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March 2021



What's next for AU after US colleges reckoned with racism amid BLM protests A look at the past and community's hopes for the future, p. 6


theEAGLE March 2021


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3 Student experiences during the age of coronavirus 4 Newly sworn-in SG senators discuss goals and expectations 5 STEPing and prepping for college life 6-7 What's next for AU after US colleges reckoned with racism amid BLM protests


8-9 The Department of Performing Arts Class of 2021 reflects on four years of performing 10 COVID-19 changes collaboration in individual music lessons 11 VOICI tells DMV history through streetwear

SPORTS 12 Athletic department refocuses on the mental health needs of student-athletes amid COVID-19 13 Josh Alexander’s rise from warming the bench to starring for the Eagles 14 ‘It's not just a hobby’ for Pat Ryan: the effects of weight cutting in wrestling


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15 Column: The problematic way many define 'America' 16 Column: Freshmen feel more disconnected from AU than ever; Satire: Interior design tips for the dorm aesthetic 17 Staff Editorial: University fails to take action over histori-cal ties to slavery

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theEAGLE March



Student experiences during the age of coronavirus


Communication, had COVID-19, along with her parents, this past January. Lynch was asymptomatic but decided to get tested prior to traveling. Lynch said that testing positive was a wake-up call and drove her to reassess her situation. “Me and my friends in D.C. had to reevaluate our bubble and realize that the bubble doesn’t really exist, even though we all wanted to,” Lynch said. “It’s better to be locked down than to always be stressed about whether or not you could be sick.” Ella Yard, a freshman at AU, was presumed positive after both her parents tested positive this past December. The virus spread to her extended family members as well, and her uncle was hospitalized for a few weeks. Yard now lives off campus in D.C. Yard said that the pandemic has upended her freshman year experience, and, due to COVID-19, making friends has been a challenge. “I’m still glad that I’m in college and getting my degree, but my parents were like ‘oh college is gonna be the best four years of your life, you can do this and this,’ and it's completely different than what I thought it was going to be.” Some students who did not contract the virus themselves felt the effects of the pandemic — stress, anxiety and fear — in their households. Sophomore Allison Lipkin said when AU sent students home in March of 2020, she returned to her single-parent home in New Hampshire. Her mother, who works occupational therapy jobs, was furloughed from her position at a New Hampshire hospital. She had to take from her savings, Lipkin said, in an effort to make sure everything was paid for. “We had to be very conscious of what we were doing,” Lipkin said. “I remember [my mom] telling me that there were certain expenses that needed to be paid for school. If I didn’t get enough financial aid or work-study, I wouldn’t be able to come to AU. So when my mom lost her job for a period of time, it was really stressful to think about how we were going to pay for the things I needed this semester.” Lipkin’s mother returned to her hospital job in May. This brought on new stress, Lipkin said, that her mother would contract COVID-19 from outbreaks in her unit. “My whole family has been working, so if she came home with COVID[-19], it would be a huge stress on all of our finances,” Lipkin said. “It would have had a chain effect.” Despite hardships, Walters said she is trying to remain resilient and hopeful. Her parents were able to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, and she said she isn’t taking much for granted anymore. “I’m just trying to stay as positive as possible. Maybe in six months, things will be better,” Walters said. “I’ve got to think about that because if I don’t, I’ll get into a downward depression spiral thinking about how many people have died, how many months of my life I’ve just been at home when I could have been out celebrating life or doing all the fun things that I had planned.”

American University students in the D.C.-area and across the world have experienced the challenges created by the pandemic. while helping his brother move out of his apartment in Albany, New York. With a fever of 102 degrees, he said by Sophia Solano and Abbie Veitch Features Editor, Administration and Local News Editor that he was unable to get out of bed, and the short nights he did spend sleeping, he had to wake up every four hours to take fever-reducing Robyn Walters was enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime medications. “There was this overarching sense trip with her mother in Greece last spring while she of anxiety that there was nothing was studying abroad. It was the first time either of I could do to stop this disease,” them traveled outside the U.S. But, panic soon set in Simpson said. “I was when Former President Donald Trump announced that just at the mercy of borders into the U.S. would close just a few days before COVID[-19]. For our her mother was to return home. age group, everyone “I woke up and my mom was gone and I called her and I’m like ‘where are you?’” Walters said. “She’s like, says it’s unlikely that ‘I’m at the United States Embassy. I’m trying to figure we’ll die. It may be unlikely, out what Donald Trump means if we need to leave but it’s still a possibility. That tonight, or if we need to leave Monday.’” Walters said fear of dying really came that the U.S. embassy told them to get back to the U.S. as into play and that was something I had never soon as possible. Without many coronavirus restrictions on the flight, felt before.” Simpson said including not being asked about any symptoms when that both of his reentering the U.S., Walters and her mother were just parents are older and may happy to be home in time. But Walters soon came down have underlying health conditions that with a bad cough and so did her mother, who worked could worsen the effects of infection. three jobs at the time. Her mother tested positive for When they contracted COVID-19 COVID-19. Walters said because her mother is still experiencing soon after he did, he said that he feared lingering symptoms after one year, she had to quit two his father’s asthma may complicate his symptoms. of those jobs. “That was really scary because that’s a big player Like Walters, now a year into the pandemic, students in determining whether you’re going to die or not,” are still processing the loss of a large chunk of their Simpson said. “It would’ve weighed really heavily on college experience, what it was like to have COVID-19 me if I had killed my parents because I got COVID[-19] and how life has changed since then. even though I was trying to be as safe as possible.” Since spring 2020, the University has tracked Moderate-to-severe asthma may put someone at COVID-19 cases among American University a higher risk of developing severe illness from the community members, counting 109 cases in the spring coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease 2021 semester as of March 22 and 41 in the fall 2020 Control and Prevention. semester. However, these numbers do not account Simpson and his parents recovered, but all three for students outside of the District, and they fail to lost their sense of smell and taste. This was particularly encapsulate the emotional and physical impact the frustrating, Simpson said, because they had not recovered aveitch@theeagleonline.com pandemic has had on members of the AU community. their senses until after a tasteless Thanksgiving dinner. ssolano@theeagleonline.com Jamey Simpson, a sophomore in the School of Stella Lynch, a junior in the School of Communication, contracted COVID-19 in late 2020

As of March 22, AU has reported 109 COVID-19 cases from the spring semester. This does not account for students outside the District.


theEAGLE March

Newly sworn-in SG senators discuss goals and expectations for the coming year by Ben Johansen and Olivia Higgins Student Government Beat Reporters In January, a group of freshmen, many of whom still have not had an on-campus experience, were sworn in as the newest members of the 16th Undergraduate Senate of Student Government. SG swore in seven freshmen senators, two of them elected for Campus-at-Large positions, and five elected as senators for the Class of 2024. SG also swore in one transfer student to a Campus-at-Large position. Two months after they took office, these senators have already set lofty goals, despite virtual limitations. While some senators got involved with specific goals in mind, such as increasing transparency within the senate, others said they were primarily interested in advocating for the American University community as a whole. “I decided to get involved with SG because I wanted to be a part of a community, while also making a difference,” Senator for the Class of 2024, Méron Washington said. “Having previously experienced PWI [predominantly white institutions] as a Black woman, I knew the issues that would occur at AU and I wanted to step in.” The most recent statistics released by AU from the fall 2020 semester showed that just over 53 percent of the undergraduate student population identifies as white, with around eight percent identifying as Black and 12.5 percent as Hispanic/Latino. Jonathan Durham, another new senator, agreed with Washington and acknowledged the underrepresentation JACOB FISHMAN / THE EAGLE he has faced in predominantly white spaces. “I got involved to truly be an advocate for the The newest members of the 16th Undergraduate Senate of Student Government discuss their goals for the term. underrepresented, hold the administration accountable, and work towards a more inclusive and transparent AU some of the issues we are seeing with the Counseling organizations in order to create a new place on campus Center and easing the burden on it,” Powers said. where the community can become more tangible,” Easwar community,” Durham said. Rubin said that one of the next subcommittee groups said. However, the plan is still in its early stages. Parthav Easwar, a senator for the campus-at-large, will be on mental health reform. Many senators stated that their primary responsibilities said that he saw the organization as the best avenue to “[The reform] is mainly aimed at repairing the are to listen and respond to the community's needs. help improve the AU experience for his peers. broken relationship between the Counseling Center and “Our job is outreach, engaging the community, “I got involved in Student Government because I saw students, ” he said. hearing as many people as possible and then turning those it as a mechanism to advocate to the administration for a They hope that their ideas will put pressure on ideas that we’ve been given into ideas that can actually be better campus,'' Easwar said. the administration to commit to implemented, ” Rubin said. Max Rubin, a sophomore services that can help improve health Some senators acknowledged that there have been transfer student and senator for resources on campus. issues around communication and clarity in SG. the campus-at-large, believes I got involved to truly be Before senators even began “We could always improve communications, both his experience working on a an advocate for the underattending online classes last semester, internally and with other campus organizations, ” Powers congressional campaign and as one of their greatest issues was said. “We can only get work done if we are being honest represented, hold the ada student senator at his previous already taking shape: the public and open with each other, making sure we do not close college will allow him to make a ministration accountable, outcry surrounding social Greek ourselves off.” positive impact at AU. life on campus. After calls over the Plans to improve transparency and communication and work towards a more “I saw something that I had summer of 2020 from the student include increasing social media outreach and updating previous skills of working to inclusive and transparent body to address the problems posed online resources. organize people across different AU community. by social Greek organizations, most Senator Andrew Useche said that he would also viewpoints to make progress senators are calling for change and like to address bureaucracy within the senate. SG must towards a shared goal,” Rubin - Jonathan Durham, are proposing alternative actions. work on updating its current bylaws to make them more said. “I can hopefully use those freshman senator Durham stressed that one of his straightforward, both for senators and the student body. skills to impact a large group of goals during his time in SG is to Ishita Jamar, the newly elected Speaker of the Senate people in a very positive manner.” push for legislation combating the sexual assault trends and a former class of 2023 senator, said that this group The new class of senators’ main goals remain the same: recognizable within social Greek life. has already surpassed her expectations. They’re bold increase transparency, accountability and communication “We are trying to do whatever it takes to implement with questions and ideas, and quickly moved away from between SG and the student body. However, they’re facing legislation that will get rid of the racism, classism, and supporting the status quo, she said. a different set of issues than any new class of senators has sexual assault that plagues the AU community, ” Durham “This new group of senators is very proactive and faced, requiring bolder ideas, they said. said. devoted to doing their job and doing it right,” Jamar said. The senators have prioritized taking steps to address A few of the senators have been working to develop issues surrounding mental health and Greek life, with a replacement for social Greek life in the form of a Editor's note: Max Rubin, a staff columnist for the Eagle, some already proposing significant reforms. Whitney Powers, a campus-at-large senator, stressed “residential college system.” The residential college system was not involved in the reporting, writing or editing of the importance of finding solutions to the problems AU’s would assign students to a certain dorm building to be a this article. part of throughout their time at the University. Student Counseling Center has posed. “We plan on trying to advocate this idea to the bjohansen@theeagleonline.com “I am in the process of creating a commission to administration, student body and relevant student ohiggins@theeagleonline.com explore both short-term and long-term solutions for




theEAGLE March


STEPing and prepping for college life Summer Transition Enrichment Program prepares students to join Eagle community by Rebeka Rafi Staff Reporter The transition from graduating high school to attending college can be a stressful time for everyone. American University’s Summer Transition Enrichment Program, better known as STEP, aims to ease that process by usually allowing participants to live on campus before the fall semester begins to get a feel for what college life will be like. Primarily relying on in-person interactions, the program changed in many ways this past summer to allow for an enriching experience, according to Shannon Smith, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s assistant director for student success & transition. “We generally start putting some plans together in the fall before it starts that summer, so we’re already getting things together and with COVID-19 hitting, we ended up changing STEP into a completely online model,” Smith said. “It also really caused us to think outside the box as well, because a lot of our programming was with Zoom.” Although it took some time to get accustomed to virtual STEP, the advantages of the program and community-building opportunities created a welcoming environment as an incoming AU student, said School of Public Affairs freshman Aliciea Diaz. She related to other students in the program and received continuous support from staff members, which made her feel connected and excited for her years to come at AU, despite not being able to experience her first year on campus. “In the beginning, it was a little bit difficult and it felt like summer school, but then once we were in the second or third week of classes, I definitely felt like I was a part of AU,” Diaz said. “It made me feel happy that I chose AU because it was able to give me a program where I felt there were other students like me coming from similar backgrounds and coming from a first-gen [college student family].” The program works with the AU Admissions team to include students who would likely benefit from what STEP has to offer. Whether the student is a firstgeneration college student is also considered. Students get acclimated to campus, take classes that count toward graduation and connect with STEP alumni and other students, according to Smith. “In many cases in being selected for STEP, our admissions team does a great job of just looking at a number of factors. It may be based upon a combination of test scores, high school performance or something that just really stands out in their personal statement,” Smith said. Approximately 30 to 40 students are selected to participate in the program, which kicks off with a large family dinner. Orientation usually takes place after STEP students move onto campus, allowing them to meet faceto-face for the first time with the members of their cohort. Along with opportunities to get adjusted to on-campus living, the program also took students on excursions to learn and explore their new environment. “We were able to organize [pretty much every year now] a trip to the African American history museum, which has been amazing, where students are able to see the culture to engage,” Smith said. “D.C. is going to be their home for the next four years, so we really want to make sure that we can push people to get out into the community as well.” Unable to convert these in-person excursions and experiences identically to an online version, Smith said they faced challenges this summer. However, they made

STEP really makes you feel like you have a sense of belonging because they’re really investing in you. - Jackie Martinez, junior


sure to plan an engaging program as soon as classes transitioned online in spring 2020. “[Our campus partners] were able to definitely utilize Zoom very heavily. We actually had someone come on Zoom and do a presentation about social movements throughout time as opposed to us going specifically to the museum,” Smith said. College of Arts and Sciences junior Jackie Martinez participated in STEP in 2018 and became a STEP assistant the following year. Some of her responsibilities included planning events for the program, providing support to participants as a role-model and working closely with the CDI team to assess the program as a whole. Martinez said she still uses the resources she was exposed to as an incoming freshman in the program. “I performed really well that summer, like academically, and I had a pretty good routine, so I think that made me super proud that it gave me more confidence going in,” Martinez said. “Also, getting to know my professors and kind of community-build with them was really memorable for me, and I still maintain in contact with them to this day.” Martinez also said that this process of community

building allowed her to feel a sense of purpose at AU, and she believes that every college should have some sort of variation of STEP to allow for students of different backgrounds to feel valued in their institution. “STEP really makes you feel like you have a sense of belonging because they’re really investing in you,” Martinez said. “They’re investing their money and time on us because they believe that we have a lot of potential to succeed, despite maybe some of our identities or high school experiences and that sort of thing.” With a hopeful outlook of this summer, Smith said the program may involve a mix of in-person and virtual opportunities depending on the state of the pandemic. “[We are looking] to do a type of hybrid model this summer, and of course we’re really keeping our eye on making sure that all the safety protocols are in place, how COVID[-19] is going to play a part,” Smith said. Smith said that being on campus provides all participants equal access to resources and is hopeful that he will be seeing the next cohort living on campus in summer 2021. “Obviously, we want to make sure we go through all of the safety protocols and everything, dealing with COVID-19 and whatnot, but we are looking at if students can live on campus in a safe socially distant way that sort of allows students to all be in the area where, okay, we all have access to this resource, to the internet, to these different things,” Smith said. rrafi@theeagleonline.com


STEP transitioned to a virtual platform during Summer 2020. Participants had the opportunity to meet guest speakers and engage with the D.C. community over Zoom.


theEAGLE March

What's next for AU after US colleges reckoned with racism amid BLM protests

Students, community reflect on AU’s past and future when it comes to race by Nina Heller and Fariha Rahman Online Managing Editor, Community Engagement Editor This summer, universities across the country reckoned with racism as protests erupted over the killings of Black Americans by law enforcement. Online and in-person, students pushed for institutional change, including the renaming of buildings and the replacement of statues that hold the names of controversial figures in history. Princeton University removed Woodrow Wilson’s name from its School of Public and International Affairs, James Madison University renamed three buildings named for Confederate leaders and Georgetown University announced in 2019 its plan to pay reparations to the descendants of the enslaved people the college sold. American University also has a building named after a man with ties to slavery — Hurst Hall. AU’s Working Group on the Influence of Slavery first presented its research on the University’s historic ties to slavery in spring 2019 and created an exhibit to showcase its findings. The group's report states that John Fletcher Hurst, the founding chancellor of AU and a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, inherited one or two enslaved people from his father. Hurst, who is immortalized on campus by way of Hurst Hall, freed his enslaved people at 16 after he entered the United Methodist Church, according to Sybil Roberts Williams, director of African American and African Diaspora Studies at AU. The working group was created after Nickolaus Mack, former managing editor of the opinion section for The Eagle, wrote a column criticizing Founders Week for celebrating a founder that owned enslaved people. The community reaction to the original column was mixed and led the administration and student body to ask the question: What is AU’s connection to slavery and how were the University’s founders involved?

What’s in a name Hurst Hall houses The Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning. The building’s namesake was instrumental in the founding of the University. Hurst also owned two enslaved people, both of whom he inherited from his father, said Williams, a member of the original working group. However, Hurst authorized the release of Tom King, one of the enslaved people he inherited, to take place in

1862 upon King turning 21 years old, not enough to take down a statue or to campus” is a suggestion for ways that according to the working group’s report. rename a building, you have to make sure universities have acknowledged their “Hurst did not have any active that there are ways that people know why institutional relationships with slavery. engagement with enslaved people at the that happened and why it's important.” Eric Brock, the AU Student time of the founding of AU,” Williams Williams said that Hurst became an Government president, who is a junior said. “ardent abolitionist.” She thinks if the majoring in political science, said that Williams said that due to AU’s hall is renamed it should be Hurst’s name AU’s approach to Hurst’s history was a connection with the United hyphenated with the names of “white savior narrative.” Methodist Church, AU did the people he freed. “When you lift someone up to that not have any direct ties to “He is integral to status you are heroifying them in a slavery, however, funds the founding of this way. So you’re saying, this is a person were solicited from all University, but he is not that we idolize, this is a person that over the country. Woodrow Wilson,” was exceptionally well and good in the “Hurst didn’t she said. “I do not community,” Brock said. “And so when [have enslaved think we need to that has a name attached to someone people] but it is go so far as the who has ties to slavery or any system quite possible that removal of Hurst, it of oppression, that’s not really the best some of the donors just doesn’t rise to work for a university or any sort of did,” Williams said. that.” community to uplift someone that is As universities W i l l i a m s involved in such a wicked system.” across the country was referencing had their own Woodrow Wilson Fort Reno and forgotten history reckonings with High School, which racism pasts last is in Tenleytown. Just north of AU lies Fort Reno Park, summer, AU remained DC Public Schools which offers views from the highest quiet, leaving its work announced in point in D.C. and is a former plantation. from the Working September that the Fort Reno Park is also a former civil Group on the Influence of school would be renamed. war defense and home to the only Civil Slavery report a thing of the Fanta Aw, AU’s vice War battle to take place in the District. past before the group's president of campus COURTESY OF Today, AU students are more familiar recent revival. life and inclusive WIKIMEDIA COMMONS with the area it lies in as Tenleytown. excellence and a Methodist Bishop John Fletcher “Fort Reno and the surrounding area member of the To rename or not Hurst was the University's first that AU was built on was once a large working group said chancellor and owned two plantation,” according to Williams. to rename? that renaming is not enslaved people. “It was Indigenous land before that an action item of the and it was land we know was worked by Mackenzie Meadows, a junior in group’s work and has not been discussed. African labor after that,” Williams said. the School of Public Affairs, was not However, in the working group Purchased in 1853 and named “Oak aware of AU’s findings of Hurst when overview report “renaming buildings on she took the Washington DC: Life in a Monument class in Hurst Hall. “Why was that not brought up when we were creating a Black space on campus?” Meadows said. Meadows is in favor of renaming Hurst Hall but said the work should not stop there. She said there should be an increase in resources for Black Affinity Housing and more recognition of the history of Hurst for the campus community. The Blackprint reported in spring 2020 that Roper Hall would become the new home for Black Affinity Housing starting in fall 2020. In February, Housing and Residence Life announced fall 2021 details for the program. M.J. Rymsza-Pawlowska, the director of AU’s graduate program in public history and a member of the working group, said acknowledging history is more than just about the name of a building. “I don’t see anything inherently wrong with changing things and renaming buildings,” Rymsza-Pawlowska said. “But I also think that that’s not enough PHOTO COURTESY OF AMERICAN UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES that needs to be part of, you know, it’s Bishop John Fletcher Hurst holds a shovel at the groundbreaking of AU's campus.


theEAGLE March

“It’s a generational struggle” When AU announced in the spring of 2020 that students would have the option to live in Black Affinity Housing, it was a victory for Black activists on campus, but it's not the first time such housing was instated. In the 1970s, AU offered a previous iteration of Black Affinity Housing. Then called the “Black Cultural Floor,” it housed approximately 60 Black women and was home to students from all political ideologies and backgrounds, according to an article found in The Eagle’s archives.

Unbeknownst to many, AU offered Brock said that the work of Black segregated housing in the 1960s at McLean activists throughout the University is a Gardens, an off-campus apartment “generational struggle.” building near the National Cathedral. “It’s not something that started here The decision to offer segregated housing or there, it’s not something that started was one made by McLean Gardens, not in response to an individual incident, it the University, according to articles found shows that really the Black community, in The Eagle’s archives. Black alumni, Once students found Black students, are out that the University interconnected in was offering off-campus What once was a way because our segregated housing, they segregation, is now just resistance, our call fought the University. evolved to a different tool for Black Affinity And won. Housing has been a Rymsza-Pawlowska of anti-Blackness, whether generational struggle,” said that there isn’t much it’s, you know, hate crimes Brock said. documentation of this or other violent means of part of the University’s racism. Moving forward history, which is likely & looking back why many don’t know - Eric Brock, AUSG President about it. Students say that In an article that was AU has a long way to published in The Eagle in October 1961, better incorporate AU’s history into The Eagle reported that AU President experiences at the University. Hurst R. Anderson announced that the Williams, Mack’s former professor, University would no longer house students has been at the forefront of trying to in McLean Gardens. create new policy from the information “We know that AU was AU and D.C. learned in the working group report was segregated and there is no way to in the form of a scholarship for Black excuse it but there is a way to say ‘yes it students. was here, racism was here,’” Williams said. “This has energized a whole discussion around affinity housing and what are we going to do for African American students now? How do we engage in affinity housing with bearing in mind the


Lawn,” the 62-acres that encompassed Fort Reno Park and the neighborhoods that surround what is now American University had “at least five enslaved people: Alfred, Sarah, Dallas, Mary and Rose,” Washington City Paper reported. The land was destroyed in the Civil War and as the owners were incapacitated, their family hired developers to subdivide the property into 600 lots, dubbing it “Reno City.” African Americans building a new life in D.C. and formerly enslaved persons were able to buy or rent property in Reno City. After developers in the area faced pressure from the neighboring white subdivisions of Chevy Chase and Tenleytown, by 1951, the last residents of Reno City had moved and the segregated school in the community had closed. Today, Tenleytown and the surrounding area of Friendship Heights are over 70 percent white.


history of AU and that includes the history of African American presence at AU?” Williams said. “We started talking about what have been the contributions of African American students since African American students were first admitted [to AU]. And I hope with affinity housing we will be able to hold some kind of event that addresses that.” Meadows agreed and said there should be an emphasis on resources for Black students, such as scholarships or continued advocacy for Black Affinity Housing. “It should be escalated to the point where it reaches the current Black house being created on campus,” Meadows said. Brock said that Black Affinity Housing is only one piece of the puzzle. “Whether it was asking for the housing, or if it was asking for more funding for Black Student Union or for those sort of things for events. It shows that the Black liberation movement, the Black resistance movement on campus is dealing with in many ways the same issues,” Brock said. “And in many ways, it’s evolved. Because what once was segregation, is now just evolved to a different tool of anti-Blackness, whether it’s, you know, hate crimes or other violent means of racism.” nheller@theeagleonline.com frahman@theeagleonline.com



Before it was Tenleytown, part of the neighborhood just north of AU's campus was Fort Reno Park. This area was once a plantation with at least five enslaved people. After the Civil War, developers turned the area into Reno City, where African Americans and formerly enslaved people began building a new life. Developers later began pushing Black residents out. Today, Tenleytown and the surrounding area is over 70 percent white.


The Department of Performing Arts Class of 2021 reflects on four years of performing


Triumphs, joys and losses from freshman year “Overture” to their final virtual shows by Stephanie Mirah, Clare Mulroy, Emily Walsh and Rachel Sturm Arts and Entertainment Editor, Managing Editor for Life, Food and Fitness Editor and Life Staff Writer

Senior Emily Brolin was not going to pursue theater, not originally, at least. When she wasn’t sure about whether to pursue a degree in theater, her family insisted that she go somewhere where she could at least minor or double major in theater. “I actually came for political science, which I think a lot of people do,” said Brolin, a musical theater major and business and entertainment minor. “No offense to people who love political science, but I hate it.” Brolin is one of 16 American University seniors within the University’s Department of Performing Arts. As graduation for the Class of 2021 approaches, the seniors reflected on their last four years: memories of performing live, the stress of navigating online theater and a look toward their futures that will begin to unfold come May. Like Brolin, the DPA’s incentive for exploration and double majoring or minoring encouraged their decisions to audition and enroll. “I came here because it was a BA program. I didn’t want a conservatory,” said musical theater and journalism double major Daniella Ignacio. “I think it’s really important to consider the world around you when you’re making art, and this program really taught me that.”

Because the theater program allows its students added flexibility outside of the DPA, some find it affords them other opportunities outside of theater. “I found that performing isn't my whole life,” said Molly Moore, a musical theater and public relations and strategic communication double major. “And not that this program has taught me not to do professional acting or anything like that, but I was just shown a breadth of things that I could do.” COVID-19: The move to online performance When the coronavirus pandemic closed University operations in March 2020, the students struggled to navigate Zoom theater and the heartbreak of having to cancel their in-person performances of “The Birds” and “Significant Other.” When the department’s performance of “Significant Other” was canceled in the spring, the cast did a Zoom read of the show, still unsure how to perform virtually. For shows that needed it, the department mailed out necessary equipment so students could perform from their homes. Musical theater major Nikki Scamuffo, who lives in a small space, said that the department is trying everything they can. “We have tripods. We have green screens. We have animations that have been specifically made for us [and] umbrella lights,” Scamuffo said. “We're really trying to make it as good as we possibly can.” DPA courses were also impacted by the pandemic, and the virtual format left professors scrambling to teach performance online.

We have tripods. We have green screens... We're really trying to make it as good as we possibly can.

- Nikki Scamuffo, senior


When theater and psychology double major Deanna Reimertz’s scene study class moved online last spring, her class transitioned to doing monologues because it was easier to record solo performances than work with a partner via Zoom. But in the University’s third semester of online classes, Reimertz said the cast of “The Women” figured out how to do full scenes with their partners on Zoom in fall 2020. “We [used] the little boxes as our own personal stages,” Remeirtz said. She said that they were able to “make it come across like we were in the same room” with their backgrounds and movements. Haleigh Diaz, a psychology major with a minor in theater, said she thought the department was creative with the transition from stage to film acting.

9 GRAPHIC COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS "red stage curtains" by sethoscope is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Upward and onward Despite the challenges of performing online during their senior year, many of the seniors acknowledged the impact that the program as a whole has had on them as performers. Edmée Marie Faal, a theater performance major, said that being a theater student taught her the work of the job — that those who pursue it have to really love it. Faal admitted that it’s a difficult field to go into, but that she “can’t imagine doing anything else.” “I think sometimes that’s difficult for people to appreciate the amount of work that goes into [performing] if you’re really trying to do it and be good at it and make this a field for you,” Faal said. “I think they sometimes think it’s quite a vain or narcissistic field to go into, but it just made me appreciate my ... deep investment and interest in the human experience.” Many of the graduating seniors are thinking


Diaz, who played Courtney in “The Pliant Girls,” directed by actress and producer Ameenah Kaplan, said that Kaplan was innovative with technology. “It also taught me a lot of skills for film acting as well, which is not something that I think I would have gotten had we not been in a pandemic,” Diaz said. Some of the theater seniors are putting their film skills to the test for the spring musical, “Too Much Unhappy.” The musical will be partially filmed in person following D.C. and AU COVID-19 guidelines. Even as the performers have improved technical skills like film acting, the severed connection between one another has not completely been solved. “It’s harder now to perform on Zoom, ironically enough, than it was live,” said Valarie McFatter, a business entertainment and theater major. “You just don’t have that same excitement anymore, or that same idea of connection. Nowadays, once rehearsal is over, you just kind of close your laptop, and then, boom, you’re out of the space.”

about continuing their passion for theater as a career. McFatter, whose experience in the department includes many stage management roles and behindthe-scenes technical work, will be using her skills in

A lasting impact

In my four years at AU, I've never had a professor who looks like me, especially not in the performing arts department. That f***ing blows. - Sultana Qureshi, senior

“I'm really open to anything at this point because the industry is going to be so different once we get out of this I think,” Davis said. “So I'm not trying not to get too attached to anything cause, you know, what's going to happen?”


technical theater in post-grad life. Some students, on the other hand, plan to pursue careers completely outside of the realm of theater. Reimertz plans to go into arts therapy, a career that intersects with her psychology and theater majors by allowing kids to create monologues and scenes to act their feelings. Despite the career path they take, entering the workforce amid a pandemic is rather uncharted territory. Many seniors acknowledged the uncertainty that accompanies graduating in 2021. For musical theater major Caleigh Davis, post-grad life means applying to graduate programs that she hopes will return to normal once the pandemic is over. In the meantime, she said she is going to try to find a retail job and, if possible, perform in some capacity.

The Class of 2021, according to program director Karl Kippola, leaves with a legacy of advocacy. Sultana Qureshi, a communication studies and theater double major, is just one among many who voiced concerns about diversity in the DPA. Qureshi said that they want to see the department do better, but noted that recently “it's been very conscious about what stories it's telling and who their stories are for by the casting.” “In my four years at AU, I've never had a professor who looks like me, especially not in the performing arts department,” Qureshi said. “That f***ing blows.” Kippola said that diversity and inclusion in theater “has been a slow, incremental journey.” “I think this class, more than any other collective class that I can remember, was impatient for that to move more quickly, and was expecting greater change and greater accountability from individual faculty, from the program as a whole,” Kippola said. “I think they pushed and fought for what it is they felt was important and what was right.” While it may seem like the final curtain call for the Class of 2021, the bows are hardly finished. As the graduating class from the department of performing arts emerges into the adult world, it’s more like the lights have dimmed and the curtain has just gone up. Editor’s note: Daniella Ignacio, a news staff writer for The Eagle, was not involved in the reporting, writing or editing of this article. smirah@theeagleonline.com, cmulroy@theeagleonline.com, ewalsh@theeagleonline.com, rsturm@theeagleonline.com

To read this article or any of these print pieces online, visit theeagleonline.com. View the seniors' work in the 2021 theatre capstone here.


A timeline of all of the shows produced by the Department of Performing Arts during the senior theater and musical theater majors' time at AU, from fall 2017 to spring 2021. Overtures and Capstones beyond those that the seniors participated in are not included.

For more information on the Department of Performing Arts, and other programs offered by the department, visit american. edu/arts.



theEAGLE March 2021

COVID-19 changes collaboration in individual music lessons Students and instructors weigh in on learning during the pandemic by Thomas Recchio Life Staff Writer


Music lessons typically take place at Katzen Arts Center, but due to COVID-19, students and professors have adjusted to online private lessons. spend more time preparing for my music lessons than technique in person. I would in person.” Clark explained that this added “Learning is a lot easier in person,” Clark said. motivation is something he would like to hold on to “There’s something about communication that is lost post-pandemic. doing music lessons virtually.” Some of the new skills that have been learned With online music lessons becoming more common through virtual music lessons will prove to be useful in during COVID-19, a new set of challenges is presented.


Like most of American University, individual music lessons moved online during the coronavirus pandemic, forcing a new style of collaboration between students and instructors. Music lessons are a high-risk activity for contracting COVID-19. According to the International Performing Arts Aerosol study, playing musical instruments and singing produce a lot of aerosol. The study’s report provides information on different instruments and how much aerosol they release. It found that voice and wind instruments produce the most aerosol and are the most risky instruments to use during COVID-19. “I was very skeptical about the viability of online music lessons,” said Ethan Watermeier, a voice instructor at AU. “I have done a little online teaching before COVID, but there are limitations.” Watermeier said that nothing will truly replace in person lessons but emphasized the importance of looking ahead to what the next step is. Nancy Snider, director of the Applied Music Program and a professor in the Department of Performing Arts, said collaboration between teachers and students is still as important as it was during inperson lessons. Collaborating virtually has fostered different ways that teachers can work with students on music pieces. “We’ve figured out other things. My students send me recordings, and I send them recordings,” Snider said. “It’s a real collaboration between the teachers and students.” Students also echoed the significance of keeping up regular practice. “It’s been nice to see them and still have that continuity,” said Potter Clark, a junior who is taking lessons in Irish fiddle and conducting. Senior Rebecca Bailey, who takes voice lessons, said student-teacher interactions are not any different despite being on a digital platform. “It’s made me look forward to when we can be in person,” Bailey said. “I miss working with accompanists during vocal practice.” In fact, one other way of creating a sense of normalcy has been to reserve practice rooms at Katzen Arts Center and take lessons from there. Watermeier praised Katzen Arts Center for allowing students to reserve practice rooms where students can practice and also have their lessons virtually, mentioning that some of his students have done that. He also added that instructors are doing what they can to accommodate students during a somewhat foreign format of lessons. “I am trying to make sure I listen and that my students feel comfortable and have the support they need. That usually happens through checking in and seeing how they’re doing,” Watermeier said. “Developing a relationship entirely virtually has been challenging.” Some students are adapting successfully to this new learning method. “I am feeling as motivated, if not more motivated,” Clark said. “Being virtual makes me work harder. I

More professors like myself are getting used to this. I think this will change learning permanently. - Ethan Watermeier, voice instructor

the future. “We’ve been challenged to do self-tapes more,” Bailey said. “Knowing those skills are going to be useful when we can return to in person lessons.” Some aspects of in-person music lessons, however, are irreplaceable, presenting further challenges. One challenge Clark noted was the inability for teachers to instantly correct mistakes such as piano fingering


It is still not known if the virtual teaching method will change music education permanently although it is very likely. “More professors like myself are getting used to this,” Watermeier said. “I think this will change learning permanently.” trecchio@theeagleonline.com


theEAGLE March 2021


VOICI tells DMV history through streetwear The clothing brand, founded by three DMV natives, tells its consumers, ‘this is’ their story by Grace George Silver Screen Editor

Voici, pronounced “vwa-see,” is French for “here is” or “this is.” Now, it also means a streetwear brand that presents a cultural history of the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area. “It's like, ‘this is your story,’” said Jordan Saint-Louis, CEO and creative director of VOICI. Saint-Louis founded VOICI in the summer of 2020 alongside his two friends and fellow DMV natives, Jerry Zouantcha and Taofik Lucas-Walker. Saint-Louis initially reached out to Zouantcha about shirt designs and Lucas-Walker, a professional soccer player and model, about potentially modeling new clothes in May. They each realized that they had no items of clothing that represented their hometown, despite the fact that so many other cities had popular clothing brands. In an email to The Eagle, Saint-Louis said that he always wondered about starting a fashion and/or streetwear line, “as a way to communicate and connect people through clothing.” “Why not give people that sense of pride?” said Zouantcha, VOICI chief marketing officer and events planner. Zouantcha is a senior on the American University men’s soccer team graduating next fall with a degree in health promotion. He also plans to pursue a master’s at AU in health promotion management. Saint-Louis, Zouantcha and Lucas-Walker wanted to create a brand of streetwear that educated people on the history of the D.C. area and encouraged them to learn more about it themselves. “People buying the clothes for us is very much secondary,” Saint-Louis said. “It's more [important] that people start to care.” They released their first collection, “VOICI: The DMV Chapter,” in July with the intention of educating the public about DMV history and culture through their streetwear. “You have a lot of creatives, a lot of designers and a lot of artists in D.C., but they put out their own clothing brands with their own designs, but are they really representing the DMV?” said Lucas-Walker, VOICI chief design officer and talent manager. “So what we're doing is something that we realized nobody else is doing within the DMV.” VOICI’s designs feature an array of D.C. cultural references and icons, and their photo shoots for the clothing are taken all around the D.C. area. Some shirts have pictures of famous D.C. natives, such as jazz musician Duke Ellington, while others have either D.C. slang or historical references. To incorporate these designs onto their clothing, Saint-Louis, Zouantcha and Lucas-Walker had to learn more about the history of the D.C. area themselves, which included research through museums and talking with people in the area. “It was an educational thing just as much as having designs that were relevant to the DMV,” Saint-Louis said. “But we were actually learning about our history and ... educating our generation, like, ‘yeah, this is how D.C. used to look.’” Their latest collection, which wrapped at the end of February, was called “Chocolate City,” a reference to D.C.’s nickname. It honored the Black history of the area with shirts featuring prominent Black Washingtonians such as television talk show host Petey Greene and

Why not give people that sense of pride?


- Jerry Zouantcha, chief marketing officer and events planner


VOICI is a streetwear brand that presents the history and culture of the D.C.-MarylandVirginia area.

musical artist Marvin Gaye. Other clothing items in the collection said “Chocolate City” or had designs inspired by the Homestead Grays, D.C.’s former Negro National League baseball team. VOICI’s founders wanted to ensure that their streetwear not only represents D.C. and the surrounding area but also benefits their community. For the “Chocolate City” collection, 60 percent of all profits will be divided between three D.C.-based organizations: ONE DC, a group fighting the effects of gentrification in D.C. through community organizing; Southwest Soda Pop Shop, a Black family-owned ice cream parlor and restaurant; and the Petey Greene Program, an organization that educates incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. Sixty percent of the profits from the Grays clothing items will go to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, where SaintLouis, Zouantcha and Lucas-Walker were able to conduct research to create the Grays streetwear content. In part, the coronavirus pandemic gave VOICI’s founders time and space to get their streetwear brand started. This summer’s Black Lives Matter protests inspired them even more to pay homage to the Black history of their community. But now that the brand has wrapped up another project, VOICI’s founders are beginning to recognize how the pandemic is slowing them down. “It’s a ‘glass half empty, glass half full’ situation,” Zouantcha said. He and the other VOICI founders want to be able to work with more businesses and locals and visit places to continue creating content that represents D.C. “Without COVID, I think if we did start VOICI at the same time we did … [it] would have been a lot more impactful,” Zouantcha said. “We could have reached more Black-owned businesses, we could have interviewed more

people, [we] could have reached out to more communities, visited more parks, visited more neighborhoods.” VOICI plans to work on a collection that will feature 50 to 70 soccer players in the DMV area this fall. They are also currently working on a new collection with Reggie Becton, an R&B artist from Prince George’s County, Maryland, that will represent Becton’s music, which is inspired by the DMV and focuses on mental health and masculinity. After that, Lucas-Walker said their next project, set to release in 2022, is “very, very special,” but still a secret for the public. As for the future of their streetwear, VOICI’s founders hope to produce more online content that can serve to educate people on the DMV’s history and culture. They said they hope their brand can last, for the sake of maintaining the legacy of D.C.’s history and culture, and that, in the future, it will be indicative of the D.C. area all over the world. “I could be all around the world, but at the same time, I feel close to home when I'm wearing a Marvin Gaye shirt, Petey Greene shirt, a Chocolate City shirt,” Lucas-Walker said. “Just representing where you're from, not just to look trendy.” VOICI’s mission statement is “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” This quote represents a lot to the company’s founders but mostly, it feels like an inspiring call to action for them. “We kind of like to say that we're the ones who can do this,” Saint-Louis said. “We're the ones who can create a certain amount of change or affect our community the way we want it to be affected.” ggeorge@theeagleonline.com



theEAGLE March 2021

Athletic department refocuses on the mental health needs of student-athletes amid COVID-19 In a year like this one, resources across campus are understanding of worries athletes have ahead of their seasons by Cameron Fisher Sports Writer For student-athletes, managing the physical toll of college athletics in a normal season is a given, as is maintaining the composure of one’s mental health. But when the added pressures include competing during a pandemic, risking contraction of COVID-19, attending online classes, and the general unknown of the situation at hand, that’s when the complexities of an athletic year as unprecedented as this one takes center stage. Student-athletes’ mental health concerns are complex and welldocumented, so when the NCAA conducted a fall 2020 survey of 25,000 student-athlete participants, the results weren’t as surprising as they were troubling. Respondents reported that academic worries (43 percent), lack of access to their sport (33 percent), COVID-19 concerns (31 percent) and financial worries (24 percent) are leading factors negatively impacting their mental health. These kinds of results have warranted the need for specialized awareness in college athletic departments across the country, including at American University. In comes Natalie Rogers, AU"s new associate athletic director for studentathlete well-being. Hired for this newly structured role in September, Rogers is responsible for the leadership of all areas of the student-athlete experience. That role includes working with resources such as AU’s Academic Support and Access Center, Housing & Residence Life, the Career Center and the athletic department’s counselors and strength and conditioning staff. “We want the athletes to have as seamless and easy transition [to this year] as possible, but we're on COVID time,” Rogers said. “That [transition] is something as easy as picking up the phone and getting on a Zoom call with a counselor. We're certainly always trying to share out wherever we can, and certainly, any new innovations or anything that we're thinking of, we're always collaborating to make sure that it’s the best of our departments.” AU has already faced its share of challenges this year. The men’s and women’s basketball teams withstood numerous game postponements and cancellations that resulted in a 27-day pause, and the department enforced a 10-day shutdown for all athletic programs after an increased COVID-19 positivity rate.


Playing college sports amid a pandemic has taken its toll on student athletes. In an interview with the athletic department in an episode of “AU Hoop Talk”, men’s head basketball coach Mike Brennan spoke about his approach to coaching this season with so many variables. “You know, I forget about basketball,” Brennan said.. “Their mental health is the important thing that we're trying to focus on and it's hard because it's been multiple times [being postponed].” “It's a hard thing where we've been going through it for obviously the whole time we've been playing, so it's the suddenness of it, the unknown. The games that have been canceled, we've been waiting up until the very last minute so that's the hardest part. Then it's a huge letdown and [the players] know as soon as I know,” Brennan said. “So it's like, how do you start preparing the guys and keeping them together and focused through it? So it's an emotional rollercoaster.” Student-athletes have leaned on each other for support since the start of the pandemic, with help from the University’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Working within NCAA, Patriot League and AU guidelines, the committee strives to build relationships within the campus community and advocate for an inclusive athletic environment. This past fall semester saw initiatives geared toward voter engagement and social justice, and this semester will be focused on mental

health conversations as teams get their seasons underway. Lauren Fredricks, a senior studying political science on the field hockey team, serves as the chapter’s president. Last year, she and other members organized partnerships with the Counseling Center and tabled around campus to provide students with resources on behalf of the athletic department. Now, the StudentAthlete Advisory Committee has shifted gears to build conversations around mental health awareness that can happen in a remote setting. She said they would lean into the “wellness” aspect of Wellness Week and promote initiatives sponsored by the Patriot League as well as

Their mental health is the important thing we are trying to focus on and it's hard because it's been multiple times [being postponed]. —Mike Brennan

their own planned activities. No matter how many programs are prepared to try and alleviate stress, there’s no denying that the many worries of this year’s student-athletes range across the board. To try and accommodate those worries, the NCAA has granted another year of eligibility for student-athletes, an option which AU has fully supported. “We don't want to lose the athletes or put any additional pressures on them because they opted out [of playing], absolutely not,” Rogers said. “We are giving that confirmation, if this is what you want to do, please, by all means, do it, we will work with you to make you feel more comfortable, you can still check in with your team. We don't want them to have any more undue stress.” Fredricks has tried to stick to her routines in order to keep a steady mindset. With her season just getting underway, she has looked forward to getting on the field and playing her sport — a sense of normalcy. “We've been kind of just trying to take it one day at a time and almost minimize the pressure as much as possible — but also just focus on the fact that we're getting to do what we love again,” Fredricks said. cfisher@theeagleonline.com


theEAGLE March 2021


Josh Alexander’s rise from warming the bench to starring for the Eagles Junior forward’s performance a bright spot in a strange season by Alec Branch Sports Writer

Playing with and against high-level Division I competition was never foreign to junior forward Josh Alexander. On the AAU circuit in high school, Alexander played alongside five-star recruits Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis, who currently play at Villanova and Florida, respectively. And after transferring from his local public school to Iona Prep in New York City’s Catholic High School Athletic Association his sophomore year, he would match up against guys like Moses Brown, a center on the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Kofi Cockburn, one of the best players in the Big Ten for the University of Illinois. “It was definitely an adjustment for the first year or so [at Iona], getting used to a different style of play,” Alexander said. “It’s not just guys that lived in your district. It’s guys coming from the city and from all over. … When I was at a public school my freshman year, I was the tallest guy or next tallest guy. But when I came to the CHSAA there were guys that were seven feet tall.”

games while I was on the bench, learning what moves work and what moves don’t, and taking bits and pieces from each of them.” Coming into his junior year with a lot of uncertainty as to who would step up and fill the voids left by the seniors who graduated the year prior, Alexander knew that he would need to step up and fill the big man role for the Eagles. “I felt like coming back here,” Alexander said, “I knew since Mark and Y.Y. weren’t going to be here, that I had to step up, and I wanted to make sure that I was ready.” Alexander’s rise began over the summer while quarantining with his family in New York. Most gyms were shuttered and the area’s usual basketball workouts were scarce, but he found ways to stay in shape and improve his game. He ran around in his street. He did pushups and situps in his room. And when he returned to AU in September, he was in excellent shape. Now, Alexander is in the midst of a breakout year. Posting career-highs across the board, Alexander’s play this year for the Eagles has been one of the bright spots in what has been an otherwise pretty bizarre season for AU.

I knew since Mark and Y.Y. weren't going to be here, that I had to step up, and I wanted to make sure that I was ready.

point outburst against Navy on Feb. 20. His performance almost single-handedly willed AU back into the game, which it had trailed by double-digits. “For me personally it's not really about the points necessarily, or even the rebounds,” he said. “I think it’s just leaving an impact on the game. Even if I didn’t score at all, post defense, grabbing rebounds, getting other guys the ball even if it's not an assist. All the things that you don’t really see.” As a big man in a rotation that features mostly guards and wings, Alexander’s beyond-the-box score production is vital. Alexander has gone toe-to-toe with the Patriot League’s physically imposing big men like Loyola’s Santi Aldama and Golden Dike and Navy’s Richard Njoku, all while trying to control the paint. “I’m definitely up for the challenge, going up against guys that weigh 20 or 30 pounds more than me and have like two or three inches on me,” Alexander said. “I definitely enjoy the challenge. But then again, my teammates are always helping me … even when I’m on offense, it makes it easier for me because they can all shoot the ball really well.” Those same teammates have taken notice of Alexander’s ascent. And while his scoring output has been impressive this year, Alexander doesn’t really see himself as a score-first player. He

considers playmaking as his biggest strength on the court, and in Brennan’s Princeton offense where it is almost a necessity for the big men to be good passers, he is allowed to play his game. “I’d rather get an assist than really score,” Alexander said. “But I think, just me running the offense, a lot of this stuff runs through the center … I definitely enjoy it. I think it allows me to really play my game, and not just kind of stick to one thing.” AU’s 11 game postponements could have stalled momentum for someone like Alexander, who is in the middle of a breakout year. But while those feelings of frustration would be valid, Alexander instead focuses on the way this season has brought him and his teammates closer together. “During the off-season, we were always constantly talking in the group chat we have, just about funny stuff we see on Instagram, TikTok, or whatever it is. And we always had group FaceTime calls over the offseason,” Alexander said. “But now, besides during the quarantine periods, we were always going out to eat, playing cards and watching other college basketball games. Always together and enjoying each other's time.” abranch@theeagleonline.com

—Josh Alexander

After the adjustment period, he would improve to become a 1,000 point scorer for Iona, and a two-time CHSAA all-league member. And with his commitment to AU, he would be one of five players on his Iona team to play Division I basketball. But Alexander only played sparingly during his first two years at AU, averaging just over 10 minutes per game in each of his first two years playing behind veterans Mark Gasperini and Yilret Yiljep. While it was certainly an adjustment to playing so much in high school, Alexander considered it a worthwhile learning experience. “With Mark and Y.Y., I learned so much from those guys my freshman and sophomore year, they taught me a lot,” Alexander said. “They were always talking to me trying to help me out. And even just watching them play in the

“He’s a worker,” AU men’s basketball head coach Mike Brennan said about Alexander after a Jan. 23 victory over Loyola. “As limited as to what he could do at home all spring and all summer, he came back in tip-top shape. He puts in the work every day in practice. He’s just a pleasure to coach. He’s obviously put a lot of work into his game, and he feels pretty confident down there.” After Gasperini and Sa’eed Nelson’s departures, much of the scoring slack went to seniors Jamir Harris and Stacy Beckton Jr. But Alexander, with his nifty footwork and wide array of hook shots and up-and-under moves, has provided steady offense for the Eagles in the paint. After only scoring in double figures four times across his first two years, Alexander hit that mark in three of his 10 games, culminating in a career-high 19


Josh Alexander playing in a game against Navy on Jan. 16.


theEAGLE March 2021

‘It's not just a hobby’ for Pat Ryan: the effects of weight cutting in wrestling binge-eating, according to Ulrich. She said in the short-term, wrestlers who cut a lot essentially starve themselves through food deprivation and dehydration. “If they’re dehydrated, it’s not good for their nutrient absorption,” Ulrich said. "If you imagine that a dehydrated person ate an apple, the vitamins and minerals in the apple won’t be suspended in liquid very much because they don’t have as much liquid in their body. Therefore, that apple won’t be optimally absorbed.” Ulrich said the short-term effects of malnourishment don’t stop there. “When we have decreased glucose or glycogen from not eating, it affects the central nervous system. The central nervous system is primarily fueled by glucose. And that glucose primarily comes from broken-down carbohydrates. ... So when we decrease the fuel that feeds our central nervous system, we experience brain fog, irritability and fatigue.” Ulrich has taught wrestlers before in

by Owen Dunn Sports Writer

Editor's note: This article discusses weight cutting and may be triggering to people who suffer from eating disorders. People suffering can contact the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at (800) 931-2237. It’s two hours before a dual meet. American University wrestlers are in the locker room with weigh-ins minutes away. The wrestlers’ nagging hunger and no-nonsense attitudes leave no room for chatter. There’s no loud hype music or team chants. It’s just a team of men silently waiting their turn to step on the scale. Weigh-ins commence as the wrestlers strip off their clothes and form a line. Weighins are a simple process, yet what seems like a mundane formality of the sport is the culmination of hours of dedication and tough work.

Nobody, no matter how you explain it to someone, will ever understand how it feels to cut 20 pounds in a month for wrestling unless they've actually done it. —AU wrestler Pat Ryan “Nobody, no matter how you explain to someone, will ever understand how it feels to cut 20 pounds in a month for wrestling unless they’ve actually done it,” AU wrestler Pat Ryan said. Ryan, a sophomore wrestling at 141 pounds, has one of the more difficult cuts on the team. He’s wrestling down a weight class since All-American senior Kizhan Clarke occupies the 149-pound spot. Ryan, whose natural weight is around 165 pounds, plans out his weight cut a week before weigh-ins.



Pat Ryan in a recent wrestling match. “Say we have a Friday weigh-in. The goal is to come in on Monday at most 10 pounds over,” Ryan said. “Sometimes it’s a little more. Two days before you want to be eight over. For the day before, the goal is like five over. For those last five pounds, I’ll throw on some extra layers for practice. That should get me there.” Sweating out five pounds is easy for wrestlers. The most Ryan has ever sweated out at practice is eight pounds, and he’s seen guys lose up to 10. But the athletes’ commitment to wrestling is more than practicing hard and shedding out water weight. Time management and scheduling are paramount for wrestlers. Wrestlers have to be smart about how wrestling coincides with their other responsibilities. Ryan, for instance, front loads courses in the fall since he knows he’ll have to make weight more often in the spring. “It’s hard to get through practice wanting something to eat or drink and then come home and sit through a twoand-a-half-hour class," Ryan said. "You have to be smart about it. You have to strategize on how you’re gonna get things done. ... On any given day, I’ll wake up at 6 a.m., I'll get an hour-and-a-half lift in. Then I’ll have a two-hour mat workout. Then every weekend we’re on the road. That takes up a lot of time that’s not even devoted to weight cutting.” Weight cutting has been a part of NCAA wrestling since its inception in 1928. In response to three weightcutting-related deaths in 1997, the NCAA instituted the hydration test, a pre-season test administered to ensure wrestlers don’t dehydrate themselves throughout the season.

For the test, the wrestler steps on a scale and pees in a cup. The NCAA records the weight and tests the urine to see if the wrestler is hydrated enough. If he is, the wrestler is certified to compete for the season. The NCAA then determines the lowest weight the wrestler can safely compete. The idea is to identify the lightest weight a wrestler can be without dehydrating himself. Michael Moyer, executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association, said previously that he wasn’t aware of any weight-cutting related deaths since 1997. But wrestlers are still practicing harmful methods of weight cutting. “In my opinion, I don’t think the test is enforced very strictly,” Ryan said. “And that’s why I still think you see really unhealthy weight cutting in college wrestling.” But just how damaging is unhealthy weight cutting? Dr. Trina Ulrich, a professorial lecturer in AU’s Department of Health Studies who teaches Sports Nutrition and Changes in Health Behavior, said there are many detrimental effects. “Usually when people fast, they lose their glycogen storage. The glycogen is a stored product that creates energy,” Ulrich said. “When people dehydrate themselves to make weight and then also fast on top of that, they’re losing water from the glycogen deficiency and dehydration. That can lead to kidney failure and heart problems. Those can happen short-term or as chronic diseases later in life.” There are other long-term consequences besides organ failure. There’s a correlation between cutting weight and eating disorders, including bulimia and

That can lead to kidney failure and heart problems. Those can happen short-term or as chronic diseases later in life. —Dr. Trina Ulrich her class. She said she can tell when they’re cutting by their general look of fatigue. But if Ryan had the choice to end weight cutting in the sport, he wouldn’t. “You have to continue letting weight cutting be a thing,” he said. “Just focus on educating the athlete on the dangers of doing it incorrectly.” Ryan believes it’s too ingrained in the sport to stop now. Wrestlers take pride in the extreme lengths they will go to to make weight. If the mental and physical effects of weight cutting were easy to deal with, more wrestlers would cut weight. So if you have a class with a wrestler, let them know you understand why no one makes a sound at weigh-ins. Wrestlers take making weight seriously. Especially starved, irritable wrestlers. odunn@theeagleonline.com

theEAGLE March 2021



The problematic way many define 'America' It is time to realize that America is more than the U.S.

Not many people question something that comes so naturally. Sometimes, an external perspective is necessary for us to realize the problem that might come with something that is so embedded in our daily lives. I want you to ask yourself: What does America mean? And what does it mean to be an American? by Isabela Linares Uscher Staff Columnist Growing up in Latin America, whenever someone mentioned America or American, my first thought went directly to the continent itself. Although we were taught in school to differentiate between North America, Central America and South America, the term would always be linked to the entire region, for me. However, the more I began to interact with movies and people from the United States, it came to my attention that they used those terms to refer to their country and its citizens. When I moved to the U.S. for college, the term “American” became more and more present in my daily life. The way the people around me, media and even people in the government used the word as a universally-accepted concept referring merely to the U.S. and its citizens made me question the definition of the term itself. Have you ever asked yourself what being “American” really means? Given the ambiguity of the social understanding of the term, I decided to take a look at the official definitions of America in dictionaries from different languages. If we were to create a general definition based on the ones found in Italian, Portuguese, French, Spanish and English dictionaries, it would primarily refer to the continent as a whole. Nevertheless, I was not surprised when I found that the Real Academia Española, which some regard as the most relevant Spanish dictionary, makes a special emphasis on how the word “America” should not be used to refer merely to the United States. Similarly, I thought it was amusing that the term America in the Urban Dictionary, among other definitions, is defined as “a country that claims the name of an entire continent to itself alone for no compelling reason.” On the other hand, the Merriam-Webster

dictionary makes sure to include the direct association of the label “America” with the U.S. The assertions across these dictionary definitions push us at American University to question the term with which we closely identify.

If you ask people from Latin America, being American does not require being a U.S. citizen; in fact, many from the region might say that they are also American.

If you ask people from Latin America, being American does not require being a U.S. citizen; in fact, many from the region might say that they are also American. Likewise, in France, there is a feeling that the use of the term American in that manner is simply imprecise. After all, America is a continent composed of more countries than just the United States. The mere assumption that America or American is directly associated with the United States often creates an imperialistic feeling, what many call “American exceptionalism.” The presence of power that the United States has in the world has made it possible for the term to be more generalized, but it still calls for the exclusion of all the other countries present within the continent. Even if you separate the continent between Latin America and North America, Canada would still be a part of the equation. Hence, the generalization is not only excluding those in Latin America, but also those in the northern region.

Taking a step aside from the whole geographical perspective, it has come to my attention that indeed being an American for most within the U.S. is more than just being part of a piece of land; there is a sentiment and a symbolism behind the term. But have you ever stopped and wondered where that sentiment comes from? Where does the sense of greatness that is often conveyed in the terminology come from? If you really think about it, you might be able to notice that it does in fact come from a notion of power and exceptionalism. An article for The Atlantic asserts that it is the equivalent of going to a foreign country and not learning the language because you assume that they will speak English back to you. How many people have been harassed for speaking their native language in the U.S., regardless of the fact that they are talking to someone that understands that language? Having experienced this, I think it is clear that the hypocrisy runs deep.

If the generalization is accepted in the academic arena, then how do we expect to make a change? As an academic institution, American University is forcing the problem to run deeper the more the term is used in this way. Contrary to my belief, I found that the use of these terms to refer to the U.S. is not only present in the social scenario, but also in the academic frame. This hypocrisy was clear in the classroom where, sadly, the feeling of American exceptionalism was more present. It was and is used back and forth between students and professors. In fact, I even had a class named “America in the World.” The generalization of the concept is being used when producing and sharing knowledge, something that

I find deeply problematic. The problem begins when you, a professor or student, assume that when saying America or American, everyone will make a direct association with the U.S. You are at the same time assuming that American exceptionalism is so widely accepted that, without thinking if there are international students who might also identify with the term, America is universally seen as the U.S. If the generalization is accepted in the academic arena, then how do we expect to make a change? As an academic institution, American University is forcing the problem to run deeper the more the term is used in this way. Not many people question something that comes so naturally. Sometimes, an external perspective is necessary for us to realize the problem that might come with something that is so embedded in our daily lives. I want you to ask yourself: What does America mean? And what does it mean to be an American? Because as simple and common as it may appear to you, there is a problem that comes with it. In many cases the language that we use to communicate plain ideas can also communicate insidious implications of power and exclusion. Isabela Linares Uscher is a sophomore in the School of International Service and a columnist and assistant copy editor for The Eagle. ilinares@theeagleonline.com


theEAGLE March 2021

Freshmen feel more disconnected from AU than ever

The University should do more to help freshmen feel a part of the AU community

by Alexis Bernstein Staff Columnist My stomach started hurting as soon as George Washington University announced its plan for remote classes in the fall. In group chats with fellow firstyear students, I touted optimism. Then, when American University announced its plan, I put my phone on ‘do not disturb’ and let the tears fall. I canceled my order from Bed Bath & Beyond and bought myself a desk for the empty corner in my room. Following the Oct. 26 announcement for the spring semester, I immediately leased an apartment in D.C. with two other freshmen. When I was little,

my mom warned me about talking to strangers on the internet. I wasn’t allowed to tell people what city I lived in or share my age. Flash forward to November as she co-signs a lease so I can move to a new city with roommates that were previously just internet strangers. Internet strangers, who started our first conversation with, “So, where are you from?” I refused to be stuck at home while the rest of my high school friends enjoyed their in-person universities in the cities of their choosing. However, now that I’m here and meeting other students, I’m realizing just how disconnected I feel from AU. At home, it was easy to ignore the fact that I wasn’t on campus. Walking through my neighborhood in South Florida, I never felt like I was so close, yet so far away from AU. In my apartment in D.C., however, AU always feels like an arms-length away. A very long arm, albeit, but just an arm. Sitting at my desk in my room while my family was just a room over, AU felt so distant that it didn’t bother me. My roommates feel it too: the sadness of being in the same city as your university, but not being able to attend it; the jealousy of seeing your peers attend classes in person while you sit at home; the lethargy of logging onto Zoom to join a club meeting. Despite

countless online alternatives to club meetings, extracurriculars and social events, I know very few people who have the energy to attend. After hours of staring at our computer screens for class, homework and social gatherings, who wants to go to a non-mandatory affair? Now, as some students are on campus and others are not, I feel more distant than ever. Hearing upperclassmen discuss their experiences on campus, the fun they had on Halloween, the beauty they witnessed during cherry blossom season and the stress they felt on Capitol Hill fills me with envy. I haven’t undergone these things for myself, and I don’t feel a part of the “AU experience.” Instead, I feel left behind.

AU needs to take greater action to create a sense of community among its freshmen.

AU needs to take greater action to create a sense of community among its freshmen. Administration should host social gatherings for students to

Interior design tips for the dorm aesthetic

join without admin supervision, reach out to students to make sure they are adjusting well and better promote various clubs that students can join. With a significant amount of first-year students living in D.C., AU should also hold socially-distanced events for us to meet each other. To alleviate Zoom fatigue, professors should offer more ways for students to participate asynchronously and provide more extra credit opportunities to counteract faltering grades. AU needs to take greater action to create a sense of community among its freshmen. Administration should host social gatherings for students to join without admin supervision, reach out to students to make sure they are adjusting well and better promote various clubs that students can join. These are unprecedented times. We’ve heard that phrase over and over. The state of the world calls for more creativity and more outreach from the AU administration than ever before. Don’t leave your freshmen behind. Alexis Bernstein is a freshman in the School of Public Affairs and a staff columnist for The Eagle. abernstein@theeagleonline.com


Childhood bedrooms are so last fall

by Aliza Schuler

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. During Zoom school, classes can get really tedious. However, they are especially difficult when you are doing them from the same room every single day. Not to mention it’s normally your childhood bedroom, featuring a terrifying framed picture of yourself that hangs above your bed with the bangs you cut yourself using

kitchen scissors in first grade. I know we all need a bit of a change right now, so I’ve rounded up some of the best interior design tips to make your childhood bedroom a little more like an American University dorm room. Breed mold I love to start out with a classic. What would the AU dorms be like without mold? Coming in all types of colors — green, black, white or even red (if you are feeling bold) — this is a great addition to any bedroom. It’s a quick and easy project that just requires a little moisture in some tough-to-reach spots like your window creases, roof or pipes. My favorite way to breed mold is to spill a little water in my window corners and let it lay for the next 48 hours. Next time you check, you should have a little friend that will spread across your house within days. This is the fastest way to achieve the AU dorm aesthetic if you are feeling extra homesick. Leave room for rats This is perfect if you are feeling lonely and need to make your house become more of a home. Depending on your

location, this can take a while. However, if you’re lucky enough, leave your front door open for a few days and let nature take force. Hopefully you’ll get a visit from some rats and they will inhabit your bedroom before you know it! Quick tip: breed the mold first. Legend has it that if you breed black mold anywhere in the world, the AU rats will travel by city pigeon to you within 2-3 business days. Friday night lights Throw out your salt crystal lamp. Say bye to your fairy lights. Trash the LEDs. Fluorescent lights are the only way to go if you are trying to achieve the desperately sought after AU dorm aesthetic. This is a little secret that I might regret sharing with you, but the AU campus store actually has a secret sale on all overhead fluorescent lights if you use the discount code “light pollution” on their website for an additional 80 percent off! Bop it, twist it, stain it One of my all time favorite interior design tips has to be this one because it’s a real money saver. Plus, it’s a great art therapy project for when you are burnt

out or Zoom fatigued. If you can’t achieve the horror movie-esque 70s decor that is created by the chestnut wood in all AU dorms, try out some permanent stains on the wood that you do have in your room! I’m talking juice, milk, nail polish, glue and makeup, you name it. Dumpster diving Back problems? Need a chiropractor from sitting at the desk all day? Look no further. We all know that what you’re missing is the mattresses that AU generously donates to all of their dorm rooms. While you’re out with your friends thrift shopping, why not make a pit stop at your local dumpster and take a little swim? You’re bound to find a mattress somewhat similar to what you slept in your first semester of freshman year if you’re lucky enough. Remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure! Aliza Schuler is a sophomore in the School of Communication and a satire columnist at The Eagle. aschuler@theeagleonline.com


theEAGLE March 2021

Staff Editorial

University fails to take action over historical ties to slavery by The Eagle Editorial Board The summer of 2020 was marked by a fervent call for racial justice. Around the country and world, corporations, governments and educational institutions pledged to look within to dismantle systemic racism. American University, despite dedicating a working group two years ago to examine AU’s relationship with slavery, has dragged its feet on change. The clearest manifestation of antiBlackness on AU’s campus lies in the name “Hurst Hall.” The knowledge that AU founder John Fletcher Hurst owned enslaved people was a central theme in Eagle columnist Nickolaus Mack’s article, which inspired the formation of the working group. Two years later, there has been little public discussion from the administration of any considerations to change the building’s name. Even as the country demanded change last summer, the University ignored the work it could have been doing on its own campus to meet the moment. The majority of the Eagle Editorial Board is in favor of renaming Hurst Hall. Renaming, however, should just be the start of the work AU does in regards to its historical ties to slavery. Changing the name of the building is ineffective without other lasting actions that impress the University’s history upon the student body and wider AU community.


Two years after working group offered recommendations, little progress has been made AU’s student body is well-known for its political and social engagement, yet there is little enduring organizing aimed at holding the University accountable for its past. This may be in part because many students are just not aware of AU’s past. It’s difficult to maintain institutional memory in the undergraduate student body when a quarter of it graduates every year and is replaced by a new wave of people. The University must take steps to educate the whole community on AU’s past and expand on that education over time as more research is done. The University has already created a place where it can educate students about AU’s historical ties to slavery. AUx2 is intended to be a “space for conversations and learning about race, social identity, and structures of power.” Why haven’t discussions of AU’s own foundational history with race, social identity, and structures of power been ingrained in the curriculum in a meaningful way? Conversations about AU’s recent history are not enough. Learning about AU’s past should not be up to the discretion of individual AUx professors or the students themselves. If the University genuinely wants to reconcile with its past, it must make a real commitment to fulfill the potential of AUx and AUx2 by turning the investigation of these important themes

inward. AU’s unwillingness to implement change is disappointing. AU vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence Fanta Aw cited COVID-19 as a delay in carrying out recommendations put forth by the slavery working group. These recommendations were made in 2018, well before COVID-19 became the overwhelming focus of administration. There is no excuse for not taking concrete steps to build on the work done by the working group. There is also no excuse for not communicating adequately with the student body. Administration’s silence on this indicates an inability to do even the bare minimum. It’s important to note that whatever progress has been made so far is entirely due to the insistence of a student to take a deeper look at the hypocrisy at the core of AU. In a recent interview with Eagle columnist Kayla Kelly reflecting on his work with the slavery working group, Mack said, “if there's no one being vocal about it, there are a million other little things that the University has turned to or prioritizes, if you will. It's kind of a disheartening feeling to know that it feels like after my graduation it kind of stopped and I think the primary responsibility, as cliche as it can sound, is on other students to pick up that work.” Mack

points out a glaring failure on the part of the University. The responsibility should not just be on students to investigate this further and constantly hold the University accountable. The University’s laziness in simply waiting for another student to get outraged and demand change is just not good enough. There is more work to be done here. The Eagle Advisory Board supports creating a scholarship, along the same vein as the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars program, for Black students in recognition of the University’s historical ties to slavery. AU should also conduct and publish further research on the history of AU’s founding and the enslaved person(s) its founder inherited before the manumission, or release, took place. Changing the name of Hurst Hall is just the beginning and is the least the University could do to start building on the work of the slavery working group. Currently, students and student-run organizations like The Eagle are the ones holding the University accountable for its past. If AU is truly the forward-thinking educator of changemakers it claims to be, it must take an active role in creating a framework of honesty and accountability.

Profile for The Eagle

The Eagle March 2021  

The Eagle's virtual print edition for spring 2021. Created amid a pandemic. Corrections: p. 17 In The Eagle Editorial Board's staff editori...

The Eagle March 2021  

The Eagle's virtual print edition for spring 2021. Created amid a pandemic. Corrections: p. 17 In The Eagle Editorial Board's staff editori...

Profile for theeagle