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American University blocks whites from cafe designated as ‘sanctuary’ for nonwhites

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Provost: ‘This is just the minimum’

After black student activists issued a demand list to American University in response to the racist-banana incident two weeks ago, the administration agreed to three demands.

One of them is a ban on whites using a new “student lounge” for the rest of the spring semester.

The Bridge Cafe only opened six weeks ago, and it won’t be serving coffee and food until the fall semester, The Eagle reported April 3. It was intended as “a community space that student organizations can use however they would like,” with open mic nights, slam poetry and “other student initiated programming,” according to Darcy Frailey, associate director for facilities and event services.

The activists said they would take over the space as their own “sanctuary,” and Provost Scott Bass put the university’s imprimatur on the threat, according to The Blackprint, a publication of the university’s chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists:

“This is just the minimum,” Bass told protestors in regards to their demands. He encouraged them that more can be done in terms of the issue of race on campus. “These are reasonable demands. We are interested in building the kind of community which will we are all proud of.”

MORE: Give us extensions on finals because we’re black

The specific demands the university has agreed to honor:

For the remaining of the semester, the Bridge will become a sanctuary for people of color.

All POC students get extensions, and should not be penalized for already scheduled finals after the incident.

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.

The approved demands were cited by more than 100 faculty and staff who signed a “solidarity statement” published in The Eagle Thursday. About two-thirds are affiliated with the College of Arts & Sciences.

One is Celine-Marie Pascale, associate dean of undergraduate studies, who was confronted by activists with demands early in the protests.

The signatories are “appalled by the racist, white supremacist hate crime” of hanging bananas around campus, and they are committed to “continuing to engage the systemic roots and current effects of racism on campus.”

They said the administration’s embrace of the three demands is “only a small step” toward prioritizing “Black students and other students of color.” The signatories want the administration “to address their academic needs, their safety, and their overall well being” and prosecute the “perpetrator(s) of this crime to the fullest extent allowed by law” and expel any students who participated. (Only one person is visible on AU’s video surveillance of the banana hangings.)

They asked incoming President Sylvia Burwell, the former secretary of health and human services, to show how she will enforce “no tolerance for anyone creating a hostile environment for students of color” and punish such people.

Read The Blackprint story and the solidarity statement.

CLARIFICATION: The headline has been revised to clarify that the administration agreed to reserve The Bridge as a ‘sanctuary’ for nonwhite students through the end of spring semester, which ended this weekend, a day before this post was published.

MORE: University bans local media from covering protests

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