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[visible change on] these issues of racism on campus.” Others share her frustration.Sarah Pascarella, a Boston-based writer and editor who graduated from AU in 2000, points to racism at AU dating back two decades.And there were no signs of an enrollment freefall at University of California, Davis, after a campus police officer doused student protesters with pepper spray in November 2011, which was captured on video and sparked national outrage.It’s unclear, though, how targeted acts directed at a small, underrepresented group—rather than random, unpredictable violence—translates to college choices.During the 1996-97 school year, the school’s student newspaper was accused of racism against a black student-government candidate after it cited a “fear” that she would only cater to certain students in its endorsement of her opponent.When the young woman protested, her letter-to-the-editor was published above a comic containing monkeys. “As an alumna, I'm appalled at what black students are experiencing at American University,” said Pascarella, who’s white.
However, the full impact of last month’s event on black students’ decision to enroll has yet to crystallize.
With another college-application season starting and a new crop of black students finalizing their selections, an overarching question persists: To what degree will racist incidents on college campuses—and colleges' response to those incidents—affect black-student enrollment?
At risk are colleges’ and universities’ reputations as champions of diversity, as well as black students’ academic success.
In a prepared statement, Teresa Flannery, AU’s vice president of communication, said the university sought to address last spring’s racist episode “directly and promptly” with current and prospective students.
Among the actions taken were a schoolwide community meeting and a webinar the first week of May for new students and families to address their worries.
In Gray’s observation, AU’s challenge is in translating the concern for black students into substantive action.