Home / National News / American University issues safety advisory after student leader targeted in online post


(WASHINGTON) — American University police issued a safety advisory to students on Friday with tips for how to respond and prevent cyber harassment after an online post targeted the university’s first African-American female student government president.

In a memo emailed to ABC News, officials say the post encouraged followers to troll Taylor Dumpson. Law enforcement officials immediately responded by sending additional security and technology protection to Dumpson’s home.

“Earlier this week, the threats were on campus. They continue online,” Teresa Flannery, the university’s vice president for communications, said in the memo. “American University will not allow any member of our community to be intimidated.”

Flannery and assistant director of physical security and police technology, Doug Pierce, held a Facebook Live session where they spoke about the online post and ways to push back against hate speech.

The post, which was flagged by the university’s Anti-Defamation League on Thursday, follows reports of bananas found hanging from nooses in at least five different campus locations after Dumpson was elected.

According to ABC affiliate WJLA-TV, the letters “AKA” and the phrase “Harambe bait” were written on some of the bananas, referencing the predominantly black campus sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha and the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla that was killed last year after a child fell into its enclosure.

American University releases video of a person of interest in alleged banana hate crime investigation

In a letter released to the student body, Dumpson encouraged her peers to use this time to come together as a community.

“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’ – Frederick Douglass,” Dumpson said. “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.”

A campus town hall was held Thursday afternoon to address the banana incident, followed by a private meeting with administrators and student leaders.

“Right now, we have the opportunity to really change the direction, and apply pressure from a national area,” Dumpson said, according to WJLA-TV. “We have outrage, and people are upset.”

“As one of many schools in the D.C. metropolitan area I’m saddened that this happened but I’m not surprised,” American University graduate instructor David Johns told ABC News about the recent incidents.

Johns, who has taught at AU for the past six years and teaches courses on public affairs and administration, said he believes school officials have done “a good job at showing how urgent and important this issue is, but there is still a lot of work to be done at American and universities across the country.”

Castell Abner III, a 24-year-old law student at American University, says that the school’s diverse culture, especially in the law school program, is what drew him to the university. He admitted that this week’s racist incidents were not the first of its kind.

“There have been several, especially during this last campaign year,” Abner told ABC News. “There has been stuff about Muslims, illegal immigrants, and black lives matter. One African-American law school professor even had something taped to her door.”

Last year, American University law school dean Claudio Grossman addressed that incident in a letter to the school’s community.

“On Friday, March 4th, a handwritten flier with the words ‘All Lives Matter’ was attached to the office doorframe of a faculty member of color – a colleague with a national reputation for doing important work on issues of racial justice in the criminal justice system,” the letter said, according to the Washington Post. “The circumstances and manner of placing this flier on a community member’s door do not involve the kind of civil and thoughtful discourse that we encourage and aspire to in our community, and indeed may serve to intimidate others and discourage their full participation in the marketplace of ideas.”

The American University Police Department is asking anyone with information related to the post to contact the police department at 202-885-3636 or to call 911 for the Metropolitan Police Department. The university is also offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the suspect involved in hanging the noose and bananas earlier this week.

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