American University in Washington, D.C., has reportedly banned white students from using its new “student lounge” for the spring semester, according to the College Fix.
The lounge, which is called “The Bridge,” opened just six weeks ago. It is planned to be “a community space that student organizations can use however they would like,” with open mic nights, slam poetry and “other student initiated programming,” Darcy Frailey, associate director for facilities and other event services, told the Eagle, American University’s student news site. The lounge seats 80 people and features large working tables, comfortable sofas and chairs, coffee tables, a television and a large stage for events. School officials said they plan to hire students who qualify for the federal work-study program to work at “The Bridge.”
The ban comes just after campus officials discovered bananas hanging in nooses with the letters “AKA” and the word “Harambe” scribbled onto them. “AKA” is short for Alpha Kappa Alpha, a black sorority. The May 1 incident led to a 50-student protest Friday that blocked traffic in a parking garage. The student crowd chanted “We can’t breathe,” a reference to black New Yorker Eric Garner, who died on July 17, 2014, after he was arrested by police.
“Do I not pay? Do I not pay for tuition?” junior Romayit Cherinet called to the crowd of protesters. “Do I come here and try as best as possible to ignore these racist ass white people? To ignore the microaggressions every single day?”
The students issued a set of three demands to school administrators. It remains unclear whether the banana incident was a hoax or a case of racially motivated hate and vandalism.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has joined the FBI and campus police in the investigation of the banana incident, the Washington Post reported. The paper added, “Authorities have released a video of a person of interest, but no arrests have been made.”
The following is a video of the protest and Provost Scott Bass agreeing to the students’ demands:
Campus Reform reported that the protesters had three demands:
“For the remaining [sic] of the semester, the Bridge will become a sanctuary for people of color,” the ultimatum begins, referring to a student café and lounge on campus.
Students also demanded that “all POC [persons of color] students get extensions, and should not be penalized for already scheduled finals after the incident,” arguing that the racist incident on campus has distressed many students to the point that they are unable to focus on exams.
The final demand calls for a “separate investigation team based out of the university (composed of a group of non-biased expert contractors) that can investigate cases of racism and discrimination brought against the institution of American University.”
American University Provost Scott Bass agreed to the students’ demands. Bass said the college also signed a contract with Ibram X. Kendi, author of “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” to begin an anti-racism center on the school’s campus.
“There’s nothing more important, in terms of my administration, than being a multicultural campus,” Bass reportedly told the student protesters.
That’s when the student protesters reportedly abandoned their parking garage blockade and celebrated their victory with chants of “We are AU!”
Bass said meeting the students’ demands “is just a minimum” and “doesn’t stop our commitment to do more.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post editorial board laid some of the blame for the banana incident on President Trump.
“Two-bit provocations such as hanging nooses on campuses play on emotions made raw in the wake of the presidential campaign that featured the vilification of minorities and barely veiled race-baiting,” the Post’s board wrote.
The Post continued: “For university administrators, the challenge is to address that legitimate pain with sensitivity and make crystal clear that racist signs, symbols and speech are off-limits. For students, whose outrage is legitimate, it’s worth considering that the more campus life is disrupted by such provocations, the more the provocateurs win. Don’t let them.”
Also, more than 100 faculty and staff members cited the list of demands Thursday in a signed “solidarity statement” published by the Eagle.
The faculty and staff members said they’re “appalled by the racist, white supremacist hate crime” of nooses and hanging bananas and are committed to “continuing to engage the systemic roots and current effects of racism on campus.”
The signatories said the university’s agreement to the three demands is “only a small step” toward prioritizing “black students and other students of color.” They also presented the school with the following list:
- [We] urge the administration to collaborate with Black students and other students of color, to address their academic needs, their safety, and their overall well being — steps that will benefit all of AU and that are critical to living up to the University’s commitment to social justice;
- [We] urge the administration to identify and prosecute the perpetrator(s) of this crime to the fullest extent allowed by law and to expel any student(s) found responsible for participating in the crime;
- [We] urge incoming President Sylvia Mathews Burwell to identify the steps she will take to guarantee that AU has no tolerance for anyone creating a hostile environment for students of color, and that anyone doing so will be punished;
- [We] urge President Burwell to meet with students of color regularly to understand their experiences on campus and to collaborate with them in creating an inclusive university for all.
“Lastly, we urge President Neil Kerwin to use his last commencement ceremonies as president – and the opportunity to speak to thousands in the AU community and millions in a national media audience – to publicly condemn this racist hate crime and to identify concrete steps the University is taking to address this crime and the racism at AU and in society at large,” the statement says.
The video of Provost Bass agreeing to the students’ concessions received the following responses on YouTube:
- “What a coward. This guy is being intimidated by these protesters” – Jupiter Vanguard
- “This is excruciating to watch. Utterly embarrassing” – EthioMod
- “Isn’t this all over a couple of bananas?” – Pure Heroine
- “I support their demands for segregation. Very progressive” – James Caster
- “Self-segregation. Bold strategy. Let’s see how it works out for them” – AlienAmerican
- “I must live in a bubble somewhere. How do you ban people [from] a certain area? Did my country move? My child would be pulled from this school immediately. I hope they lose their funding” – Joyce Wood