You are here: American University Finance Memos Resolving a Racism Incident

Memorandum February 20, 2023

Dear AU Community,

A little more than a week ago, racist words were found written on a dry erase board in a second-floor room in Bender Library. Our immediate investigation identified an individual who is potentially responsible. It is unacceptable that anyone would intentionally cause pain in our community through this kind of hateful act. This incident is particularly harmful to our Black community members during this important celebration of Black History Month.

The words were reported to library staff and AUPD. They immediately responded, documented the scene, and removed the writing as quickly as possible. We reviewed video surveillance and examined evidence that helped identify the individual. Based on the video footage, the words were present for less than 90 minutes until they were discovered, reported, documented, and removed.

The matter has been referred to the Dean of Students’ office, and the resolution process is currently ongoing. This work includes engaging the community members involved, educating about the impact of such actions on the whole community, and determining if violations of our policies or code of conduct occurred.

We know there are questions about how this incident is being shared with the community. When determining if and/or when to send a community message, we assess the information available, the state of the investigation, what is needed to achieve resolution, and the impact on the community. For example, in situations where we do not have enough evidence to identify who may be responsible for an incident, we may ask the community for help and any further information they may have. Since this investigation quickly found a potentially responsible individual, it is important that we allow the process to proceed and not unduly affect the next steps. In such difficult situations, we strive for the appropriate balance between immediate communication with limited information that could cause further uncertainty and providing more complete updates like this one when we have results from the investigation. We do not always get it right, but we take a thorough approach, and we welcome your feedback.

Racism is despicable and has no place in any community. We have ongoing work to build an inclusive society and address harm and bias when they occur.


Fanta Aw
Vice President of Undergraduate Enrollment, Campus Life, and Inclusive Excellence

Bronté Burleigh-Jones
Chief Financial Officer, Vice President and Treasurer