Officials at American University, a posh, private enclave in Washington, D.C., will reportedly allow minority students to postpone their final exams because someone hung pairs of overripe bananas with the words “HARAMBE BAIT” on lampposts and trees around campus last week.
American University provost Scott A. Bass also agreed to dedicate a safe space for minority students. This “sanctuary for people of color” is a lounge space in a campus building, reports The Blackprint, a student-run website which describes itself as “a safe space for people of color.”
On Friday afternoon, vice provost Jessica Waters informed a large group of student protesters that minority students can delay their final exams if they feel sad about seeing the bananas.
Sydney Jones, the president of the American University chapter of the NAACP, had sought the mass finals extensions. Jones also appears to have suggested that minority students should be able to retake any tests since the bananas appeared on campus.
“We’re basically asking for the administration to give students of color extensions on their finals as well as any exams or any tests that they have taken after the first banana incident occurred, if they could be revisited first,” Jones said, according to NBC Washington.
A spokesman for American University refused to tell The Daily Caller if the school is granting finals extensions to all students requesting them or if the concession applies only to “students of color.” The spokesman said he was not allowed to provide this information.
The student protesters had a list of demands.
American U. students are staging an occupation after racist incident, some risking arrest. Here are their demands: pic.twitter.com/1f0vXow8Ts
— Sarah Brown (@Brown_e_Points) May 5, 2017
The protesters stopped traffic in a tunnel in the middle of the American University campus on Friday. They swore to “occupy all space” until their demands were met, according to The Eagle, the main student newspaper.
The chant in the tunnel was “we can’t breathe.” The chant relates to the 2014 death of Eric Garner at the hands of police in the New York City borough of Staten Island — 204 miles away.
“These are the things that we have demanded from the University because of the oppression and discrimination and the hate we have faced, not just in these current events, but every day on this campus,” American University freshman Jaha Knight told The Eagle.
Last Tuesday, a day after the bananas appeared on campus, officials at American University organized a town hall event to foster student discussion. About 45 minutes into to the town hall, several dozen students left in unison and paraded over to the financial aid office. They filled out forms for withdrawing from school but did not sign them, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The hanging “HARAMBE BAIT” bananas at American University relate to the election of Taylor Dumpson as the school’s student government president.
Dumpson, who is black, is the first black person to be elected school president at American.
Some of the bananas featured the letters “AKA.” Dumpson is a member of American’s Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority chapter. AKA is the historically black sorority’s shorthand form.
American University president Neil Kerwin called the hanging-fruit stunt a “cowardly and despicable act” and said it had caused “great difficulty and great distress,” according to The Eagle.
Senior Quinn Dunlea was the first person to tell school officials about the bananas.
“We knew immediately what it was,” Dunlea told The New York Times. “It’s not subtle. Bananas and nooses.”
Dunlea said she and a friend managed to find five pairs of bananas hanging at various spots on American’s 84-acre campus.