The first day in office as the first female African-American Student Government president at American University for Taylor Dumpson proved to be a memorable one.
For all the wrong reasons.
Officials at the university, located in Northwest, confirmed they’re investigating a racist incident in which bananas were discovered hanging from strings in the shape of nooses in at least three separate locations on campus.
Inscribed on the bananas were “Harambe,” and “AKA,” a reference to Alpha Kappa Alpha, a sorority who’s membership at the school counts as mostly African-American.
“These racist, hateful messages have no place in our community,” Interim Vice President of Campus Life Fanta Aw wrote in a note to students and faculty.
“The safety of our students is paramount,” Aw said.
The bananas were found at a shuttle bus stop at Letts-Anderson Halls, in front of Mary Graydon Center, and near the East Quad Building, university officials said.
Dumpson, herself a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, has encouraged the university to enforce the identity-motivated bias sanctions of a newly updated Student Code of Conduct.
“As the first black woman AUSG president, I implore all of us to unite in solidarity with those impacted by this situation and we must remember that. ‘if there is no struggle, there is no progress,'” she said, quoting Frederick Douglass.
“We must use this time to reflect on what we value as a community and we must show those in the community that bigotry, hate, and racism cannot and will not be tolerated,” Dumpson said.
It’s not the first time that such racial hate has been displayed at American University.
Protests erupted on campus after bananas were discovered last year and, an African-American female student complained of having a banana tossed at her while in her dorm room.
Another black female student reported that a rotten banana was left on her doorstep along with obscene drawings on a whiteboard.
Reportedly, the school identified and disciplined the students responsible for last year’s incident.
“While this incident targeted AU’s chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, and occurred after the first black woman and AKA member was sworn in as the Student Government president, our entire university community has been adversely affected by this cowardly, despicable act,” university President Neil Kerwin said in a statement.
“Campus police and D.C. police are investigating these crude and racially insensitive act of bigotry,” Kerwin said.
Meanwhile, several students have spoken out to voice their displeasure.
“As a Hispanic student here on campus, it is incredibly uncomfortable to know that things like this are still happening,” sophomore Jocelyn Nieto told WTOP.
Student Kennan Thomas said it’s a shame the university is going through a situation like this again.
“I really do appreciate the school and what they’re doing to resolve issues, but we still need to make larger strides,” Thomas said.
Tyler Sanders said he has served as an ambassador and tour guide on campus for prospective students, and says he gets questions from visitors about diversity.
“It’s difficult to say affirmatively that we have a diverse campus or student body when we deal with these racial issues,” Sanders said.
The university has asked that anyone with information on the incidents call the campus police at 202-885-2527.