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Supporting Student Activism

We recognize these are historic times, and that many students feel it is important to engage with the critical issues of our era and make their voices heard. American University defends the right to free expression, including the freedom to express dissent, within the context of the law and responsibility for one’s actions. The university has a long-standing policy supporting freedom of expression and dissent, and these values are regularly affirmed as institutional values.

Activism and Student Involvement

AU has long been considered one of the most politically active universities in the U.S. Activism is work to bring about change. In practice, that means it involves a wide range of activities where student practice community advocacy and express passionate views to increase the visibility of an issue or inspire collective action. As a socio-political engagement, activism can include these things and more:

  • demonstrations
  • community organization
  • social media advocacy
  • political canvassing
  • hosting controversial speakers
  • social justice education

Questions about campus-based activism and engagement? Please reach out to campusactivism@american.edu.

On-Campus Protests

The Student Engagement team wants to ensure your voices are heard and your rights are not infringed upon while active in Campus Activism. The Office of Campus Life also recognizes the need to preserve and protect its property, students, guests, and employees of the university, and to ensure the effective operation of educational, business, and related activities of the university. Expressive activities on the university’s campus may be subject to reasonable regulation regarding the time, place, and manner of the activities. University employees will not consider the content of expressive activities when enforcing this policy. No policy can address every possible activity or situation that may occur on university property, and the university reserves the right to address such situations as circumstances warrant.

AU Campus Activism Guidelines: Please see these guidelines for student groups planning on-campus demonstrations at AU, including the circumstances that require a reservation, what activities are protected and prohibited, and other important information to know. 

For Students Participating in Off-Campus Protests

If you choose to participate in off-campus protests, it is important to know your rights and responsibilities, be prepared, and be familiar with resources and policies. AU affirms that:

  • Students have a right to engage in peaceful and lawful protest.
  • No student who is enrolled or has a pending application will be affected by disciplinary actions arising from their participation in peaceful and lawful protests, so long as their personal conduct is consistent with AU policy.
  • No disciplinary action will be taken if students are arrested off-campus for protesting peacefully and/or violating curfews related to protesting.
  • Students’ financial aid status with the University will not be impacted. 

Health and safety protocols. If you participate in protests during the current pandemic, you must follow health and safety protocols. According to the health and safety pledge you are required to take this semester as part of your mandatory online AU Forward health and safety training, you agree to abide by all safety guidelines. This includes at any events such as protests, wherever they are located.

Questions? Please reach out to campusactivism@american.edu

AU Resources and Policies

AU Video Trainings 

Trauma-informed engagement provides foundations and principles that can help organizations be effective, while avoiding stumbling into misguided actions that can interrupt or disrupt progress. This three-day training describes the practical application of a trauma-informed approach, which can help to maintain social cohesion, build cross-cultural collaboration, and develop strategies for ethical campus activism.

  • Trauma-Informed Campus Activism: Part I: How to recognize the different ways communities are impacted by trauma and create a space where people feel heard and can engage in collective activism effectively and in ways that avoid retraumatizing. With the Counseling Center.
  • Trauma-Informed Campus Activism: Part II: How to realize, recognize and respond to trauma while resisting retraumatizing. With the Health Promotion & Advocacy Center.
  • Trauma-Informed Campus Activism: Part III: On the ground — how trauma-informed response really works for student leaders and organizers. With the Center for Student Involvement.

Local and National Resources