Administrators at American University in Washington, D.C., have agreed to allow black students an extension on their final exams along with preserving a "sanctuary for people of color" after an alleged racially charged incident precipitated a student-led protest.
Last week, campus officials reported that someone on campus discovered bananas hung in nooses with the letters "AKA" and the word "Harambe" written on them. "AKA" is the acronym for the black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha.
After a scheduled meeting between black leaders on campus and school administrators to address the incident had to be rescheduled, the student group organized a protest and then blocked traffic in a parking garage, where the students set certain demands for school administrators. University police have not identified any suspects and it is not known whether the stunt was a hoax or a real act of hate-motivated vandalism.
According to Campus Reform, the protesters brought signs stating 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 reportedly arrived at the scene of the protest and verbally agreed to the protesters' demands, according to American University's student news site, The Eagle.
Protesters previously threatened that they would “occupy all space," not leaving until their demands were met. Freshman Jaha Knight read the list of demands after the group reportedly chanted “we can’t breathe,” referencing the death of black New York resident Eric Garner after he died at the hands of police.
“These are the things that we have demanded from the university because of the oppression and discrimination and the hate we have faced, not just in these current events, but every day on this campus,” Knight said.
Bass also told protesters that the university recently made a deal with author and historian Ibram X. Kendi to establish an anti-racism center on campus. Kendi penned the New York Times best-selling book, “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.”
“There’s nothing more important, in terms of my administration, than being a multicultural campus,” Bass said to the protesters.
"We are interested in getting to the bottom of the issue, and the sooner we can do that, the better,” he continued. “But I will also say that that doesn’t stop our commitment to do more. This is just a minimum. ... This is not just one incident. It’s a deeper issue in our community.”