American U. Students Meet After Racist Displays Found on Campus

American University students met again Thursday to address how to combat racism on campus, after bananas were found hung in trees. 

The displays included bananas marked with the letters "AKA," the abbreviation for historically black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. They were found in at least three locations on campus starting Monday morning.

The racist displays were found on the same day student government president Taylor Dumpson, an AKA member, started the new position. She is the first black woman in the role.

At a standing-room-only town hall meeting, Dumpson spoke about what happened. 

"I am appalled as a student. Second, I am outraged. As a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, I am nauseated, and as a target, I am numb," she said. 

University president Dr. Neil Kerwin condemned the racist acts. 

"What occurred here has nothing to do with the fundamental values of this university," he said. 

The FBI's Civil Rights division is helping American investigate the displays. Students have urged the administration to find who committed the hate crimes and address repeated acts of racism.

In her first interview after the racist acts, Dumpson told News4 she wants to foster improved communication among students. 

Campus police distributed two videos Tuesday evening of a suspect. The blurry video clips show someone walking on the empty campus. Campus police believe at least three bananas hung in nooses were placed on campus Monday between 3:45 a.m. and 4:10 a.m.

In a list of demands, black student groups demanded that the perpetrator is expelled if he or she is a student and that students be notified when that occurs. They also asked for the school to hire more staff members of color and provide more resources for students of color.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students marched, asked the registrar's office for withdrawal forms and waved them in the air in protest.

"If our existence isn't valued on this campus, then we don't need to be here," student Ma'at Sargeant said Tuesday. 

In an email to students sent Tuesday morning, the university president called the creation of the displays a hate crime. 

"American University remains committed to principles of diversity, inclusion, common courtesy and human dignity, and acts of bigotry only strengthen our resolve. Anyone who does not feel similarly does not belong here," the email from Kerwin said. 

Anyone who recognizes the person is asked to call campus police at 202-885-2527 or submit an anonymous tip online. A reward of as much as $1,000 is offered for tips. 

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