AU Students Voice Their Concerns on Campus Safety Following the Insurrection

In the midst of a global pandemic, it is fair to say that the college experience has shaped up to be rather different than anticipated for students. At American University however, the students know what it means to be living in “unprecedented times” as they are so often told, in more ways than one. When they first heard of the insurrection at the Capitol, some students were in different countries, while others were just a few miles away. Regardless of where they were, shock rippled through the community. Student of American University's Advanced Reporting class spoke with members of the AU community to hear their reactions to the insurrection and how they feel about safety on AU’s campus. 

Image of Claudia Roman, interviewed for an article Original photo by Nicole Yu Name: Claudia Roman

Major: Justice and Law, Minor: Latin American Studies

Year: Junior

Student Organization: President of Latinx American Student Organization

Interviewer: Where were you when you heard about the insurrection? What was your immediate reaction?

Claudia: “I was really surprised and scared. I was also just with my grandma, it was the two of us in the house cause my mom was at work and it was just crazy because we just couldn't believe it was happening... It just seemed fake. It did not seem real.”

Interviewer: Do you feel safe returning to campus? How should the university go forward in making campus a safer space?

Claudia: “To be honest coming back to DC I feel a little bit on edge just returning because of what happened. I was just a little bit scared because I thought that if these people were able to just storm the Capitol like it’s nothing then what’s gonna stop them from doing other stuff?” 

“I think what AU can do to ensure the safety and well-being of all their students is by... ‘if they see something, say something.’ Whenever there are students who report incidents of racism or bigotry on campus, to actually take it seriously and not just send an email saying ‘We understand this is horrible. And we understand that this is really terrible and we wish racism would stop.’... Instead of just sending that email and not actually holding that person accountable, if there is an incident of racism or if there are students actually plotting on doing something racist, actually nip it in the bud."

 

Name: Simone Laws 

Major: International Relations

Year: Sophomore

Student Organization: Social Media Manager for AU Diplomats 

Interviewer: Where were you when you heard about the insurrection? What was your immediate reaction?

Simone: “My first reaction was that I was nervous for my friend and roommate Zaya, she’s black and was in dc, and I just feared for her safety most of all first.” “I was really overwhelmed, and just sort of disappointed at our police system. That's it.” “[The] Head of security at our school in Kenya, he told my mom who works at the school when he found out I was going back to DC that when I fly in there will be riots so I should stay in a hotel close to the airport.” 

Interviewer: Do you feel safe returning to campus? How should the university go forward in making campus a safer space?

Simone: “I personally do feel safe, and I don’t know if that’s because of white privilege. Maybe that’s why I feel safe because that’s not who I’m fearful for right now.”

“I think the university going forward should take this as an opportunity to have conversations on the whole context of that event and not just like what happened but why it happened leading up to it.” “Maybe have voluntary meetings that people can attend to just sort of like discuss, debrief, and get the main points of those conversations.”

Image of McClaren Skains, interviewed for an article about AU students Original photo by Ava Schulte

Name: McClaren Skains

Major: International Relations

Year: Freshman

Student Organization: Arabic Club

Interviewer: Where were you when you heard about the insurrection? What was your immediate reaction?

McClaren: "I was in the living room watching the inauguration on the news. I'm always watching the news." "I was born in March of 2001 so I don't remember 9/11, but I could only think this is what people must have felt watching it. My stomach dropped and I felt sick, this is what happens in a dystopian society. Reality has flipped upside down."

Interviewer: Do you feel safe returning to campus? How should the university go forward in making campus a safer space?

McClaren: "I feel safe coming to campus. The riot was targeted so I feel like it wouldn't have happened to the university. It's far enough away. I don't think AU has had a security breach either." "As a freshman, I haven't really been to campus but I was sitting in on a call with President Burwell where they were discussing stronger access into the buildings."

Photo of  Hannah van der Velden to accompany an interview with her in an article speaking to AU students Original photo by Marcela Royo

Name: Hannah van der Velden

Year: Senior

Major: Health Promotion

Interviewer: Where were you when you heard about the insurrection? What was your immediate reaction?

Hannah: “I was in Panama preparing for my trip back to DC a few days later. I was shocked to think something like that could happen in the US, especially in a city I feel is so peaceful and kind.”

Interviewer: Did you feel safe returning to campus? How should the university go forward in making campus a safer space?

Hannah: “My family and I were very worried about any violence that could happen on the inauguration day, especially because my flight arrived at midnight of that day. I feel like the university should have addressed the insurrection more directly. As an international student I rely on the university to keep me informed and I felt the email did not make me feel comforted about the issue.”

Image of person interviewed Original photo by Camelia Pesquera Zambrana

Name: Camelia Pesquera Zambrana

Major: Latinamerican Studies

Year: Senior

Student Organization: President, Puerto Rican Student Organization (PRSO)

Interviewer: Where were you when you heard about the insurrection? What was your immediate reaction?

Camelia: “I was visiting my family and my immediate reaction was shock. I had interned on the hill since my freshman year and every time I went into the Capitol I would go through a security check. It is surreal how people easily trespassed.” 

Interviewer: Do you feel safe returning to campus? How should the university go forward in making campus a safer space?

Camelia: “I am fearful of how the tensions have bottled up and how the blatant racism has become evident with the insurrection, but it gives me peace that our campus is far away from downtown.” “I believe that most AU students do not identify with the actions committed by the insurrectionists.”

Photo of Morgan Brinson to accompany interview in an article about AU students Original photo by Reignon Prillman

Name: Morgan Brinson 

Major: Physics 

Year: Senior 

Student Organization: American University Women's Soccer (AUWSOC)

Interviewer: Where were you when you heard about the insurrection? What was your immediate reaction?

Morgan: “I was home in Georgia and my first reaction was are you kidding me.”

“I was shocked it was ridiculous seeing the white privilege portrayed all over the media and their actions. I can’t believe they made it inside and as far as the chamber.”

 Interviewer: Do you feel safe returning to campus? How should the university go forward in making campus a safer space?

Morgan: “I feel safe to a certain extent. I feel safe to the extent that people are getting tested and are more spaced out, but I am more fearful as more people return to campus. In terms of the capital I don’t feel any less safe on campus if anything I have just been looking over my shoulder a little more, but I am used to that because of my skin tone.”

Image of Julianna Kubik, interviewed for an article Original photo by Emily Walsh Name: Julianna Kubik

Major: International Studies

Year: Junior

Student Organization: President, AU Panhellenic Council

Interviewer: Where were you when you heard about the insurrection? What was your immediate reaction?

Julianna: “I was at home in California at my parents’ house packing to go back to DC the next day.” “It felt like it was coming, but it was also very worrisome because of how easy it was to get into what's supposed to be the most protected building in the country.”

Interviewer:  Do you feel safe returning to campus? How should the university go forward in making campus a safer space?

Julianna: “I felt fairly safe just because of the area of D.C. I live in is very uneventful.” “I feel like there wasn't as much of a response as if there would have been if we were in person and on campus because most of the students aren't in D.C. right now.”

This article was reported by: 

John Purcell, Carmenlucia Acosta, Ava Schulte, Ezekiel Cohen, Marcela Royo, Jessily Crispyn, Reignon Prillman, Roman Habibzai, Emily Walsh, Ziyi Yuan, Chloe Irwin, Nicole Yu, Teddy Everett, Riddhi Setty, Rebecca Crosby, Christian Pena, Christine Queally and Hayley McGhee as part of their Comm 425: Advanced Reporting class.