Washington DC -- Outrage over the handling of a disciplinary issue by American University brought together more than 100 protesters Monday, who are demanding policy changes in how the school handles racial issues.
It started with an incident during the first week of classes in early September. One black female student reported having bananas thrown at her while another had some spoiled bananas left at her dorm room door and obscenities were drawn on her dry erase board.
According to a statement released by American University there was no racial motivation behind the attack.
"Actions can and do have impact beyond their intent and that was the case here," read the statement. "The University condemns discrimination and discriminatory harassment and all violations are handled through the Student Conduct process."
While two people have been charged with student conduct violations, many people feel anything less than suspension from the school won’t reflect how disrespectful the banana incident is to many black students.
Many people are hoping for changes in school policy that allow the school leaders to alert students when something like this occurs (as they would with a sexual assault) and then be able to discipline students for hateful acts based on race.
"We need stricter punishment for students that commit hate crimes," said Camryn Norwood-Pearson, who is friends with one of the girls victimized. “She felt like she was being targeted.”
Norwood-Pearson told the crowd the incident has made her and several others nervous about interacting with people on campus.
Monday’s rally featured several speakers that talked about how the school has a history of not taking racially sensitive issues seriously but this incident may have a chance of sparking change.
"People are bringing up issues from years and years ago but sometimes you just need one issue to the be the tipping point and I feel like this is the tipping point for a lot of students," said Malik Stevens, a graduate student at AU. "They've dealt with a lot of small issues adding up over time and something as heinous as this is their tipping point."
The school has conducted two town hall meetings over the last week to try and provide frustrated students with a voice and to get updated on the case and the reasons the school does not consider the incident racially motivated.
“We will continue to update the community on our conversations and actions about how we can work to ensure AU has a healthy, safe and supportive environment,” read a statement from school leaders.