work, we will be working on revisions to tenure and promotion guidelines, supplier diversity work, and scholarship fundraising, among other priority areas.

As the semester’s classes and activities move forward, I also wanted to update you on some important operational and safety matters:

  • Multifactor Authentication (MFA): We all have a role to play to protect our community in the digital world. You may have seen the difficulties that Howard University encountered last week from a ransomware attack. We have offered support to our colleagues at Howard as they manage this challenge. To avoid something similar happening at AU, we need everyone in the community to enable Multifactor Authentication (MFA) now on your AU email account. This protection is a requirement for all students, faculty, and staff, and will reduce the chance that someone can access or send unauthorized messages from your email account, access your data, or enter the university’s network without appropriate permission. You can find instructions on OIT’s Improving Account Security webpage, and you can contact with questions. Thank you for advancing this critical security matter and protecting our community.
  • COVID-19: To maintain our community’s well-being, please continue to follow the health and safety protocols and comply with instructions you may receive for contact tracing and proximity notifications. If we can all be mindful of managing our health, be considerate of others, and support our community of care, we’ll continue to be in a good place as we navigate the pandemic.
  • Flu Shots: With this year’s flu season likely to be severe, it is critical to protect yourself and your friends and colleagues. The Student Health Center will be offering flu shots for students beginning on September 18 (look for additional details soon) and Human Resources has announced the dates for onsite flu shot clinics for faculty and staff. I hope you will join me in getting your flu shot this year!

I want to wish all in our community who observe a meaningful Yom Kippur.

Be safe and be well.