American University

American University Announces Anti-Racism Plan, Required Diversity Course

After most students of color said they feel excluded on campus, the university adopted a wide-reaching plan to fight racism

What to Know

  • Required diversity courses, diversity in hiring and scholarships are the center of American University's plan to fight racism on campus.
  • Only a third of African-American students say they feel included on the campus, compared to 70 percent of white students.
  • The university made national news after several racist acts.

After hate crimes at American University became national news, on Tuesday school officials announced a wide-reaching, institution-wide plan to fight racism, including by requiring every student to take a one-semester class on diversity.

“We’re transparent about the fact that a number of our students of color don’t feel like they belong. That’s a cultural issue that we need to work on,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the university’s president, told News4.

The university's $121 million plan asks the school community to acknowledge racism on campus.

Students of color experience bias and feel alienated and unsafe, the university said in a report released with the announcement.

Only a third of African-American students said they felt included on campus, compared to 70 percent of white students.

Burwell said she hopes an “inclusive excellence” plan will help end an exclusive culture on campus. The plan focuses on hiring a more diverse faculty, changing the processes for reporting hate incidents and requiring all freshman to take a diversity course.

The course, known as the American University Experience 2 or Aux2, tackles a number of issues, including diversity, bias, privilege and race, and social identity, the school’s website says. School officials say the class, which began in 2016 as a pilot course, aims to help change campus culture.

“Students reported feeling happier about their transition to the university and that AU was a place where they belonged,” the school said.

The plan will invest a total of $121 million over the next two years for a number of programs that promote equality, including training programs for faculty, staff and administrators, offering grants for community projects that promote inclusion and providing more scholarships for underrepresented groups and veterans.

"I think it’s important because it’s specific, it creates accountability in our leadership, it asks the entire community to join in," Burwell said.

The changes come after multiple racist acts on campus. 

Confederate flag posters apparently decorated with cotton were posted on bulletin boards as the school year started in September 2017. Most recently, an unknown person posted anti-immigration posters that linked to a white supremacist website. Last year, a black sorority was targeted with bananas hanged from nooses.

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