American University Announces Anti-Racism Center in Wake of Bias Acts

A week after racist messages were found on American University's campus and students protested against administrators' response, the school announced Thursday that a campus anti-racism center will open.

Also announced Thursday, federal prosecutors have joined an investigation of the bias incident.

The Anti-Racist Research and Policy Center will open in the fall, the Washington university announced. Plans for the center were in the works starting this past fall, officials said. 

It will be led by historian Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, the author of National Book Award-winning book "Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America."

"We're hoping to have students, faculty and staff work together with Dr. Kendi to begin to craft positive, forward-thinking solutions to problems that are centuries old," Peter Starr, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences told News4.

Last week, someone hung bananas with racist messages from nooses at several locations around the campus. The bananas were found shortly after Taylor Dumpson became the first black woman to serve as AU's student body president.

AU president Neil Kerwin revealed in a letter to students and staff on Wednesday that the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia is now involved in the probe. The FBI had already been assisting campus police in the investigation.

Authorities have released video of a person of interest, but no arrests have been made.

The university also provided extra security to Dumpson after a post on a white supremacist website asked people to harass her.

Student Autum Grant, who said she has been the target of racism at AU, said she welcomes the anti-racism center.

"I think having this announcement come out at the time it did shows that there is long-term work that it going on on the campus to better the university as a whole," she said.

Student Romayit Cherinet said she believes the university should devote resources to training campus officers and helping students of color advance, rather than to educating other students about race.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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