School officials at American University in Washington D.C. are investigating what they are calling “racist incidents” in which bananas were found hanging from nooses all over campus.
The bananas were hung up by noose-like ropes and were marked with phrases such as “Harambe bait” and “AKA free,” in reference to Alpha Kappa Alpha, a predominantly black sorority. The bananas were found in three different places on campus.
Dr. Neil Kerwin, the president of American University, called the incident a “crude and racially insensitive act of bigotry.”
The racist incident took place on the same day that Student Government Association president Taylor Dumpson, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha and the first black woman president in the university’s history, started the new position.
“Racially charged acts of bigotry are done to instill fear and inflict pain in our community—especially at stressful times, such as at the end of the term,” university President Dr. Neil Kerwin said in a statement on Monday night. “I regret this happened, apologize to everyone offended, and state emphatically that this incident does not reflect what American University truly is.”
The campus president continued to state that despite the “targeted” nature of the incident, “our entire university community has been adversely affected by this cowardly, despicable act.”
Taylor Dumpson, the first black woman president of American University Student Government, released a statement on the matter:
Being first isn’t easy.
Early this morning, the Department of Public Safety was notified of a race-related incident targeted towards American University members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the first predominately black greek lettered sorority in the United States.
It is disheartening and immensely frustrating that we are still dealing with this issue after recent conversations, dialogues, and town halls surrounding race relations on campus. But this is exactly why we need to do more than just have conversations but move in a direction towards more tangible solutions to prevent incidents like these from occurring in the future.
As the first black woman AUSG president, I implore all of us to unite in solidarity with those impacted by this situation and we must remember that “if there is no struggle, there is no progress” – Frederick Douglass. We must use this time to reflect on what we value as a community and we must show those in the community that bigotry, hate, and racism cannot and will not be tolerated.
This is not what I imagined my first letter to you all would be. In my first message to the student body, I would have wanted to talk about accountability, transparency, accessibility, and inclusivity. Now more than ever, we need to make sure that members of our community feel welcomed and above all, safe on this campus.
Earlier this year, the University updated the Student Code of Conduct to outline identity-motivated bias and the sanctioning process for such incidents. As the new AUSG president, I encourage the University to work to ensure that those responsible for these despicable acts are brought to justice.
Throughout this process, I will remain as transparent as possible. As with all incidents involving the conduct process, the details of any proceedings will remain largely confidential. As I receive any updates, I will share as much as possible with the student body.
This will not be tolerated now, or ever, on the campus of American University and I will do everything in my ability to ensure that this never happens again.
The incident is currently being investigated by AU Campus Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, and other AU offices and senior officials. Furthermore, the university is holding a community meeting on campus, today, Tuesday, May 2, at noon discuss the incident.