Student newspaper publishes op-ed criticizing return of 'invasive species' White peers to 'Chocolate City'

An American University student compared White students returning to campus with "settler colonialism."

The student defined "settler colonialism" as when one "invasive species" replaces another.

For months, Campus Reform has covered stories of students fighting to reopen their campuses during the coronavirus crisis. Some demanded that university officials refund expensive tuition and fees if distance-learning continues indefinitely. Others are suing their colleges for a refund. Many more have signed petitions seeking similar concessions.  

In October, American University met its students halfway, announcing for the spring 2021 semester the Mid-Semester Residential Experience, an eight-week “mini-mester” program offering mostly freshmen students a preview of the residential college experience. Students moving to campus must test negative for the coronavirus 72 hours before moving, test negative twice a week, and follow rules like limiting residential gatherings to two people. 

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One student at AU says the campus should remain closed, however. In an op-ed published in AU’s campus newspaper, The Eagle, freshman Kayla Kelly said welcoming White students back to campus “could evoke similar effects of settler colonialism and negatively impact” the Black community of Washington, D.C.

“Settler colonialism is a form of colonialism that replaces the original population with a new invasive species,” Kelly wrote, “the settler system stakes over the space, resources and culture of the environment it encompasses, displacing the original population.” 

Welcoming a “large influx of predominantly white students into D.C.’s ‘Chocolate City,’” she added, is “hypocritical of students and the administration.” They had previously joined millions to “advocate for Black lives yet place them further at risk with this initiative,” ignoring that “the coronavirus pandemic is just as much an issue of racial justice as it is of public health.” 

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Kelly also said that White students returning to campus would neglect to “give back to the communities that they reside in and will but out stick at stores and malls, making the resources in those communities limited” and will engage in “rash behavior [stemming] from growing tired of living at home and acting out in rebellion” because of their “newfound freedom.” 

Other students are criticizing AU’s decision to open, Kelly said. Ali Siddiqi told her that “You’re going to see a lot of people exhibiting their privilege.” And Katherine Greenstein she is “terrified that one reckless AU student could get me in a hospital on a ventilator at the end of this year…Medical racism is real, and there is no doubt that involving privileged, mostly White students who are very likely to survive COVID-19 if they get it, will harm the people already living in DC.”  

Follow the author of this article: Dion Pierre