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AUx Adds Race Talk to First Year General Education



The American University experience (AUx) was originally created as a way to help first-year students transition into college. The course is split across two semesters. AUx part one was designed to help freshmen set goals and adjust to their new environment. AUx part two dives deeper into the college experience and discusses topics such as race and intersectionality.

The class also contains multiple field trips to other neighborhoods throughout Washington, D.C. AU's website states that while the AUx1 course is similar to other first year seminars, "AUx2 is unique to American University" and was specialized in response to feedback from students and faculty who want to make "diversity, inclusion, free speech and freedom" central to freshmen experience. 

The two courses were created to target race-related incidents and harassment on campus. The class as a whole is worth 3 credits, or 1.5 credits for each part. The course also counts toward the GenEd requirements.

The pilot course was introduced in fall 2016 and was held in Centennial Hall's The Perch lounge. Students who participated in the course had varying opinions.

"The Perch was a really cool classroom! I definitely made a lot of new friends through the class. However, the workload was a little much sometimes, and I felt like we didn't spend enough time on some topics," said Richard Terrell, an AUx1 and 2 participant.

The most common complaint about the course was the workload. Students wrote an essay every week on topics like trigger warnings, bystander intervention and microaggressions. Many who participated in AUx2 said that they were only taking AUx2 to get credit for the General Education requirement.

As a participant in the AUx1 class, I decided not to take AUx2. I didn't agree with the workload, but I also wasn't sure if I wanted to continue sitting in on a class about race issues when I already have to deal with them daily as a Latina woman.

The class is expected to become a mandatory course for all freshmen starting next fall. The team that organized the course also plans on making major changes based on critiques from students enrolled in the pilot program.  

Cover:(Jake Waage/Flickr)

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