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AU Memo Letterhead

November 4, 2018

Dear AU Community,

In recent weeks, we have been weathering a national climate of tension and uncertainty that has left many in our community feeling vulnerable. Events happen so quickly that it can feel as if we have no chance to catch our breath before yet another breaking news event. Each day seems to bring new pain for groups that are part of our AU community.

With the coming elections sure to amplify emotions, I’d like to ask that we pause for a moment, take a collective breath and consider what is important to all of us. I hope we can consider how we can come together, even as we respect our differences. Let me start by reaffirming our longstanding commitment to respect and support the human dignity and rights of all members of our community, across race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, political ideology or party, nationality, and immigration status.

In that context, let’s reflect on some of what we have been experiencing and what it can mean going forward here at AU. We have been shocked by the horrific attacks in a Pittsburgh synagogue and a Kentucky supermarket. Our interfaith gathering on Monday at Kay Spiritual Life Center was a powerful expression of how we can come together for support and solace. Yet a single event cannot end feelings of anxiety and grief. Nor can it diminish the ugliness of anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, or other forms of bigotry. Standing up against hate, in different ways, is a daily responsibility for all of us.

I know that among those in our community who feel particularly vulnerable at this moment are those who are transgender, intersex, non-binary or gender non-conforming. The discussion about rolling back rights for trans people comes in the wake of consistent efforts to reduce protections for a population that already faces discrimination and violence. Yet solid research in science and medicine indicates sex and gender are distinct and exist on a spectrum. Both a commitment to human dignity and a commitment to the pursuit of truth through rigorous research are core to who we are as a university and central to the mission of all universities. I want our trans community to know that we recognize you and will stand by you.

There has also been provocative talk about unilaterally ending birthright citizenship. This talk has deeply disturbed people across the political spectrum. Our identity as a nation of immigrants and AU’s history as an institution that values global perspective and understanding are the firm foundations on which we stand up for immigrants and international members of our community.

There are, of course, differing political views on campus, and that’s good and healthy. The commitment to explore diverse ideas lies at the heart of our institutional mission and enables us to exercise our civic responsibility in a democracy. But while we have varied opinions, we also share a set of core values, and among those are that we respect each other’s right to exist and be treated with dignity.

Please remember, amid all the pressures of academic life and the upcoming elections, to take time to connect with and support one another. It is vital that we be there for each other. Please know we are here to support you. There are many resources on campus for students who feel apprehensive, or alone, or just need to process the emotions stirred up by events and the times we live in. These include the Counseling Center, chaplains in the Kay Spiritual Life Center, Dean of Students Office and more. Please reach out to any of those offices if you’re unsure where to begin, and someone will help you find the right resources. Faculty and staff can access support through the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program.

Going forward, we all need to stand together in drawing strength from our core values. We all must live up to our commitment to creating an inclusive AU where every one of us feels valued. I’m confident that as we work together, we will emerge stronger as individuals, as a community, and as a university.

Fanta Aw
Vice President of Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence
American University