BY: TAMIR HARPER
updated: 4:56 p.m.
This is a developing story that will be updated as more information becomes available.
Once again American University has failed the Black community. After years of student organizing during the fall 2020 school year, American University leadership committed to launching Black Affinity Housing at Roper Hall. Those plans were halted due to the unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic.
On Oct. 27, the Office of Community Relations released an updated draft for the 2021 Campus Plan. The 264-page campus plan outlines the future of American University's landscape. The updated draft outlines the removal of Roper Hall. While the plan is a 10-year vision plan that outlines the university's aspirations, this new plan removes Roper Hall and does not outline a new building for Black Affinity Housing.
"We often put more in the plan then we will actually do and can afford to do. The university is committed to ensuring affinity housing for students," said Assistant Vice President of Community and Government Relations Ed Fisher.
With the surge of uprisings and continual killings of Black people throughout the world, Black Affinity Housing would have been a safe haven for the Black community. While the new plan is a draft and proposal which must go through numerous approvals, the plan is still disappointing to the AU student body.
"The AU NAACP is deeply disappointed to learn that Roper will no longer will be used as a Black cultural space. With the brutalization of Black people locally, nationally, and globally, it should be a key measure of Inclusive Excellence for the university to provide a space for Black students to feel safe and find community. Black students for the last 10+ years have spent countless hours in conversations with university administrators only to be met with this decision. We expect the university to uphold its promise and provide us with this space," said the AU Chapter of the NAACP.
This disappointment is shared by American University Student Government President Eric Brock.
"I am deeply disappointed that a Black affinity plan is not included in the vision of this university. This has been a generational movement and we will continue to push that initiative forward until it is completed in its best form," Brock said.
During Brock's freshman year, he circulated a petition calling for Black Affinity Housing which garnered over 1,000 student signatures. After the petition's circulation, the Office of Housing & Residence Life and the Center for Diversity & Inclusion launched a Black Affinity Space Steering Committee compiled of students and staff.
"It is very telling what AU is prioritizing that they did not communicate with the school community. Many Black students worked extremely hard, aiding administration, on a committee to make Black Affinity Housing possible. This is not the proper way to reward that hard work. This will definitely have an impact on students who were looking forward to affinity housing. This is unfortunate that this is the stance that they decided to take," said co-president of the Black Student Union ZoÃ« Washington.
The movement for Black Affinity Housing was started by alumni. Former AU Chapter of the NAACP President and Chair of the Black Caucus Isabella Dominique is not pleased in AU's new plan.
"I am unfortunately not surprised by AU's decision to destroy the plans many of us student leaders worked tirelessly to create for Roper. It is in typical AU nature to give students false hope that the university cares about our wellbeing while doing the complete opposite behind our backs. We deserve so much more. We deserve promises be kept, we deserve integrity, and we deserve action from the university to make this school at least tolerable for Black students. That is the bare minimum ask and it has been denied time and time again," said Dominique.
The university is doubling down on their commitment to affinity housing but could not detail where it would be moved to and if the building would be a stand-alone building like Roper Hall if knocked down.
"If any of these buildings are built and existing buildings are removed, changed, or demolished to make way for new buildings, any of the existing housing or services in those existing buildings will be moved elsewhere on campus. Black Affinity Housing will exist on campus and if the building is knocked down, the new location will be decided in consultation with the community," said Matt Bennett, Vice President of communications
"The Black Affinity Housing is going to happen in Roper as soon as we are able to be on campus and do renovations. "If in the future Black Affinity Housing needs a new home on campus, we will have discussions with the community well in advance of any change."
Tamir Harper was a member of the Black Affinity Housing Space Steering Committee.