In the wake of a viral video showing an American University student shouting the N-word, students at at the school are demanding campus officials create “a safe space and housing options for black students.”
Last Saturday, Aise O’Neil was recorded yelling the epithet, and when confronted by a trio of students a while later, he admitted to it. He also gave them his full name as requested.
O’Neil told the AU student paper, The Eagle, that he had yelled the word due to how “censorial the campus environment was,” and added he wanted to “feel as if [he] still had the freedom to express [him]self.”
According to The Eagle, in response some 700 AU students have signed an online petition calling for “black spaces” since student Eric Brock created it on April 9. Brock is a co-chair of the Student Advisory Council on the school’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion.
Director of Residence Life Lisa Freeman said she is conferring with her colleagues about the idea, and said it’s possible given that AU previously has had affinity housing “with social justice themes.”
Brock cited models of nearby universities as examples of possible ideas. Georgetown University designates a house for about five residents who organize programs, events and dialogue for students of color. George Washington University provides spaces in dorms for different groups such as women of color and first-generation students.
“I think the organizer of black students and what they need on campus will come out of a place of refuge, a place to organize, a place to be themselves,” Brock said.
While there have been conversations about the types of models they are looking at, there is no concrete vision or plan yet, said Consuelo Grier, director of multicultural student support.
Tamir Harper, a freshman and member of the Student Advisory Council for the Council on Diversity and Inclusion, believes that these spaces would be beneficial for AU as a whole.
“I think after the incident that occurred on campus, I think more than ever students are in need of a space to come together to think, to grieve, to strategize and to have a sense of community and home,” Harper said. “I think once AU accepts that and starts to move in that direction, I think we’d have an even more unified campus and the black community will feel more welcome at AU.”
Missing the irony, Harper added that AU adding racially separate spaces “would attract more black students” as such would demonstrate the school is taking “diversity and inclusion efforts seriously.”
IMAGE: Thinglass / Shutterstock.com