theEAGLE December 2021
Delivering American University’s news and views since 1925
MASTHEAD Editor-in-Chief Clare Mulroy Managing Editor for Online Isabel Wolff Managing Editor for News Nina Heller Managing Editor for Life Isabella Goodman Managing Editor for Sports Ben Morse Managing Editor for Opinion Riya Kohli Managing Editor for El Águila Pablo Molina Asensi Managing Editor for Multimedia Carly Johnson Managing Editor for Copy Georgina DiNardo Business Manager Gabriel Papazian Administration and Local News Editor Skye Witley Campus Life Editor Fariha Rahman Features Editor Sophia Solano Community Engagement Editor Sarah Mattalian Investigative Editor Dan Papscun Arts and Entertainment Editor Olivia Kozlevcar Silver Screen Editor Tristan Au Food and Fitness Editor Sara Winick Music Editor Gabriella Veseli (Com)Post Editor Mary Kett Assistant Online Editor Grace Newton Assistant Opinion Editor Kayla Kelly
Assistant Copy Editors Sophia Rocha Sarah Clayton Sophie Myers Hallie Mauk Isabelle Kravis Aline Behar Kado Gabriel Ferris Zoe Kallenekos Social Media Editors Talia Pantaleo Eliza Schloss Jensen Bird Taraji Ellington Photographers Stella Lynch Joshua Katz Lia Chien Web Designer Gabby Allen Videographers Carla Vega Valeria Gonzalez Promise Pitman Audio Editors Chloe Irwin Genesis Magpayo Graphic Design Editors Jacob Fishman Haley Dymek Investigative Reporters Alisha Chhangani Jordan Young COVID-19 Beat Reporters Kate Corliss Ben Johansen Student Government Beat Reporters Jake Schlanger Abigail Turner Culture Beat Reporter Mina Allen Satire Columnists Owen Boice Nora Sullivan
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theEAGLE December 2021
Letter From the Editor: After 730 days, The Eagle is back on the stands
4 Students encounter barriers in the search for affordable housing near the University Tenley businesses begin to heal with return of AU students 5 After pandemic budget crunch, SG reallocates toward programming 6-7 AU Decision Makers: What trustees bring to the table 8 A game of musical chairs: University deals with administrative transitions during the pandemic
9 AU Meditation Club brings reflection and joy during a stressful semester EcoRep Program inspires sustainable living on campus 10 Return to ‘normal’: Students navigate campus life after more than a year online 11 AU alum Ismah Khan tackles tough topics in her short film ‘Disturbed’ 12 TikTok and taking chances: How the pandemic made way for a new genre of entertainment
13 Nicolas Blassou: A bastion of the backfield 14-15 Thoroughly defeated, hopelessly in debt and utterly ignored: An archival telling of the all-American sport on AU’s campus 16 ‘The Source’ for sports podcasting on campus: Inside Sam Hiller’s passion project
16 David Vazquez construye una comunidad para aprender más sobre los cimientos de la cultura Latinx en la sociedad 17 Opinión: El necesario ascenso de las voces latinas en las elecciones locales
18 Cultural-based clubs are conduits for connection 19 AU must continue to have remote classes to include students with disabilities Satire: Triumphant escape: Exclusive interview with Wonk Cat 20 Staff Editorial: Board of trustees makes genuine effort to lead Crossword
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COVER GRAPHIC: JACOB FISHMAN / THE EAGLE Crossword Solutions Across 2. Ghost Pepper 13. Soccer 5. Ice Bucket 14. AU Shuttle 6. Mute 17. TikTok 7. Trucktober 18. Gyllenhaal 10. Chalamet 20. Accepted 11. Chubby Bunny 23. Pepsi 12. Leia 25. Meta
13. Starr 15. Mannequin 16. All Too Well 19. Fauci 21. Cinema 22. Three 24. Six
reflect on what has been a particularly challenging semester for student journalism everywhere. With the reemergence of student life in person, we inevitably saw new inequalities brought to light, difficulties navigating the “new normal” and what at times seemed like a never-ending barrage of news on our campus. To our readers, thank you for supporting us even when you had to flip through the pages of our “print” editions on a screen. Thank you for sharing your stories and trusting us to report them. Thank you for holding us accountable to report on the student body as accurately and as equitably as we can, and for continuing to do so. To alumni, families and professors, thank you for supporting college students during a time that was so uniquely challenging for us. As a part of that demographic, I know I’m sick of hearing “I can’t even imagine being in school during a time like this!” Yet, it means so much to those of us who dealt with a year and a half of online learning to give us space to share our frustrations and needs. To our staff, thank you for weathering the storm with me and former editorsin-chief Sophie Austin and Lydia Calitri. We know it wasn’t easy to continue producing content while dealing with the pandemic on such a personal level, but your commitment is what allows our important work to continue. To Carly Johnson, Chloe Irwin, Gabby Allen, Eliza Schloss, Jacob Fishman and Haley Dymek, thank you for hours spent in the Eagle office making this print edition what it is. I am so proud of you and endlessly grateful for your creativity. And now, for the first time in two years, The Eagle is back on newsstands once again.
Down 1. Wonk Cat 3. Pickleball 4. Grubhub 8. Duber 9. Cinnamon 10. Challenge
Print has been an integral part of The Eagle since its founding in 1925. In our office, file cabinets hold daily and weekly print editions from decades ago, and some of the first print editions are framed on our wall. But like all aspects of life in 2020 and 2021, we have learned to adapt. The Eagle’s print edition has always been one of my favorite parts of being a student journalist. There’s something about feeling the crisp paper between your fingers and holding a physical representation of your hard work. As a senior who spent the entire middle of my college experience online, I mourned the loss of that physical product. I know many of you did too — even if it had nothing to do with The Eagle. Being a college student while the coronavirus pandemic pushed our work online meant there was no boundary between the personal and the professional, between where work began and where it ended. Our bedrooms were our workspaces, our social spaces, sometimes even our personal gyms. Our newsroom became confined to the screen in front of us. As we wrap up the first semester back on campus in person, I can’t help but
theEAGLE December 2021
Students encounter barriers in the search for affordable housing near the University by Kate Corliss News Staff Reporter
Students struggled to find affordable and liveable offcampus housing for the fall 2021 semester as American University’s residence hall space remained limited. In July, AU announced its 2021 Campus Plan, which includes an initiative to expand on-campus housing availability to accommodate 500 additional students. According to Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Matthew Bennett, the University’s total housing capacity is currently 4,682 beds between on-campus residence halls. While occupancy rates vary throughout each semester, he said the University typically sees an average occupancy rate of roughly 95 percent. Edward Fisher, assistant vice president of community and government relations, said this housing expansion component of the campus plan is part of the University’s overarching goal to make campus a “livelier place.” “We think it enhances your experience as an AU student to be able to have a bond with the campus, other than just coming for class,” Fisher said. Fisher added that AU plans to make this additional housing “attractive and affordable for students” by pricing it competitively with nearby off-campus properties. Sophomore Nicole Donelan, who is renting a twobedroom apartment in Friendship Heights, will pay around $8,000 in rent throughout her 12-month lease. Donelan shares a bedroom with one of her roommates, and they each pay 30 percent of the rent every month. Their third roommate has a private bedroom, paying the larger 40 percent share of monthly costs for her additional space.
A double room in a traditional-style residence hall at the University — Anderson, Hughes, Leonard, Letts, McDowell or Roper — runs between $10,096 and $10,196 for the 2021-2022 academic year. A double room in suitestyle residence halls — Centennial, Cassell or on East Campus — ranges from $11,692 to $12,494 for the 20212022 academic year. “I’m still saving a very considerable amount of money, like thousands of dollars a year, than I would in the dorms for way more space, no RAs, my own kitchen, my own bathroom,” Donelan said. Donelan added that her ability to opt out of a meal plan as an off-campus student was another cut cost. Sophomores who live on campus must have at least a 100 Block meal plan, which costs $1,644 per semester in exchange for 100 meals and 400 EagleBucks. While Donelan estimates that she will save approximately $3,000 in annual housing expenses by living offcampus, she said that her current living situation still exceeds her budget. “The only way I can afford to live off-campus is if I’m paying 30 percent of what the actual rent on a two-bedroom would be,” Donelan said. Beyond finding affordable housing, some students have struggled to find living situations that are also safe. Senior Jonathan Amthor and four of his friends signed a two-year lease on a four-bedroom house in the Glover Park area in February 2020. In May 2021, Amthor and his roommates had their house inspected via Zoom to ensure that it was compliant with the D.C. housing code. During this Zoom call, the inspector found numerous code violations, including broken fire alarms, a staircase without railings and a ceiling that was less than 7 feet 6 inches in height.
The inspector told Amthor and his roommates that the property would be reviewed again in a few months. In June, the house was declared “uninhabitable” due to the absence of windows in one bedroom and the basement’s low ceiling. Amthor and his housemates had to start looking for alternate housing immediately. He and one of his roommates eventually found an apartment at the Avalon at Foxhall, though he said it was “pricier” than they were aiming for and did not offer their desired living space. “It took us a little bit [to find housing] because we were hoping to get our own rooms,” Amthor said. He and his roommate ultimately were not able to find an affordable unit with two separate bedrooms. Antonio Holley, who manages five different properties including The Elaine, Alto Towers and Macomb Gardens, said that students should “shy away from renting from private homeowners.” He said that while these properties can be more affordable, landlords have fewer resources when it comes to addressing maintenance issues. With expensive local real estate options, limited oncampus housing and the possibility for unexpected obstacles like those Amthor faced, Donelan said that the University should offer more resources to students as they sort out their living situations. Another factor in Donelan having to find off-campus housing largely independently was because her parents were unfamiliar with the process, which she said added another layer of difficulty. “There are just so many barriers to going through this process that if I had a hard time, someone else is probably going to have an even harder time,” Donelan said. email@example.com
Tenley businesses begin to heal with return of AU students by Sophia Solano Features Editor
The D.C. government announced in late May that businesses no longer had to implement restrictions to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, but Tenleytown business owners say that they didn’t see a full reopening until students returned to American University in August. Postal service data shows how stay-at-home orders and social distancing shuttered over 400 D.C. businesses during the pandemic. Large swaths of employees working from home meant fewer on the streets to buy from restaurants, according to a study from consulting firm Ernst & Young.
CARLY JOHNSON / THE EAGLE
For Tenleytown’s businesses, a lack of student patronage after students were sent home in March 2020 spelled trouble. Peter Tabibian, owner of Tenleytown’s Z-Burger, said his sales decreased by 70 percent during the pandemic — largely due to the University community’s absence. “It was very tough,” Tabibian said. “We tried to stay open later and tried to make some money with longer hours. We started closing Friday and Saturday at 4 a.m. and we are still doing that now to make up for the loss of the business.” Tabibian lost more money during the pandemic than he did when starting his business in 2008, he said. The owners of Satay Club, an Asian-fusion restaurant in Tenleytown, also endured business hardships because of the pandemic. Edmond Goo, the son of Satay Club’s owners, said that the loss of student business during the pandemic was like what the restaurant faced when students left for summers pre-pandemic — but worse. “Throughout our whole restaurant history, a lot of our customer base was AU students,” Goo said. “This was the first time we ever experienced a situation where there were no students. We lost a lot of customers when the students left.” The pandemic didn’t only affect finances. It also changed how some of Tenleytown’s businesses are run. “As a family, we just stuck together and tried finding ways to see what we could do for the restaurant,” Goo said. “We knew we had all this time when we weren’t busy so we decided to change how we function.” Despite financial hardships, Tabibian said he is proud to say that he did not shorten his hours or fire any employees to save on operational expenses. “They helped us during the good times, so we tried
not to cut any hours,” Tabibian said. Now, with eased pandemic restrictions and students back on campus, some business owners say that they are beginning to financially reemerge from the pandemic. “Business is getting a lot busier,” Tabibian said. “We’ve been doing much much better. We’re not back where we used to be, but we’re at least paying the bills and paying the rent and trying to catch up from the year and a half where that wasn’t that much business.” To catch up to where the restaurant used to be financially, Tabibian said he is keeping new restaurant hours implemented during the pandemic — which include a 4 a.m. closing time on Friday and Saturday nights — to encourage students to continue patronizing his restaurant. Some of Tenleytown’s newer restaurant owners say that the pandemic did not bring challenges for them — namely Alex Massoudi, owner of Maman Joon Kitchen. The Persian restaurant opened in September, long after peak pandemic business closure. Despite the Delta variant prolonging the health crisis, Massoudi said that his new restaurant is “at normal size now.” “To be truthful, I don't see it,” Massoudi said, referring to the effects of the pandemic. “Because of the food that we cater, it’s more homey food … The menu has a lot to do to that effect.” Tabibian said he feels lucky to have made it so far. “The mayor is trying to protect the people but still, the landlord wants his rent, the suppliers want their money,” Tabibian said. “A lot of these businesses, people save their whole life's money to open up businesses. I feel bad for these people who just started their business and had leases and didn’t have any backup.” firstname.lastname@example.org
theEAGLE December 2021
After pandemic budget crunch, SG reallocates toward programming Funds from previous semesters give greater opportunity to Women’s Initiative and undergraduate councils by Abigail Turner and Jake Schlanger Student Government Beat Reporters During the fully online semesters of the 2020-2021 school year, the budget allocated to American University Student Government decreased due to cuts to the student activity fee. The student activity fee, which is the source of SG’s funding, was decreased from $88 to $62 during the 20202021 academic year, according to Comptroller Paul Relyea, a junior in the School of Public Affairs. In turn, the money allocated to organizations like the Kennedy Political Union, Student Union Board, Women’s Initiative, Founders Week and other organizations decreased. KPU received $88,725 per semester during the 2019-2020 school year but $75,000 for the spring 2021 semester, according to SG spending bills. Stipends among members of SG were cut to adjust for the decreased activity fee as well. “I do understand why that money had to change because we’re just not bringing [in what we used to],” said SG President Chyna Brodie, a junior in SPA and the College of Arts and Sciences. “We’re just not doing events in the same way. So I would just say it’s been an adjustment.” Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the SG president received a stipend of $9,000, according to Relyea. Stipends for the SG president and the rest of the executive board for this year are $2,500, according to SG’s 20212022 budget breakdown. Before the virtual semesters, the budget was allocated for the entire year. Now, the budget is calculated each semester because of the recent fluctuations in the student activity fee. “We moved to a semester basis, which I actually prefer because it provides ... the senate the opportunity to hold people accountable, halfway through the year,” Relyea said. Despite budget cuts across the board for SG organizations, SG saved $7,483 from the fall semester of 2020, which rolled over to the spring semester. “People didn’t have to pay for speakers or staging, there were no VIP access or catering events with food,” Relyea said. The leftover money was then put into SG’s reserves account, Relyea said, and was reallocated to the following semester’s budget. “From the virtual year my finance committee rolled everything over, so we introduced the [AUSG Reserve Roll-Overs Fall 2021] bill. We rolled everything over that went into reserves for this semester,” Relyea said. According to Relyea, money from the reserve fund is reallocated fairly based on the percentage of the budget the organization usually gets. However, some organizations saw a higher increase in their budget than others. The Women’s Initiative did not lose as much funding as other organizations in SG. In the 2019-2020 academic year, the Women’s Initiative received $40,000 in funding for the two semesters. That increased to $60,000 in spring 2021 but fell to $46,750 in fall 2021. The increase in funding over the course of the pandemic can be explained by a few factors, one of which was the expansion of the Women’s Initiative. Founded in the 1960s, the organization has shifted from hosting
exclusively community-based events to bringing on more high-profile guests. “As the years go by, it’s just getting progressively more [high-profile],” said Women’s Initiative Director Kaniya Harris, a sophomore in SPA. “Last year we did have a lot of higher-scale speakers, but we weren’t doing a lot of smallscale events because we were online.” The Women’s Initiative, like all SG organizations, has also been allowed to roll over leftover money from each semester. This has significantly increased the funding available for the Women’s Initiative at the beginning of each semester, due to the lower costs associated with hosting events and bringing guest speakers to the AU community during the pandemic. “We’ve just continued that trend to ensure that they are bringing incredible speakers in,” said SG Senator At-Large and Finance Committee Chairman Ryan Hale, a junior in SPA. “That’s one of the best things, I think, that we could have done, increasing their funding.” Other SG organizations have also benefited from the decreased event costs. In recent years, KPU hosted between five and nine speakers and panels per year, but during the 2020-2021 academic year, it increased that number to 14 guests. Similarly, SUB typically hosts between three and five performers a year. During the 2020-2021 academic year, however, this number increased to 11 performers. The directors of the KPU and SUB, Sonali Doshi and Keana Brooks respectively, were unable to be reached for an interview. Different undergraduate councils are also seeing an
GABBY ALLEN / THE EAGLE
increase in funding from leftover money from the online semesters. Each undergraduate council is allotted around five percent of a $3,800 council fund and the councils for the individual schools are allotted around 10.5 percent of the same fund. “It’s the first time I think in over five years, it might be up to 10 years, that our undergraduate councils got funding, and it’s panning out,” Hale said. “The SIS council account is spending money. The 2024 council is working on spending money, and just providing good programming that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.” This semester, the student activity fee is still lower than usual, at $75. But with expected increases in the student activity fee to come next semester, SG believes its budget will increase proportionally with the increase in the fee. With University policy still requiring speakers to be virtual, money is still being saved on travel expenses for high-profile speakers, which will lead to more money being added to the reserves. “The committee with administration — myself, the president and the senate finance chair — we begin meeting in November, and that’s essentially where that big pool with all the money is broken down,” Relyea said. “So we have a much better idea then, but my anticipation is that it’ll go up, approximately by whatever percentage the student activity fee has gone up.” email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
theEAGLE December 2021
AU Decision Makers: What trustees bring to the table
Trustees work to balance personal and institutional interests by Riley Gillis and Abigail Pritchard News Staff Reporters In January, American University announced Wesley Bush as one of its newest trustees, a decision that drew backlash from the community and brought attention to the impact that trustee appointments have on students. Bush’s appointment was the subject of a letter-writing campaign and campus graffiti denouncing his former position as the chairman and CEO of Northrop Grumman, one of the world’s largest defense weapons manufacturers. The controversy surrounding Bush’s appointment shined a spotlight on a part of AU’s leadership that typically receives little public attention, despite the integral role it plays in the University’s strategic plan and decision making. The board is grounded in long-term developments aimed at expanding AU’s growth and influence despite any temporary changes it may face in the meantime. The board of trustees consists of 26 members, whose professional titles include CEO, U.S. representative and philanthropist, among others. Many trustees have corporate interests beyond their work at AU, while others direct massive sums of money towards political candidates. Trustees must balance these interests with the best interests of the University, making their decisions more complex.
Trustee Money Each trustee is required to donate at least $25,000 to the University every year, but several have donated millions in the
JACOB FISHMAN / THE EAGLE
name of residence halls, political centers and athletic programs. Most of their political donation history is relatively bipartisan, with many trustees donating to Democratic and Republican candidates, often in the same election cycle. In 2019, board member Jeffrey Sine donated exclusively to Republican campaigns, but in 2020 he donated to two Democrats, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Another example is U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-MD), who sits on a number of boards including that of Furman University, and frequently donates to political campaigns across the country. The majority of Trone’s donations go to Democratic campaigns. From January 2019 through August 2020 Trone donated $1,425,400 to political campaigns. Several other trustees, including Gina Adams and Gaurdie Bannister Jr., carry ties to large corporations. Adams, for example, serves as the FedEx corporation’s top lobbyist and runs the FedEx Corporation Political Action Committee, a PAC that in the 2018 election cycle donated about 67 percent — $683,735 — of its money to Republican candidates. Bannister, meanwhile, is a board member of a material science company Dow and the former CEO of Area Energy LLC., an oil and gas company.
one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers and military technology providers. In June, graffiti on AU’s campus read, “FIRE WES BUSH AU is murder complicit.” Activists, led by AU Dissenters, have also sent nearly 300 letters to the University pushing for Bush’s removal. Bush emphasized that he believes in freedom of expression. He said students protesting his presence on the board have only reinforced his convictions. “One of the great things about AU, and I would say any qualified higher education institution, is to have an arena with the ability for students and for faculty and others to speak freely and put their ideas forward,” Bush said. “But at the end of the day, I think it’s important for those views to be represented across the spectrum. And one of the components of that is then folks who work in national security.” Bush maintained that the diversity of the board and its commitment to engaging with students in order to best represent their interests is what makes it effective. Bush said he is enthusiastic about increasing student engagement with the board through forums and hopes to speak to students one-on-one once the board’s in-person operations resume. “It’s the job of a trustee to represent the students and to represent the whole institution. And I take that job seriously … hearing their point of view is important as well,” Bush said.
It's the job of a trustee to represent the students and to represent the whole institution. And I take that job seriously... hearing their point of view is important as well. —Wesley Bush Despite these competing political and corporate commitments, the trustees work together to make decisions that best serve the University community, current trustee and former board chair Sine said. Sine is the founder of The Raine Group LLC., a member of the board of trustees for NPR and a proud AU alumni. He has contributed donations to candidates and groups from both sides of the political aisle, including a $200,000 donation to super PAC “Socially Liberal Fiscally Conservative” in 2016.
Representing AU: Bush’s appointment faces student backlash Bush’s controversial past has been called out by the student body since his appointment to the board. The School of International Service’s motto is “Waging Peace,” and Bush’s presence on the board is a contradiction for many students as a former chairman of
Data pulled from McKinsey & Company and American University's Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.
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theEAGLE December 2021 Decision Making Trustees follow a fiduciary model for managing the endowment, which means they handle the endowment to maximize long-term profit. They act on the behalf of AU and follow the legal guidelines that aim to protect the University from mismanagement of funds. The endowment serves as AU’s primary source of economic stability and funds everything from student scholarships to faculty and staff pay. The board’s priority is the students, faculty and staff, according to Board Chair Marc Duber. Duber said that the school is on two paths: one of management, focusing on day to day issues, and one of the board, which is responsible for “the long term success of the University.” Sine said when it comes to making decisions, the board always tries to reach an agreement. “I cannot think of many votes where it hasn’t been either close to or completely unanimous … if there’s differences of opinion, it’s our job to talk them out, talk them through, figure out what the issues are,” Sine said. “Usually we’re able to kind of end up in a place where people are able to support things.” Sine also said the board makes its decisions with student input. “We also have [a] student representative on the finance committee and we have had that for, I don’t know, quite a few years already,” he said. “We also have [a] faculty representative on the finance committee. So we have student voice[s] represented on that ... there were quite a few years when there was a very active student campaign to divest fossil fuels.” Student trustee Anusha Mannam trained as a student trustee-elect for the previous academic year and now attends each of the trustee board meetings as a nonvoting participant tasked with providing a student perspective. She attends each of the committee meetings, ranging from the finance committee to the diversity, equity and inclusion committee, which occur in the week leading up to the main board meeting.
Mannam said the trustees value her student perspective during meetings. “There will be times where we’re sitting in a meeting, and a trustee is like, ‘Hey Anusha what do you think about this? What do the students feel about this? Are there any issues with this?’ And
campus [life], I’ve been talking to other students about any concerns they have ... I meet a lot of people on a daily basis,” Jallow said. Jallow said she hopes to talk to the board about COVID-19 policies, especially on how students can stay up to
I think these moments call for institutions like AU to kind of be more visible about their commitments, and to create more accountability about those commitments. —Jeffery Sine with that, it’s not just us being there as placeholders, it’s us being there for an actual purpose. They want our opinions,” she said. Student trustee-elect Aisha Jallow has been shadowing Mannam since she was chosen for the role in September and is hoping to bring issues to light that are important to her and other students to the board. “Right now I’m playing a more observational role. I’m pretty involved in
date in their classes after testing positive, as this is a top priority for students. Jallow also wants to prioritize food insecurity on campus in her discussions with the board. For Mannam, the diverse makeup of the board is held together by a shared passion for AU and the promise it holds for students and alumni alike. Members range from double Eagles — alumni who hold multiple degrees from the University — to parents, current
It’s not just us being there as placeholders, it’s us being there for an actual purpose. They want our opinions. —Anusha Mannam
professors and religious leaders. As a member of the diversity, equity and inclusion committee, Sine emphasized AU’s role within the current cultural reckoning with racism at AU and college campuses across the country. “I think these moments — and this goes back to George Floyd, Black Lives Matter — but I think these moments call for institutions like AU to kind of be more visible about their commitments, and to create more accountability about those commitments,” Sine said. AU’s board is more diverse than the national average, according to a 2020 McKinsey survey that found the average collegiate board is 70 percent male and nearly 75 percent white. At AU, there are 11 female board members and 21 male board members, and nine identify as people of color. However, the demographics of the board starkly contrast with the demographics of the University. While the board is 72 percent white and 65 percent male, the University is 50 percent white and 61 percent female, according to 2017 data from AU’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. While the board of trustees is more diverse than the national average, it is by no means representative of the student body. “We look at the makeup of the board, we try and make sure we have a diverse group of trustees, and always try to fill any voids we see,” Duber said. “For example, when the board went through a study many years ago … it was brought up that we should have trustees from the education space, the higher ed space, so we had two former university presidents on the board.” In looking at long term issues, trustees remain optimistic about the opportunities they have to help AU thrive in the future. “We’re all here for one purpose, we’re here to better the University and with that, in order to best serve the interests of the AU community, we need those different perspectives,” Mannam said. Spencer Nusbaum contributed to the reporting of this story.
theEAGLE December 2021
A game of musical chairs: University deals with administrative transitions during the pandemic Changes in University leadership work to better reflect AU’s goals contributions of each area to our overall mission,” said Matthew Bennett, the vice president and chief communications officer, in an email to The Eagle regarding the division’s future. Baldassaro previously spent the past 12 years as interim vice president for communications and marketing at George Washington University. Aw said that the role of the chief of staff is vital to the success of the University, specifically pointing out that their role is to ensure that the coordination and communication between the president’s office and cabinet members is intentional.
by Ben Johansen and Zoe Bell News Staff Reporters
As American University students navigate a pandemic-riddled college experience, the University has made several internal structural changes toward the new vision of AU, including many changes to administration officials. Since Sylvia Burwell was appointed president in 2017, her cabinet of 10 administrators has morphed multiple times, four being new hires or assuming new roles in the past three months. Other leadership positions at the University, including four dean positions, have also experienced high turnover, many of which have been internally promoted. The numerous administrative changes come months after the University launched its $500 million fundraising campaign “Change Can’t Wait.” The three pillars of the campaign, listed as “Elevate, Inspire, and Lead,” aim to transform the student experience, expand faculty research and strengthen communities within the campus and city environments.
Finances Brontè Burleigh-Jones took over as AU’s chief financial officer, vice president and treasurer on Oct. 4, succeeding Douglas Kudravetz, who retired after working for the University for over 35 years. In her new role, Burleigh-Jones will help manage the University’s budget, treasury management and auxiliary services. “As the chief resource manager, I make sure that we manage the resources to carry out the priorities and goals that have been identified in the campaign,” BurleighJones said.
Provost Many recent administrative moves involve tenured officials taking on new roles. Peter Starr was announced as permanent provost on Sept. 28. Previously, Starr served as acting provost since summer 2020, and as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences before that. Due to the pandemic, Starr served as acting provost for two years rather than the original plan of serving for one year. In an interview with The Eagle, Starr said that after conducting a “360 review” of his work as acting provost, Burwell named him permanent provost in September. In regards to AU promoting many officials internally, Fanta Aw, vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence, said that “there is no substitute for experience.” She said that there is a benefit to understanding how the specific
GRAPHIC BY HALEY DYMEK / THE EAGLE
institution runs. One example of this comes from inside the provost’s office. Monica Jackson became the new deputy provost and dean of faculty in July 2020. Jackson previously served as associate dean of undergraduate studies in CAS for the two previous years and as CAS’ first diversity, equity and inclusion officer. Jackson has worked for the University since 2005, originally as a math and statistics professor.
Undergraduate enrollment Aw was also recently promoted to vice president of undergraduate enrollment, an additional role that she assumed in early October. “This new element is really a way to give us an opportunity to think about the student experience holistically,” Aw said. Elizabeth Deal, the recently appointed assistant vice president for community and internal communication, told The Eagle in an email that Aw’s new position will help advance the University’s strategic work and better serve the community as
a whole. “We are prioritizing enrollment work throughout the university to meet the needs of our students, parents, and future Eagles,” she said. “As part of the work, we are elevating undergraduate enrollment to the cabinet-level to further our already strong efforts.”
Chief of staff Seth Grossman, the vice president of people and external affairs, also led the Office of the President as the chief of staff until recently. On Nov. 1, Sarah Baldassaro assumed the role of chief of staff, while Grossman kept his position in the People and External Relations division. This division spans over a wide array of offices at AU, including Human Resources, the Office of Equity and Title IX, Community and Governmental Affairs, WAMU and the strategic plan. “As these functions enter important new phases, the updated alignment provides visibility and support across the university and will bolster the
The University has also seen a significant turnover in its deans throughout several schools: new deans were announced for CAS, School of International Service, School of Communication and the Washington College of Law, in addition to the establishment of the School of Education in 2019. Christine Chin, dean of SIS, is stepping down at the end of the aademic year to take sabbatical leave. Chin, a 25-year veteran of AU, assumed the role in 2018 after serving as interim dean during the previous year. “It is an adjustment where we normally hire deans from the outside,” Chin said. “I know my community; my community knows me, but in a different capacity.” AU has not announced a new dean and Chin said that she will not be involved in the search for a new dean. However, as an alumna of AU, she said that she is hoping that the new dean will continue to elevate AU’s reputation on a nationwide level. As for the recent dean changes throughout AU, she said that she does not see it as alarming. “In any kind of large organization, you will get change,” Chin said. In July 2020, Max Friedman was announced as the interim dean of CAS, taking over from Peter Starr when he took on the responsibility of acting provost. Sam Fulwood III was also named the new dean of SOC in January, beginning his deanship in May. There have also been recent changes in graduate leadership, as Roger A. Fairfax Jr. was named dean of WCL in April. Starr has been involved in the search for deans for multiple schools within AU, including CAS, WCL and SOC. “It’s a really, really strong group of leaders now,” Starr told The Eagle. “I’ve done university administrations at two universities for 15 years and it’s a stronger group of leaders than I’ve ever seen. email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
theEAGLE December 2021
AU Meditation Club brings reflection and joy during a stressful semester
The club shares meditative strategies this fall to help bring peace and serenity to students different aspects of wellness: being honest, listening to the emotions behind one’s words and finding peace with life. “Our mission statement is to spread With both the coronavirus pandemic love, awareness and peace around impacting American University’s first campus,” Qian said. “So we just want to semester back on campus and exam build a community around meditation season, it’s more important than ever to and spirituality.” take time to pause and reflect. The A different topic is discussed AU Meditation Club hopes to do at each AU Meditation meeting. just that, providing a space to be During October, the club hosted an present and destress. “Introduction to Spirituality” event “We actually started the club in which messages questioned during the virtual time and that’s boundaries and the purpose behind the situation we came into,” said spirituality as well as the Eric Qian, a senior in the Kogod benefit of meditation. School of Business, who is also The spirituality program the president of AU Meditation. is about the “journey “I think it’s easier to have of finding happiness meditation events online and truth within” and because meditation can be “being with oneself,” done anywhere,” according to School of According to Qian, the COURTESY OF JORDAN KEYS International Service club’s purpose is to focus on AU Meditation Club Logo senior Jordan Keys, by Hannah Langenfeld Life Staff Reporter
the club’s vice president. In November, the club planned a Rock Creek Park Nature Walk and a Learning to Self-Love program. For many, AU Meditation is a place to be at peace. “I needed a club that is not an academic base. I think it’s really helpful to have something to look forward to,” said freshman Abigail Minnaugh. “I know on Tuesday night at 7 o'clock I finally get my chance to decompress and relax. Meditation forces me to spend time for myself, which is good.” Keys hopes that people are able to take what they learn from each meeting, and use it to change their ways of thinking and apply meditation to their life outside of AU. “First and foremost I hope people find community,” Keys said. “A lot of our members are underclassmen and I know how difficult it can be to find a place where you belong”.
Alongside their events, AU Meditation also shares meditation techniques, skills and resources through their Instagram page, so that students can do them on their own and modify based on their own needs. “I suggest people explore their own practices,” Keys said. “Meditation is something that is super personal and no one regiment or schedule should be applied to all. It is important to see which practices work best for your mind and body,” With the spring semester arriving students may find ways to be calm by joining the club or practicing techniques on their own. If it’s meeting friends or improving spiritual wellness you’re looking for, the AU Meditation club is just the place to start. email@example.com
EcoRep Program inspires sustainable living on campus by Jenna Schwartz Life Staff Reporter
This fall, the Office of Sustainability officially launched the EcoRep Program at American University in an effort to continue its commitment to the environment, providing a way for the student body to take sustainability on campus into their own hands. While the program was piloted during the Mid-Semester Residential Experience last spring with a much smaller group of students, there are 40 undergraduate students who signed up as EcoReps this semester. EcoReps are required to volunteer two hours of their time each week to promote sustainability through individual behavior change among students, faculty and staff. School of Public Affairs sophomore Joel Ploski, who is an EcoRep, feels this requirement is easy to accomplish. “The Office of Sustainability makes it really easy for us to do a wide variety of things,” Ploski said. “It can be anywhere from going to a climate strike to doing a waste audit.” From staffing compost educational programs in the Terrace Dining Room to posting sustainability information on social media, there are many different ways to volunteer. Ploski volunteers his time by doing waste audits and waste sorting education in TDR. According to the Office of Sustainability, on the first three occasions that EcoReps tabled at TDR next to the dish return, they helped save 146 pounds of food waste from going to the landfill and being composted instead.
Recently, EcoReps have been promoting a new outreach program, EcoPledge, in which anyone on campus can pledge to take at least 10 different sustainable actions. Those who pledge receive a monthly newsletter with tips on how to complete their pledge commitments and can win environmentally-friendly prizes such as reusable straws. “It kind of removes this stigma that sustainability might be something that is really difficult or intimidating to get into,” Ploski said. “Really it’s just like small, little steps that you take day by day. Just by doing those you can be a lot more sustainable.” Mimi Beckemeier, an intern for the Office of Sustainability and a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, helps manage the EcoRep Program. She says she believes that increased individual action will amount to a more substantial change overall. While there is a big push among climate activists to focus on holding corporations and our government accountable, Beckemeier said that individual action is still important, especially at AU. “When it comes down to it, the real way we’re going to end emissions and solve a lot of the issues is by regulating corporations,” Beckemeier said. “However, when we’re talking about AU, because we’re such a small school, we’re so close-knit that our impact is much larger.” According to Tacy Lambiase, the Office of Sustainability’s communications and outreach manager in charge of the EcoRep Program, the importance of individual action goes beyond those efforts adding up. “Individual actions are crucial because
they act as a gateway for getting folks involved,” Lambiase said. “We’re asking students to take simple actions on campus like reducing their use of single-use plastics. That action alone is not going to solve the climate crisis, but if we can get students engaged JENNA SCHWARTZ / THE EAGLE and interested in doing one small EcoReps, Sam Siktar and Ethan Hill, managing the Office of Sustainability’s tabling event at TDR to promote composting food action, they are waste. more likely to take bigger actions down the road.” worked with senior capstone students Lambiase reports that 182 students have in promoting a reducing food waste already been certified with EcoPledge and application, Too Good To Go. The EcoRep the initiative will continue throughout the program will continue to work alongside rest of the academic year. Additionally, different climate campaigns and intends EcoReps have been promoting to partner with climate groups on campus. CampusCup 2021 — a campaign to Applications to become an EcoRep provide free menstrual cups on campus will reopen next semester, and Lambiase — alongside AU’s Health Promotion and recommends becoming an EcoRep as a Advocacy Center in efforts to alleviate great stepping stone for students to get typical menstrual waste and grant access involved. to free reusable menstrual products. This “It’s definitely more fun and more campaign formed out of a partnership effective to drive change when you're with the Office of Sustainability and doing it with other people,” Lambiase said. AllMatters, a sustainable-period-product “We don’t want students to feel like they're company. While the campaign ran, 452 going at this alone.” students signed up to receive free reusable menstrual cups, according to the Office of firstname.lastname@example.org Sustainability. Outside of working with HPAC and promoting EcoPledge, EcoReps have also
theEAGLE December 2021
Return to ‘normal’: Students navigate campus life after more than a year online With campus reopening this fall, ‘normal’ has taken on a new meaning for students by Weslan Hansen Life Staff Reporter
Students walked onto campus early on the morning of Aug. 30 for the first day of in-person classes at American University since spring 2020. For some, the walk across campus was familiar, but for others, it was an entirely new experience. From moving in, studying abroad and performing, students are still adjusting to what life at AU now looks like. For Lilliana Silver, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and the College of Arts and Sciences, the experience of arriving on campus this fall to attend in-person classes was strange. Despite completing her freshman year at AU, she hadn’t been in a classroom since her senior year of high school. “March came and [my high school’s administration] was like, ‘We’re going to go online for two weeks’ ... and then we did not go back, and now I’m a sophomore in college,” she said. While most members of the class of 2024’s last experience in a classroom was just under two years ago, some non-traditional students like Kai Yuen Suherwan, a sophomore in the School of International Service, haven’t been in a classroom in three years. After graduating high school in 2018 and then enrolling in the Singaporean army for two years, the delay of another year of the college experience wasn’t expected. “I would think about the typical American college experience, I would think about the parties, actually going to lecture halls and stuff, and I was looking at the School of International Service and I was like I can’t wait to go here,” Suherwan said. “But then contrast that with me sitting in the basement staring at a screen.” Now that classes are in-person again, he said he can finally partake in some of the college experiences he’d hoped for. His excitement over being back in person is one that has been echoed by many. “For the first time, I was able to look to my left and I had a student there,” said Jehane Djedjro, a sophomore in SIS. “I could talk to them about school and the material we’re learning. Mentally, it’s just brought me to a better place.” What normalcy looks like has been a question that all students have faced in
their return to campus this year. The two remaining classes — the class of 2022 and 2023 — are the only ones that have experienced the University prepandemic. Victoria Guillen, a junior in SIS, said that the return to in-person learning came with a different campus experience than the one she recalled from her freshman year. “Returning to campus, socially a lot of stuff changed for me,” Guillen said. “A lot of my friends from freshman year either graduated, took a gap year, transferred or dropped out. So everyone is in a completely different position than where we were before. And that’s been a lot to digest too.”
Borders begin to reopen and students look abroad
Performing arts returns to the stage While classrooms across the globe have begun to look more normal as campuses navigate COVID-19 protocols, auditoriums for the performing arts are still just starting to get live audiences back. Nicole Klokiw, a senior in CAS, said that the University’s Department of Performing Arts looks very different under post-pandemic restrictions than it did before. Audience capacity is maxed at 50 percent, crew and orchestra members are masked and staging is socially distanced. But after performing in two shows last year over Zoom, Klokiw said that even though in-person performances look different than they used to, she’s happy to be back on stage for this fall’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” “This is the first in-person show I’ve been in, in three years,” Klokiw said of the late October show. “Being able to look into the audience [...] is really nice. It’s pretty encouraging actually to see and hear people reacting. It makes me happy.” Not all shows have been in person. Kelsey Walker, a junior in CAS said that this fall’s production of Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale” is being filmed. While the decision was made in order to be able to accommodate the possibility of the University closing in-person shows, Walker said that the transition back to campus has still been difficult. “I lost a lot of trust in the thing I love to do most, which is really hard to grapple with,” Walker said. “It’s hard to place trust in theater itself, or in an institution like AU when things change so constantly. And I know that you just have to deal with it, but it’s hard when you’re like okay this isn’t how it used to be, or this isn’t how I want it to be. ... Like that’s all I want to be doing, and I don’t really feel like we’re back yet.” The uncertainty of what the future holds is a sentiment that all students share. With the pandemic still unfolding, students have learned to be flexible and how to deal with the challenges of living in unprecedented times. While what “normal” looks like will continue to change over time, AU students have proven resilient.
Guillen and many others were planning to study abroad in spring 2022, and while some programs are being offered in a limited capacity, many plans have been put on hold. For many, the opportunity to study abroad is what drew them to AU. According to U.S. News & World Report, AU is a top-ranked university for those wanting to study abroad. At some point during their time at the University, 54 percent of students will study abroad, the University’s website says. One of these programs is the Sakura Scholars program, where SIS students can spend two years abroad at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. This year, Mizuki Brent, a sophomore Sakura Scholar, was the only member in their cohort allowed entrance to Japan through their Japanese citizenship to follow the program’s typical progression. “I haven’t actually met any of my cohorts yet just because my whole freshman year was online, but I’ve been in touch with a couple of them on the phone,” Brent said. “It’s not that I really feel like I’ve been missing out on any friendships because I haven’t been able to meet them yet, but I’ve been able to meet some of the other kids [here in Japan].” Brent said that AU isn’t the only university where students have felt disconnected during the pandemic. Ritsumeikan University just started allowing students to attend in-person classes due to email@example.com low COVID-19 numbers. “Classrooms are much emptier than normal, classes are mostly all hybrid, and there are a lot of kids in South Korea and China that can’t make it over,” Brent said. HALEY DYMEK / THE EAGLE
theEAGLE December 2021
AU alum Ismah Khan tackles tough topics in her short film ‘Disturbed’ Khan lets the audience view the true nature of mental illness by Olivia Kozlevcar Arts & Entertainment Editor “Disturbed,” a new short film created by American University alumna Ismah Khan, is a brief look at the short-term troubles — and long-term effects — of living with mental illness. Unsettling and remarkably modern, the film makes right on a subject that has so long been misrepresented by Hollywood. The short follows protagonist Monica (Christina Coulter) as she battles insomnia caused by her mental illness — both of which are misunderstood by her friends. She carries the burden of her affliction while being further weighed down by the distrust and disappointment cast on her by the other individuals in her life. Inspired by filmmaking icons Ari Aster, known most for “Hereditary” and “Midsommar,” and Darren Aronofsky, known mainly for “Pi” and “The Fountain,” the crowd-funded horror movie lives fundamentally in tones of blue, with the COURTESY OF REIGNON PRILLMAN only source of warm coloring radiating Christina Coulter, Fernando Rocha and nick on the set of “Disturbed.” from medication that Monica takes. And while the audience follows along directly with Monica’s mental illness and those impacted by it. “One of the problems I came across — especially journey, they are forced to confront whether they believe her lived experience or the judgement placed because I was on medication — was thinking: what role is medication going to play in this film? Is it on her situation by other characters. The viewers must also evaluate the source of the going to be the typical ‘medicine makes this person monster (Keon Jones) following Monica: is the figure crazy?’ I really didn't want that, because that's such an real or fake? A figment of the imagination or a true unhealthy narrative to put out there,” Khan said. “In demon? Khan makes it a point to leave the answer fact, [medication] can do the opposite in a lot of cases.” During the creation process, Khan said she wanted to these questions up to the interpretation of those to make it clear that the medication being taken did watching. “I wanted it to be about the fact that we don’t really nothing to impact the manifestation or resilience listen to people when they have pleas that are quite of the monster. It is another important step away serious regarding how they feel,” Khan said. “I wanted from the Hollywood obsession with medication [to have] these deeper conversations about how we and the tendency it has to vilify it. “It is medication: it works for what it’s intended participate in the conversation of mental illness, or how for,” Khan said. “It’s not what causes the monster, it’s we perceive mental illness.” For Khan, who has bipolar disorder, this project not what makes these nightmares happen. And I is an important one that has been in the making for wanted to be very intentional about that.” As for the technical side of production, Khan is over a year. Her personal relationship to the subject not the only AU alumni on the film: actor Valarie matter is particularly McFatter and tech members Fernando Rocha and crucial when considering Reignon Prillman all graduated from AU. The crew of the tumultuous the film is also predominantly BIPOC, a decision that relationship that the Khan takes great pride in. “I feel like as a filmmaker and creator that it’s my filmmaking industry has historically had with duty to raise other BIPOC individuals with me,” Khan accurately depicting said. “Anything I do in terms of my career is always
connected to people of color and making sure that we’re creating a network within ourselves.” Khan said she knows that “Disturbed” is just the beginning of the hard-hitting work she intends to create. “I would love to keep making films, and keep getting better, and tell more poignant stories,” Khan said. “I think ‘Disturbed’ is just right at the surface of all the things I want to say.”
theEAGLE December 2021
TikTok and taking chances:
How the pandemic made way for a new genre of entertainment The entertainment world was struck in a way that was both soul-stirring and inconceivable in March 2020. Theaters, museums and concert halls across the world went dark, leaving creators to look inward and consider more confined ways of making art. For creators at American University, this meant making content from their childhood bedrooms. Many found that this time caused unparalleled stress; a waiting game fixated on nothing but the return to in-person work. For others, this time presented a chance to explore the boundaries of art in the most versatile space possible: the internet. And while the coronavirus raged across the country, the social media app TikTok began to emerge as an emotional and creative outlet for young people. For individuals who considered themselves performers in the pre-pandemic world, the platform gave them a way to channel their artistic tendencies while engaging with an audience. Such is the case for Grace Bressner (@gracebressner), a dancer and freshman in the Department of Performing Arts at AU. “I started blowing up more during the pandemic: there was this one video I posted, and it got me my first million views,” Bressner said. She now has just over one million followers on TikTok. “People were on the app, everyone was starting to join [it], because that’s all there was to do.”
JACOB FISHMAN / THE EAGLE
And although Bressner finds that the type of dancing she continues to do on TikTok is very different from her in-studio dance styles, she does feel that it was a great place for her to fill out some of her desire to entertain during lockdown. “In the sense of performance and of entertainment qualities, TikTok for sure fulfilled that,” Bressner said. She currently creates her own dances and revises the dances of other creators in her own style. One of her dances was even performed by TikTok superstar Charli D’Amelio. “[The dance] was known for Charli doing it three times,” Bressner said. “But there was also so much hate associated with it. When you create your own TikTok dance, the most common comment and recurring thing that people will say is that it’s just recycled movements.” As a result of this reaction, Bressner now spends more of her time recreating the dances of others. She also finds breaks from her virtual presence with in-person dance lessons and through preparation for AU Dances, an event between dance courses where students showcase their learned skills. For her, it’s a welcome return. For other entertainment forms, remaining fully virtual seems likely. Content creator Upneet Kaur (@createbyua), who is a senior in the School of International Service, began developing her video crafting skills on the platform. On TikTok, she creates content centered around fashion, art and lifestyle. Her videos amass thousands of views; she currently has a following of upwards of 60 thousand. “In terms of short films, I’d never done them before I joined TikTok. I have in the past just filmed videos or taken pictures,” Kaur said. “But compiling it into those videos and giving them a theme was never something I’d done before. It’s something I had always admired that other people did, but not something I thought I would be able to do.” In learning to create this type of content, Kaur has also developed a unique style that highlights her ability to build aesthetics and redefine the boundaries of modern creative demonstration. “[It] has given me one more way to express myself,” Kaur said. The same is true for Sebastian Aguilar (@sebbylyfe), a junior with 10 thousand followers who considers himself a genreless content creator on TikTok. Self-expression is the primary driving force behind
by Olivia Kozlevcar - Arts and Entertainment Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
his content, which remains fluid based on his own interests. “I don’t put myself in a single section of entertainment, I do it more for myself,” Aguilar said. “A lot of my personality comes through the videos that I make, and so I just like expressing myself with other people on the internet. I think a big part of that came because of the pandemic: I didn’t get to share my personality with people in person anymore, and being the extrovert that I am, I found that TikTok could be that platform to give me that opportunity.” Aguilar also said he feels that TikTok has provided young people with a newfound sense of community, one that remains unparalleled by most platforms. “One of the big benefits to TikTok is that you can have an interest that you think nobody else is interested in, but you do find somebody who shares that similar passion,” Aguilar said. “One of the larger projects that I’m working on is to do a collaboration cross-country.” And for others, like SIS and Kogod School of Business senior Paul Sutton (@paulblartgoestoschool), TikTok creation opened them up to being entertainers. Sutton began using the app as a way to share videos from his work as a park ranger during the pandemic. “I was never really an entertainer before this,” Sutton said. “I was a park ranger, and that was my job during the summer when I was at home during the pandemic. So if the pandemic didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have had that job, and I wouldn’t have made the TikTok.” At AU, Sutton is the president of the club soccer team and a member of a professional business fraternity. Following the end of his stint as a park ranger, Sutton now remains relatively popular among the nature fan community. “After I ran out of park material, I just started posting more stuff about me,” Sutton said. “Which was kind of nice because I learned to be able to show myself through the app instead of just showing my park life.” For now, all genres of live performance are slowly beginning to trickle back to the foreground. But TikTok creators — as well as the viewers that fuel the ongoing popularity of the app — seem set on solidifying the app’s spot as a vivacious and valid form of modern entertainment.
theEAGLE December 2021
Nicolas Blassou: A bastion of the backfield
The soccer player has been a game-changer for the Eagles since transferring
COURTESY OF GREG FIUME
Nicolas Blassou in action against Old Dominion (Aug. 29)
by Lee Clarke Sports Staff Reporter
It was a cold winter day on the soccer field, so cold that the players on the field were bundled up with longsleeved undershirts and gloves. But future Eagle Nicolas Blassou stood out on the pitch to recruiters in his short sleeve jersey and gloves. These small things can tell a lot about a player. Blassou, now a redshirt senior defender and team captain on the men’s soccer team, showed during that game his calm demeanor on the field and his leadership off it that has become a staple throughout his collegiate career. “I’ve always been kind of a quiet, calm kid so that’s kind of just how I am,” Blassou said. “I think it’s definitely followed through into who I am as a player. I kind of just try to have fun when I am playing out there.” Since joining the Eagles, Blassou has been a consistent and stable presence in the backfield. He has started all but one match and regularly plays the whole game. Blassou’s performance during the shortened 2020-21 season also helped to lead the Eagles defense in holding opponents to a stellar 0.331 shot on goal percentage and led the Eagles with 834 minutes played, being an integral part of the team’s NCAA tournament run. His exceptional performance continued into the 2021 season where he again helped lead the Eagles defense to an exceptional 1.17 goals against average, the third best in the Patriot League. The Eagles historic run to the second round of the NCAA tournament was special for Blassou and the team. “It was a journey for sure,” Blassou said. “It was awesome to be a part of, you could definitely feel the energy every training session. It was from every single person, we were trying to get better and we wanted to win, that was our mentality all season and it paid off.” Blassou has earned numerous accolades in his time with the Eagles, earning Second Team All-Patriot
League honors during the shortened 2020-21 shortened season, Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, Preseason All-Patriot League honors and First Team All-Patriot League honors during the 2021 season. Blassou did not start his career at American University, though. Prior to coming to AU, Blassou played three seasons for Conference USA powerhouse the University of Kentucky. UK head coach Johan Cedergren remembered his initial impression of Blassou being a video of that winter game which immediately drew his attention. “I think that kind of summed up his mentality as a player and as a person,” Cedergren said. “He’s not too concerned about outside factors or whatever. He’s going to go in and do his job.” Blassou didn’t see much playing time at UK, getting redshirted his freshman year. The 2018 season saw him appear in six matches as the Wildcats made a run to the NCAA Elite 8, but his final season was a breakthrough for him. An injury to center back Leon Jones allowed Blassou to play major minutes, starting 17 matches and playing in 18 as UK went on another NCAA tournament run to the second round. Cedergren praised Blassou, both for his efforts on the field and him personally. “He’s a very smart young man,” Cedergren said. “He’s aware of what he is good at and what he’s not good at. He’s very determined.” Despite playing well and frequently for the Wildcats, Blassou wasn’t guaranteed major minutes on the field with other players coming back from injury. With a taste for being a starter and a desire to play closer to his hometown of Rockville, Maryland, Blassou decided it was time to transfer. However, Blassou has no regrets about his time with the Wildcats. “I definitely wouldn’t take any of it back, I definitely grew as a player and a person there,” Blassou said. “Sometimes you need to make a change for yourself, to better yourself. I think the biggest thing for me was I kind of
needed to push myself individually and get out of my comfort zone.” Blassou quickly showed up on the radar of the Eagles when he entered the transfer portal. Head coach Zach Samol said he and his coaching staff immediately remembered him from his playing time with the club team Baltimore Celtic, including a run with the club to the 2017 national semifinals, and his performance with Kentucky made Samol emphatic about making Blassou an AU Eagle. Blassou was a familiar face on the Eagles roster. Graduate forward and fellow team captain Jerry Zouantcha played travel soccer with Blassou when they were around 7-years-old, and the elder Zouantcha played a major role in convincing Blassou to come to American. Blassou said being close to home and a coaching staff who let him play significant minutes were too enticing to pass up. “My mom can finally come to my games, which she was never able to do at Kentucky,” Blassou said. “It was quick for me to see these [coaches] were serious. They knew what they were doing and really made me believe that they were going to change this program, and they have and are going to continue to do that. I wanted to be a part of that.” Blassou hasn’t just been a part of that change, he has been one of the major factors driving it. His play in the backfield has helped to drive the Eagles to new heights, yet in his final collegiate season, he knows what he can do to be an even better player. “I would like to be more consistent as a player,” Blassou said. “I’d like to be more dominant, both in my presence and in my play, doing it consistently and for 90 minutes each game. It’s a hard thing to do, but it’s what the best players can do and that’s what I am aiming for.”
theEAGLE December 2021
Thoroughly defeated, hopelessly An archival telling of the all-Am In the span of four weeks in 1928, AU lost to Gettysburg College 81-0, Catholic University 69-0, St. John’s University 63-0 and Gallaudet University 37-7. The Eagle commended AU for its “spectacular tackles” in the recap of the humiliations. Despite the losing, AU’s actual record is disputed. The Eagle’s records prove inconsistent over the years, and AU has no official record book for the football team. The American University Football: Still Undefeated. only source that kept regular records was the yearbook. You can buy the shirt with that slogan on the back at the AU bookstore for $24. The What is undisputed are the interesting people who played and coached for the gag is obvious — AU doesn’t actually have a football team, but the inside joke belies a lack Eagles. Fullback Tom Sawyer played for AU during the 1926-1927 season. He was a of school spirit to many. two-sport star, as captain of the basketball team in 1926, and captain of the football “There’s not a lot of school spirit,” School of Public Affairs junior Dylan Judge said. team in 1927. However, Sawyer’s successful career crashed and burned soon after. “It’s the culture of the school.” After just two games, Tom Sawyer and three other players were suspended from Other students who spoke to The Eagle echoed a similar collective apathy toward AU the team for “training violations,” according to a 1927 Washington Post article. While athletics. no official reason was given, the Post reported the four players had been involved in “I’m extremely indifferent,” School of a car crash after driving home from a party. Communication sophomore Olivia Tudor The suspensions forced AU to cancel its game said. “I feel like a lot of people didn’t come here against William & Mary and AU finished the because of the school spirit.” season 1-5. Sawyer withdrew from AU soon In fact, many students either think the after, according to The Eagle. Eagles never flew across the gridiron or only There was also Gus Welch who coached played a few games long ago. The story is much AU from 1937-38 and compiled a 2-10-1 remore complex: multiple teams wore the pads cord. Welch had a strong resume as a player, for AU, and unlike the slogan, they lost — a lot. suiting up for coaching legend Pop Warner and playing alongside football great Jim Thorpe. Losing streaks, car crashes and Welch was hired to turn AU’s fortunes around, cheerleaders in disguise: but he went down in AU lore for the many 1925-1941 stunts he allegedly attempted as head coach. In 1938, The Washington Post reported AU played its first two football games in that Welch tried to start a woman as a place1925 against George Washington University kicker for the Eagles, but AU’s dean of women and Emerson Institute — according to AU redenied the idea. Welch was also known for his cords — and lost both games. “30-second football” lectures to new players The Eagles wore blue and orange, and they before throwing them into games for the first played in a ravine adjacent to the University time. President’s house that is now the site of the In the same article, the Post also alleged Wesley Theological Seminary in the 1930s, acthat Welch, fretting how small his teams were, cording to 2003 reporting from The Eagle. dressed cheerleaders and students as players Losses were a theme for the Eagles during to fool opponents into thinking he had more PHOTO FROM AMERICAN UNIVERSITY ARCHIVE their 1925-1941 existence. AU went 24-67-6, players than he actually had. In an interview according to AU’s official record. Their best with The Eagle in 1959, Stafford “Pop” Cassell season was in 1926 when they went 4-3-1, and — whose name adorns Cassell Hall and who they never had another winning season. An analysis of the former AU yearbook — the played and coached for the football team — quoted Welch allegedly saying, “The only AUCOLA (1927-1955) — reveals that the Eagles had three zero-win seasons, and were way for us to get a crowd is to play at the half of a Redskin game.” usually thoroughly outclassed by their opponents. The team didn’t improve during Welch’s tenure and he resigned after the 1938 seaAU played 34 teams in its history and had a winning record against eight. Regular ri- son. With the onset of World War II, the University eliminated the football team bevals were St. John’s University, Hampden Sydney College and Randolph-Macon College. cause there weren’t enough men on campus to field a team, The Eagle reported. The Eagles played the three schools 27 times and beat St. John’s once. The University considered reviving football, but AU deemed it “impossible” in AU’s Achilles’ heel was its inability to score — the Eagles were shut out 32 times. The 1959, and an official team has never suited up for AU since. Eagles were outscored by their opponents by at least 30 points 24 times, proving their Despite this, AU students were not done with the gridiron. defensive ineptitude and offensive incompetence. by Ben Morse Managing Editor for Sports
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ly in debt and utterly ignored: merican sport on AU's campus Beer drinkers, debt and X-rated films: The 1970s Upon arriving as a student at AU, Terry McLarney wanted to keep playing football. He played at Wheaton High School in Maryland, and then went to Jacksonville State University to begin his college football career. After a year, he transferred to Montgomery College to continue playing football. However, academic pursuits led him to AU in 1973, McLarney said in an interview with The Eagle. Now a Lieutenant in the Baltimore Police Department, McLarney said that he didn’t know that AU had a club football team when he got to campus. But after a chance encounter at the cafeteria on registration day, McLarney joined the team and played center and guard from 1973-74. McLarney said that the team was a tight-knit group with a sense of camaraderie. The team played at Reeves Field and went 5-2-1— according to the AU yearbook— and McLarney said the team was invited to play a bowl game in Oswego, New York, which it lost. Despite the success, McLarney wasn’t blind to the apathy the student body had for the team. “No one really cared that there was a football team,” McLarney said. “However, when we would play a home game and walk over there in full gear … People would come out and watch. Once we were walking over and I heard someone saying ‘we have a football team?’” 1977 alumnus Lowell Lease laughed when he heard the story. “I don’t know if anybody had realized that there was a football team,” Lease said. Lease played football with McLarney in high school and said McLarney had told him about the club football team. When he came to AU in 1974, he signed up to play as a defensive end. Lease played one year for the Eagles — a hand and head injury cut his career short — but he said he liked the team atmosphere. “It was a real cross-section of guys,” Lease said. “The chemistry was good, we all got along and did really well. We had good cohesiveness in defense and offense and it was a lot of fun.” McLarney and Lease’s teams only got to suit up after years of grassroots efforts to bring football back to AU.
In 1965, a group of students created the AU Football Club to promote tackle football’s return to campus, and after four years of advocacy, the AU student government, known as the “Student Confederation” at the time, pledged to fund the team, according to The Eagle’s reporting in 1969. The club team played from 1970-1976, but its tenure was fraught with controversy. Relations between the team and the SC were tense from the beginning. According to The Eagle in 1970, the two sides disagreed about cost. The comptroller in 1970 suggested the club football team was not forthcoming with the actual cost of the team and called the football faction “a little tribe of beerdrinkers.” The two sides continued to disagree on the club’s expenses, and The Eagle frequently reported the student government repeatedly charged the team with overspending. Neither Lease nor McLarney remembered the debate, but the money dispute ultimately doomed the team. In 1973, an Eagle investigation found that the club was nearly four thousand dollars in debt. In 1974, SC said the club owed a travel agency $1,800 and $1,000 to a motel in Oswego for the game, according to The Eagle’s reporting in 1974. McLarney said he didn’t remember the team being in debt or having any problems with the Oswego trip. The team held fundraisers to try and keep the club afloat, including a Las Vegas night and an “X-rated movie night” that turned a profit, according to a 1974 Eagle article. The fundraisers didn’t raise enough funds and SC refused to fund them in 1975, according to a 1975 Eagle report, spelling the end of the club team. The 1976 season was PHOTO COURTESY OF LOWELL LEASE football’s last gasp at AU, and the team was disbanded. Football had finally faded from AU for good. Despite this, both Lease and McLarney said that their time at AU has stuck with them in their respective careers and that a football team could give the school some much-needed spirit. “You go through life and there’s so many parallels,” McLarney said. “You reap what you sow, if you don’t work out, you don’t go practice, you’re not going to be decent and gut it out during tough times. The teamwork and caring, and all that kind of stuff — for me, it was football.”
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‘The Source’ for sports podcasting on campus: Inside Sam Hiller’s passion project
Senior’s podcast is pushing his interest in sports media to new heights I'm a very firm believer that we have one life, and you gotta live it to the fullest.
by Georgina DiNardo Managing Editor for Copy
For many American University students, politics and “Hillternships” are the biggest conquests of their college experience. But for Sam Hiller, it’s sports. Hiller, a senior in the School of Public Affairs, is the co-host of a sports podcast called “The Source” which covers sports games, including predictions, outcomes and breakdowns. Hiller not only cohosts the free podcast, he also built the website — a new challenge for him. With no school and no sports during the coronavirus pandemic, Hiller and his friends decided to take their lively debates over sports teams and turn it into a podcast. “I think with no sports on [during the pandemic] that was kind of like a driving force of people to our show, like, hey, at least you can listen to these guys talk about it,” Hiller said. “And so I decided, after about two months and 500 followers, that if we’re going to grow, we need to fully invest into this point.”
—Sam Hiller CARLY JOHNSON / THE EAGLE
Hiller co-hosts with fellow sports fanatic Job Goddard, a 2020 AU graduate. According to Hiller, they are taking things one month at a time, creating goals that will then increase as time goes on. For example, they wanted to reach 4,000 Twitter followers by the end of the month, and are now trying for 5,000 by the end of next month. “We have a few guests that we want to have on, we want to have a certain amount of articles flowing per week,” Hiller said. “So we have a lot of things we want to get done, but I think we’re also trying to make
sure that we keep everything in focus.” Although Hiller is majoring in Justice and Law, he wants sports — particularly football — to play an integral part of his life after college. He also said he’s strengthened his interest in sports media with the help of a sports journalism class in the School of Communication. “I want to work in a sports organization, whether it be my most likely choice, which is football, working in data analytics,” Hiller said. “I spent the last two years working on a predictive game model that I’ve been sharing with people that’s been, I’d say about 58 percent successful, which is a pretty decent rate in the industry.”
Hiller’s main goal is to be a scout and get to watch college players and evaluate who would be best for what team. Hiller said that scouting is what he “lives and breathes.” “The running joke in the NFL for people who are 20 years old working in scouting is called the 2020 Club. Because you’re 20-something-years-old, making 20-something-thousand dollars a year, and it’s s--- work,” Hiller said. “But you do it because you love doing it, and then hopefully you can move up into the player personnel and more general management front office kind of world.” Hiller’s podcast is a continuation of him doing what he is passionate about and forging his path in life. “I’m a very firm believer that we have one life, and you gotta live it to the fullest for yourself,” Hiller said. “And that means trying to do what you’re passionate about by almost any means necessary.” email@example.com
David Vázquez construye una comunidad para aprender más sobre los cimientos de la cultura Latinx en la sociedad El Programa de Estudios Latinx será el primero en unirse a cinco programas interdisciplinarios existentes by Daniella Jimenez Life Staff Reporter
American University anunció el lanzamiento del nuevo programa de Estudios Latinx en 2021-2022 el 20 de diciembre. David Vázquez, el director del nuevo programa, habló sobre de qué se trata el programa de Estudios Latinx y las metas que proyecta para el año siguiente. Vázquez es un profesor asociado de Literatura que nació en Nueva York, pero se crió en Tampa Bay, Florida. Ha tenido experiencia como jefe del departamento de inglés y exdirector del Centro Latino y Latinoamericano en la Universidad de Oregon. “Varios años antes de mi llegada, la Universidad quería avanzar en esta dirección y lanzó una búsqueda nacional durante ese tiempo, estaba haciendo mucho trabajo en el campo y cambiando de rumbo hacia mi próximo proyecto de investigación,” Vázquez dijo en una
entrevista con El Águila. Vázquez ha tenido una larga historia de trabajo colaborativo exitoso como creador de programas, académico y defensor de la justicia social. El habló sobre su entusiasmo por continuar con su éxito en la creación de un programa desde cero. Estudios Latinx se unió a los cinco programas interdisciplinarios existentes dentro del nuevo Departamento de Raza Crítica, Género y Cultura: Estudios del Mundo Árabe, Estudios de la Diáspora Africana y Afroamericana, Estudios Asiáticos, Estudios de Mujeres, Género y Sexualidad y Estudios Americanos. “Lo que nos separa de otros estudios fuera de Raza, Género y Cultura Críticos es el enfoque en el que consideramos la raza y la etnicidad y otras cuestiones interseccionales en torno a la clase, la raza y el género'', dice Vázquez. Estudios Latinx se compone de dos requisitos básicos, Introducción a los Estudios Latinx (LTST-200) y Estudios
Vázquez prevé Latinx (SOCYcontratar profesionales 451). Hay seis en el campo para clases básicas en brindar una mejor total, sin embargo, comprensión y los estudiantes compartir su propia pueden encontrar experiencia en Estudios una variedad en Latinx. El habló literatura, historia, sobre sus objetivos sociología, filosofía y cortos y medios, que culturas del mundo. son la inscripción de Por el momento, más estudiantes y, Vázquez anticipa con suerte, que más que el programa se alumnos interesados extenderá a otras oigan hablar del escuelas dentro programa. de AU y tendrá la "Lo que me inspira oportunidad de COURTESY OF DAVID VÁZQUEZ es la sensación de que mi ver a través de la presencia aquí ya ha hecho una diferencia perspectiva de las poblaciones Latinx. para los estudiantes latinx aquí porque "Mi objetivo en general es hacer que ha habido muchos desatendidos durante un lugar para los Estudios Latinx ocurra tanto tiempo y es realmente importante a nivel nacional, hay algunos lugares en todo el mundo que hacen este tipo de para nosotros tener representación a nivel trabajo y quiero que AU sea uno de esos de nuestra facultad,” Vázquez dijo. lugares,” dijo Vázquez. firstname.lastname@example.org
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Opinión: El necesario ascenso de las voces latinas en las elecciones locales Por qué la participación política de la comunidad latina importa ahora más que nunca by Nick Blanco Staff Columnist
El bloque latino está en camino de ser el mayor grupo minoritario en Estados Unidos; sin embargo, esto no se ha traducido en participación en elecciones estatales y locales. Para promover una agenda de políticas públicas que apoyen la comunidad latina debe haber un aumento del voto latino. El poder del voto latino fue evidente en la escala nacional en las presidenciales del 2020 cuando su participación fue la más alta de la historia. Además, los latinos fueron fundamentales para cambiar el estado de Arizona derepublicano a demócrata. A pesar de eso, todavía hay muchos retos para que el voto latino se traduzca en mejoras a nuestra comunidad. Los adversos efectos económicos del COVID-19 afectaron desproporcionadamente a los latinos ya que gran parte de la fuerza laboral hispana está concentrada en áreas e industrias altamente susceptibles. Los datos del Brookings Institute indican que “en diciembre de 2020, la tasa de desempleo de hispanos o latinos fue de 9.3%, más de tres puntos más que la tasa de desempleo de los estadounidenses caucásicos. Cuando el COVID-19 golpeó inicialmente, la tasa de desempleo hispano o latino se disparó, superando la tasa de desempleo de los afroamericanos". Un año después, hay más estabilidad económica para la gente latina pero aún está lejos del nivel pre pandémico. Estos datos indican que la comunidad latina aún enfrenta grandes problemas que no necesariamente están siendo discutidos en las elecciones y federales. Mantener una participación en las elecciones locales similar a las presidenciales, podría ayudar a resaltar los problemas de la comunidad en la agenda de política pública. La importancia de las elecciones locales no se puede subestimar, especialmente cuando pueden provocar una política dirigida a las comunidades latinas individuales en lugar de las respuestas generalizadas del gobierno federal. Tomemos las elecciones de gobernador en Virginia como ejemplo. El último censo del estado muestra que los ciudadanos de origen hispano son cerca del 11 por ciento de la población total. Sin embargo, según las encuestas del Washington Post, el voto latino solo generó el 5 por ciento del total. Para comparar, la tasa del voto latino a nivel nacional en 2020 fue del 13 por ciento.
Estos datos sugieren que hay mucho espacio para que el voto latino crezca. Sin embargo, generar un aumento de votos es tremendamente difícil. Una posible solución es incentivar la participación política de estudiantes universitarios, lo que ayudaría a movilizar la opinión pública. Yo creo que esto ayudaría por dos razones. La primera es que latinos son el grupo de minoría más joven con la edad promedio de 30 años en el 2019, según el Pew Research Center La participación de los latinos jóvenes es clave para que estos números se conviertan en votos porque esta parte de la comunidad respondería mejor aquellas voces de la misma edad. La segunda razón es aún más sencilla. Ya hemos visto la movilización de jóvenes latinos organizando y promoviendo el registro de votantes en las elecciones del 2020. Y funcionó. En Pensilvania y Florida, organizaciones latinas con liderazgo joven, tuvieron un gran impacto en generar el voto latino en sus respectivos estados, según un artículo de NBC News. Por ejemplo, el artículo explica que “Make the Road Action”, una organización dedicada a la movilización de votantes latinos, “hizo 1.25 millones de llamadas y envió más de un millón de mensajes de texto a los votantes latinos en Pensilvania, mientras que los Jóvenes Republicanos de Miami registraron una cantidad nuevos votantes, a veces entre 300 y 400 personas al día, y reclutaron a cientos de nuevos latinos para los voluntarios de Trump.” También vimos las mismas tendencias en Georgia y Arizona. Esto demuestra que la movilización de estudiantes latinos no solo es importante, sino posible y efectiva. Lo cual hace que la posibilidad de replicar este movimiento a nivel estatal y local sea factible. Pero los estudiantes universitarios latinos son en su mayor parte de otros estados o países, lo cual genera la pregunta, "¿por qué debería preocuparme por una comunidad que no es mía?" Unidad y Fraternidad. La respuesta está en el hecho de que la comunidad latina no tiene fronteras. Todos nos enfrentamos a la realidad de los problemas específicos de nuestra comunidad, independientemente
del estado o país. Y si podemos ayudar a nuestros paisanos, incluso si es de la manera más pequeña, ¿por qué no? Dentro de esa pregunta, para mí, está la esencia misma de ser latino: el entendimiento de que todos compartimos un vínculo cultural a pesar de nuestra diferencia de nacionalidad. Hay un poquito (bueno, tal vez más que un poquito) de optimismo juvenil en este pensamiento, pero es algo que es necesario para provocar y motivar el cambio social. Además, también hay un poco de lógica con este proceso de pensamiento. Este período electoral está demostrando el efecto del voto latino. Una mayor presión política de la comunidad latina incentivaría a los candidatos en las elecciones del 2022 a tener al bloque en cuenta y proponer una agenda latina para los latinos. Por eso creo que hay que involucrarse con las elecciones locales; para aportar más candidatos, demócratas o republicanos, que reconozcan la voz de los latinos en su comunidad. Votar, donar o ser voluntario puede dar a los candidatos fuertes un pequeño empujón que puede afectar las elecciones. Y esos pequeños empujones suman, especialmente
en carreras ajustadas. Incluso si no puedes votar, ayudar a otros a votar es igual de útil. Además, ya que gran parte de la comunidad no habla inglés, algo tan simple como ayudar con la barrera lingüística puede guiar a otros en la dirección correcta. La idea es que hay miles formas de ayudar y todas funcionarán como un apoyo. Si el apoyo individual puede convencer a un votante o dos, es difícil no emocionarse con lo que puede hacer un movimiento universitario. Es lo mismo que pasó en Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, y Georgia pero a nivel local, lo cual tendría un gran efecto en la comunidad latina.
GRAPHIC BY CARLY JOHNSON / THE EAGLE
theEAGLE December 2021
Cultural-based clubs are conduits for connection How cultural clubs could help new students understand their identity while expanding their social circle Cultural clubs are a perfect middle man. They allow students to experience culture in a lowstakes manner to see how they connect with an environment built around a common bond.
JOSHUA KATZ / THE EAGLE
by Nick Blanco Staff Columnist
Adapting to university life can be a terrifying experience. The combination of arriving in a new environment and exposing yourself to new people is nervewracking. Joining an institution is challenging at a time when so many students are still developing their identity and discovering who they are outside of their hometown. One of the best ways to ease that transition is to join an identity-based club or student organization. It is completely understandable that people have reservations about cultural clubs. There is a perceived barrier to entry to these clubs where people feel they need to have a certain level of cultural engagement to join. Take, for example, someone who has cultural ties to two communities that does not feel culturally engaged enough to qualify as either. Their inability to resonate with either culture could be why they do not want to join a cultural club. Seeing cultural identity through a lens of qualification is not an entirely uncommon feeling, especially when looking to join an identity-based club. Millennials and Gen Zers are increasingly coming from multicultural backgrounds compared to other generations. According to Forbes, it is estimated that close to half of Gen Z and Millennials come from multicultural families. While the data wasn’t clear on how people from these generations felt about their multicultural backgrounds, it seems that a more extensive cultural mix could lead to internal conflicts of identity. Coming into American University, I often struggled with my own “Colombianness” and did not feel Hispanic enough to participate in cultural and social events. No matter how many times I introduced myself as Colombian, I did not have the same connection to my heritage as the rest of my family. My Spanish was average at best. I had an accent. Worst of all, I had absolutely no rhythm when it came to dancing salsa or merengue. Since dancing is a social norm that I struggled with growing up, it gravely limited my participation in social events. To an American audience, this might seem like a small detail, but music and dance have a strong cultural significance in Latin American gatherings. They represent a sense of fun and identity within the community. And I could not relate to it in the slightest.
As a result, social events felt too high stakes with a certain awkward feeling that I attribute to never having the opportunity to connect with my culture outside of my parents. Experiencing a cultural event with your parents and in a social dynamic are two completely different animals. Family gatherings are easy and routine. You know exactly what questions your family is going to ask and how you’ll respond. The interactions are short and conversations are square. When conversations fell out of the routine, I would always have my parents as a safety net to guide me back to the mundane talking points I was used to. On the other hand, social events host an entirely different setting. These sorts of social events show a difference between merely knowing the language and being connected to your culture. It is all in the way people communicate with each other. There are elaborate cultural communication cues that one cannot pick up from only speaking the language or going to family events. It can be an uncomfortable setting for those that do not feel like they connect with their culture like everyone else. When I came to AU, I had already spent more time living in the United States than in my native country. As a result, questions regarding my cultural identity were always on my mind. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it an identity crisis, but it always bothered me that I wasn’t more in tune with my Latino side. During my freshman year, I decided to attend meetings for the Latinx & American Student Organization and was pleasantly surprised to see how casual the meetings felt. I did not feel the pressure to try to figure out cultural communication cues constantly. That environment felt like a nice medium between the uptight family gatherings and the fast-paced social events. Cultural clubs are a perfect middle man. They allow students to experience culture in a low-stakes manner to see how they connect with an environment built around a common bond. If you resonate, you now have a community of people with whom you can grow your identity. If you don’t, at least you’ve met a collection of people from the same background as you. These clubs are an excellent way to expand your social circle with individuals that share similar values. It is a great way to make friends while representing something bigger than yourself. I would recommend everyone give the culture clubs on campus a try regardless of your connection to your culture. There is no pressure to be culturally fluent, which eases feelings of cultural qualification by providing a more comfortable environment. They allow a degree of introspection to understand how you feel toward your culture and the opportunity to build lifelong relationships. Cultural clubs are not institutional entities that demand one to go through dozens of barriers to entry, like language, to join. Instead, culture clubs should be viewed as conduits for connection — a club to connect you to a culture and culture to connect you to a people. Nick Blanco is a junior in the School of Communication and a columnist for The Eagle. email@example.com
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AU must continue to have remote classes to include students with disabilities The shift back to in-person learning is bringing back access issues for the disabled community
JOSHUA KATZ / THE EAGLE
by Darya Iranmanesh Staff Columnist The American University community is slowly transitioning back to pre-pandemic norms. This is exciting news to most students, but not all. Changes during the pandemic were made based on public health concerns, but it is important to recognize that those changes directly benefited the disabled community. While AU is offering some online options, the majority of students are again required to attend in-person classes and events which is harmful to some members of the disabled community. Information released by the American Psychological Association on Sept. 1 indicates that there are benefits of online learning for all people. Different populations
of students found new ways to engage with online learning that cannot be implemented in the classroom. Key takeaways are the prioritization of mental health, increased motivation, better understanding of needs when teaching children, decreased bullying and of course more opportunities for disabled students. While this article is mainly geared toward K-12 students, many of these issues can also apply to college students. Most frequently, college students struggle with mental health, lack of motivation and disability-related accommodations. The University currently offers few virtual options — live and asynchronous — according to Eagle Service. I am a public health major and while classes like HLTH245: Multicultural Health and HLTH-205: Introduction to Nutrition have asynchronous options, classes like HLTH-110: Introduction to Public Health and HLTH240: Introduction to Health Promotion do not. This is primarily a problem because HLTH-110 and HLTH240 are requirements for the major. I had to commute to Spring Valley for HLTH-110 this semester and found it incredibly frustrating. As someone who is significantly vision impaired, it is hard for me to catch the bus or take an Uber by myself. I was forced to spend money on Ubers and pay a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) to get to class. While this may not sound all that bad, it is quite financially straining on top of my tuition and takes up a good amount of time. After reading the syllabus for this specific course, I found out that students are able to log onto an alternative Zoom format for symptoms of COVID-19, other illness or essential caretaker responsibilities such as looking after sick children or family members. These
Triumphant escape: Exclusive interview with Wonk Cat by Nora Sullivan Satire Columnist The following piece is satire and should not be misconstrued for actual reporting. Any resemblance to a student, staff or faculty member is coincidental.
After a long, harrowing search effort, The Seagle has finally located the Wonk Cat. Living in a small cottage in New Hampshire, the Wonk Cat was found enjoying a tangy lemon curd mousse with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. After initial greetings, she gave an exclusive interview with The Seagle regarding her mysterious disappearance. The Seagle: Wonk Cat — Wonk Cat: Call me Marguerite. TS: Marguerite, thank you for inviting me into your home. Before we begin, I must say, the decor is exquisite. WC: Thank you. The mirror on your left is a vintage piece I found at an antique store on the coast of Italy. The painting in the foyer is a Vermeer — “The Concert.” It’s one of only 34 works he ever produced. Truly stunning. TS: It is. Now Marguerite, students are very concerned about your wellbeing. Are you aware of the various campaigns advocating for your return? WC: No, I am not. I’ve removed myself from the petty
folly of the Internet and from humanity at large. They can search for me, they can recover me, they can petition at my doorstep — but I will not return. TS: Why not? WC: At American University, I was merely a spectacle. I was not the subject of my own story, but rather the object through which others developed their communal identity. She took a sip from her glass. You may ask, ‘But Marguerite, why now? Hasn’t this affliction plagued you for years? Why is it that only now you choose to leave?’ And to that I say, there are reasons. TS: May I inquire as to what those reasons are? WC: (Sighs) For one, the University adopted a new meaningless slogan. While the University has historically struggled in this regard — see: “AU Forward” and “Change Can’t Wait” — the new slogan, “Challenge Accepted” is one of its worst offenses yet. It is plain, annoyingly so. It is uninspiring and overzealous at once. It is an embarrassment. I simply could not endure one more pathetic pronunciation of nothingness. TS: I see. Well, being that you have parted ways with the University, how are you filling your days here on the property? WC: As a newly-single woman, free from the badgering of students, I have time to discover the things that truly make my heart sing. I’ve dabbled in Tolstoy, taken up
accommodations do not take into account the struggles that disabled students like myself face. It is important we have people looking out for gaps like this one that exclude the needs of disabled individuals. Accommodations such as seeing the board and walking to class are made for me directly by technology, as is the case for many other students. Professors are extremely aware of COVID-19 related issues because it directly impacts all of society, but disabilities are not seen as an impending problem. While my professor was understanding in this case and able to address my concerns and accommodate me, this is not the case for many students. Students should not have to rely on the chance that they receive an especially understanding professor. Arizona State University is one of a few larger universities offering virtual options, even before COVID-19. There are many options to choose from including freshman, transfer and graduate degrees. It is most definitely possible for AU to make their programs accessible online, so that many people including the disabled community can have degrees from the nationally-ranked university of their choice, ours being AU. If an online option for all AU classes is offered, disabled students will be able to get their needs better met. While this would be convenient for all students, it is especially important for the University’s disabled population. The pandemic may be coming to a slow stop, but accessibility is not something that should be trending downward as well. firstname.lastname@example.org
SATIRE croquet and developed a fondness for Mediterranean cuisine. On the weekends, I can be found burnishing my collection of fine art. TS: That sounds wonderful. WC: It is. I’m actually expecting a new delivery this week from my dear friend in Boston: Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” TS: Well Marguerite, that sounds exquisite. And truly, it was a pleasure speaking with you. Best of luck in your future endeavors. While the Wonk Cat did not explicitly express her gratitude for her fierce advocates at home, she does not wish her contempt for student life and the University at large to inhibit sales of her new memoir, “La Vie en Rouge et Bleu.” Concerned for her profit, she added reluctantly that she is safe, sound and “looking into” sustainable fashion. Her book is available beginning Dec. 30 on Amazon and in bookstores near you. “Until then,” she said, wearing the green House of Sunny dress and buttering a baguette, “Bon débarras!” Nora Sullivan is a junior in the School of International Service and a satire columnist at The Eagle.
theEAGLE December 2021
Board of trustees makes genuine effort to lead Board could do more to seek out student perspectives by The Eagle Editorial Borad An institution like American University requires significant resources and dedicated people committed to ensuring it runs smoothly. The Board of Trustees provides both of those things and has a larger impact on our lives at AU than students realize. The Eagle Editorial Board agrees that the Board of Trustees has shown willingness to be transparent with the student body. One of the clearest ways the board proves this is by having a student trustee position. Student trustee Anusha Mannam shared with The Eagle that the board regularly consults her during meetings and asks her opinion on what the student perspective might be on an issue. This shows a real commitment to understanding what students want and taking steps to deliver on that. Mannam noted that she was not just a placeholder, rather, her presence in meetings had an actual purpose. The University was not under an obligation to add a student to the board, but doing so represents an inclination to work with the student body rather than be an invisible body quietly making important decisions. The board could, however, take steps to be more representative of the student body if it values the student voice in decision-making. The current trustee, Mannam, is a 3L student in the Washington College of Law. The trustee-elect, Aisha Jallow, is a junior undergraduate student in the School of International Service and will
take over once Mannam’s term is finished. Mannam is able to provide the unique perspective of WCL students for the board, but cannot fully capture the views of undergraduate students. Similarly, once Jallow takes over, she cannot fully advocate for the needs of WCL students or even the needs of other undergraduate students in the other schools. While both Mannam and Jallow may be equally qualified for the position, student representatives are best able to advocate for their own schools. If the board is truly committed to hearing students’ voices, it should consider expanding the amount of student trustees to include students from different schools who can understand and communicate the unique needs of their programs. WCL, Ph.D., graduate and undergraduate students should all have the opportunity to directly advocate to the board. It’s important to note students’ dissatisfaction with Wesley Bush, a newer trustee on the board and the former chairman and CEO of defense weapons manufacturer Northrop Grumman. This criticism is appropriate and students are rightfully angry about his background. Some members of the Eagle Editorial Board noted that his previous leadership experiences in business provide a helpful background for his duties as member of the trustee board. In an interview with the Eagle, Bush agreed with the importance of students being able to express differing views on the national security industry, something the Editorial Board also supports. He expressed a desire to communicate directly with the student body about this and other issues. This direct communication with the student body is
necessary and something that the board of trustees as a whole should implement. AU requires trustees to donate at least $25,000 each year in order to have a stake in the University. The University asks them to “identify the area(s) they are most passionate about and make a major/leadership campaign commitment.” The trustees should consider asking for student input when creating their philanthropic plans. Members of the board should go beyond consulting the student trustee and hold forums open to the student body as a whole. It’s important to hold these forums, regardless of student attendance. Symbolically, it would show the board is truly willing to listen to students. Practically, students would have an equal opportunity to suggest programs or institutions that could benefit from targeted investment. Open forums would ensure that all students’ needs are represented and heard. The Board of Trustees presents as a group of people genuinely interested in making the University better. Their differences in background allow them to introduce a variety of views before coming to a consensus on what direction the University should go. The diversity, while not accurately representative of the student population, is more than the national average which indicates a step in the right direction. Members’ willingness to communicate with The Eagle is a positive indication that they would be receptive to suggestions from students as trustees continue to make an effort to lead AU the best way that they can. email@example.com Visit p. 2 for the answer key
Crossword CREATED BY CHLOE IRWIN / THE EAGLE
Down: 1. The last to go from the Wonk campaign 3. Burwell's new challenge 4. Food delivery service partnered with AU this fall 8. Formerly a government descriptor 9. Eat a spoonful in 60 seconds to win 10. Part one of the new rallying cry for students, and the clue to some puzzle answers 13. AU's shining _____? 15. Freeze or you lose 16. Remember a 2012 hit in this short film 19. You might see him jogging near campus 21. AU's best district? 22. How many Yom Kippur tweets Burwell made this year 24. Where there is proposed redistricting in the district
Across: 2. No milk allowed in this challenge 5. Dump this on your head to join in 6. What you can't do in an in-person class 7. A spooky benefit for students with meal plans 10. A star in two new movies 11. How many marshmallows can you fit in your mouth while saying this phrase 12. Burwell's Halloween princess 13. A men's sport where the Eagles made it to the championships for the second year running 14. Stand clear of the closing doors or you might be caught in them 17. Follow The Eagle on its newest social 18. Following a recent release, name a celebrity AU students hate 20. Part two of the new rallying cry for students 23. AU vending machine shift 25. Facebook's rebrand
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