We recognize these are historic times, and that many students feel it is important to engage with the critical issues of our era and make their voices heard. American University defends the right to free expression, including the freedom to express dissent, within the context of the law and responsibility for one’s actions. The university has a long-standing policy supporting freedom of expression and dissent, and these values are regularly affirmed as institutional values.
Activism and Student Involvement
AU has long been considered one of the most politically active universities in the U.S., and this activism takes many forms – including community dialogues, involvement in advocacy and political campaigns, workshops to build and strengthen leadership and awareness, and a wide variety of student organizations. A number of the over 150 student groups active at AU are involved with social justice, advocacy and working for change.
- Reach out to the Center for Student Involvement to find groups with shared interests, as well as resources on leadership development, organizational advising and more;
- Search for advocacy/awareness, political and related organizations on Engage, the platform for student events and organizations.
- Connect with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, a hub for issues of equity through education, outreach and advocacy;
- Connect with the Center for Community Engagement and Service, which has connections with hundreds of nonprofits in the DC area, to work with groups addressing local issues such as affordable housing, food security, immigrant rights and more.
For Students Participating in Off-Campus Protests
If you choose to participate in off-campus protests, it is important to know your rights and responsibilities, be prepared, and be familiar with resources and policies. AU affirms that:
- Students have a right to engage in peaceful and lawful protest.
- No student who is enrolled or has a pending application will be affected by disciplinary actions arising from their participation in peaceful and lawful protests, so long as their personal conduct is consistent with AU policy.
- No disciplinary action will be taken if students are arrested off-campus for protesting peacefully and/or violating curfews related to protesting.
- Students’ financial aid status with the University will not be impacted.
Health and safety protocols. If you participate in protests during the current pandemic, you must follow health and safety protocols. According to the health and safety pledge you are required to take this semester as part of your mandatory online AU Forward health and safety training, you agree to abide by all safety guidelines. This includes at any events such as protests, wherever they are located.
Questions? Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
On-campus gatherings are currently suspended as part of the university’s health and safety commitments. This includes protests and demonstrations on University property.
Protocol for on-campus protests will be posted here when applicable.
Questions? Please reach out to email@example.com
AU Resources and Policies
- AU Campus Activism Guidelines: Guidelines for student groups planning on-campus demonstrations at AU, including the circumstances that require a reservation, what activities are protected and prohibited, and other important information to know.
- AU Policy on Freedom of Expression and Dissent: This policy establishes protections for freedom of expression and dissent for all members of the University community — students, faculty, staff and hosted visitors — and describes the guidelines for conduct at demonstrations.
- AU Statement on Student Involvement during Off-Campus Demonstrations: June 2020 statement on freedom to express dissent and participate in peaceful and lawful protests.
- Washington College of Law: Resources for Supporting Protesters: WCL's Pence Law Library has compiled links to social justice organizations, petitions, links to bail funds, news sources, advice for protesters and more.
AU Video Trainings
Trauma-informed engagement provides foundations and principles that can help organizations be effective, while avoiding stumbling into misguided actions that can interrupt or disrupt progress. This three-day training describes the practical application of a trauma-informed approach, which can help to maintain social cohesion, build cross-cultural collaboration, and develop strategies for ethical campus activism.
- Trauma-Informed Campus Activism: Part I: How to recognize the different ways communities are impacted by trauma and create a space where people feel heard and can engage in collective activism effectively and in ways that avoid retraumatizing. With the Counseling Center.
- Trauma-Informed Campus Activism: Part II: How to realize, recognize and respond to trauma while resisting retraumatizing. With the Health Promotion & Advocacy Center.
- Trauma-Informed Campus Activism: Part III: On the ground — how trauma-informed response really works for student leaders and organizers. With the Center for Student Involvement.
Local and National Resources
- District of Columbia Permits for Special Events (MPDC): Protests require special events permits; here’s the process.
- Fact Sheet on Exposure to Tear Gas ("Riot Control Agents") (CDC): Information on tear gas and similar compounds and what to do if exposed.
- FAQ on "Know Your Rights" (ACLU): FAQ on what to know to exercise your constitutionally protected right to protest.
- How to Protest in a Pandemic (ACLU): Examples of creative ways that communities and students have found to protest during the pandemic.
- How to Protest Safely – a Toolkit (Amnesty International): What to bring, how to protest safely, what to do if encountering tear gas and pepper spray, and other resources.
- Mobile Justice App to Record Police Conduct (ACLU): Localized versions of ACLU’s “Mobile Justice” app.
- Planning Ahead (ACLU): Pamphlet with resources and tips for protesters.
- Protestor's Rights (ACLU): Description of rights and scenarios for organizers, protesters, recording protests, and more.
- Protesting in a Pandemic (Vox): Article compiling advice on COVID-19 safety at protests.
- Legal and Bail Assistance (community resource): List compiled with National Bail Fund network.
- Legal and Bail Assistance (NAACP): List of local bail support and legal defense projects by state and city.
- What to Bring if You’re Going to a Demonstration (YR Media): Tips from clothes to water to how to document.