AY 2020-21, Issue XXVI | April 9, 2021

Carly Johnson/The Eagle
This is the latest edition of our newsletter covering our work from April 2 to April 8. To read any of these stories and more, check out our main website or our coronavirus website, which covers news related to the pandemic. 

DEI Update: As staff recruitment for the summer semester begins,The Eagle is working to adjust internal processes to bolster the diversity of its coverage and increase community. 

By: Isabel Wolff (iwolff@theeagleonline.com)
The Eagle Explains: Uncovering AU's unintentional exposure of student information
By: Dan Papscun, Campus Life Editor (dpapscun@theeagleonline.com)

How do you report on a piece of technology you know nothing about? 

That was the question faced by Sports Managing Editor Spencer Nusbaum and I as we dove into the story we published on Monday, detailing how American University inadvertently exposed thousands of students’ data via the myAU portal. 

Nusbaum stumbled across the information in the portal in late December when we were all home on winter break. Files he found encompassed student retention data and survey responses that included names and AUID numbers, in some cases going back five years. He called me for a smell test of the information’s newsworthiness, and the story has consumed my time since then. 

The biggest hurdle, the reason this story took so long to produce, is the myAU portal itself. More specifically, it’s because Microsoft SharePoint — the file-sharing system much of the myAU portal is built on — is prohibitively complicated for those of us whose strengths lie more on the writing and language side of the SAT exams. First, we needed to understand how the system works in order to accurately report on why the information was available to myAU users, before explaining how and why AU had violated federal law. I began working on this story by reaching out to dozens of subject-matter experts. 

Only two responded — Adam Levithan and D’arce Hess, both recognized by Microsoft for their SharePoint skills. 

The story would have been impossible without them, even though they never saw the portal, let alone the student data. While their contributions seem relatively limited in the story, mostly relegated to explaining the technical underpinnings of the myAU system, they provided me with the layman understanding I needed to ask informed questions of AU. That’s reflected throughout the entire article. 

We had to take one other major step, beyond understanding the technology, legal aspects and student privacy implications: we had to make sure we were accurately reporting on the data and calculating exactly how many students had their information exposed. To do that we had to download the files. 

We recognized it as necessary for the reporting of the story. Once we made our calculations and verified the legitimacy of the data, we encrypted the information and later deleted them along with any screenshots from our computers before the story was published. The only Eagle staffers that accessed and downloaded the data were Nusbaum, Editor-in-Chief Sophie Austin and myself.

This story isn’t over. In the next few days, the University said it will contact the thousands of students affected to explain exactly which information of theirs was exposed. If you’re one of them, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a follow-up story. My email is above. And, if you have a story tip or feedback on our reporting, my inbox is always open.
COVID-19 Update:
  • On April 5, 23 COVID-19 cases were reported by the University for the week of March 29. There have been a total of 150 cases reported for the spring semester. Seventeen of the previous week’s cases were reported from students living off-campus, and one case was from faculty and staff. Five cases were reported among students living on campus. There have been nearly 20,000 tests administered so far this semester, and nearly 2,900 tests were done last week. 
  • In a student media briefing Thursday, American University announced plans for the majority of the fall semester classes to be held in person and for the dorms to fully reopen. The University will also "strongly encourage" a vaccination for students returning to campus in the fall.

  • From print: AUSG swore in seven freshmen senators in January, and two months after they took office, these senators have already set lofty goals.

  • The Center for Environmental Policy in the School of Public Affairs hosted its second event of a webinar series to discuss decarbonization in agriculture, transportation, energy and more. The March 25 event was moderated by SPA professor Todd Eisenstadt.

  • AU's Undergraduate Women in Business club, which works to foster development and representation on campus, is experiencing an influx of members during the spring 2021 semester. 

  • In a KPU event on Tuesday, former U.S. representative and presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke discussed voting rights, gun control and the role of young people in U.S. politics.

  • Club Feature: AU's Climate and Conservation Policy club has conducted operations entirely online during the year, discussing how it can engage students in environmental activism and research. 

  • On the Record: "As editors, we hold power, and at a predominantly white institution with a predominantly white staff, we need to take deliberate steps to make our coverage fairer and more representative of marginalized communities."


  • From print: VOICI, a streetwear brand founded by three DMV natives, aims to educate people about the history of the D.C. area.

  • In the past year with the pandemic, YouTube home workout videos have become all the rage. Here’s a list of short and easy at-home video workouts that don’t require any equipment. 

  • Scenes that Stick: Stanley Kubrick's "Paths of Glory" conveys themes of empathy and warfare.  

  • As the weather gets warmer, you may be looking for an outdoor escape. Check out these three outdoor locations near campus that make for a nice weekend outing.

  • Second District Records, a record label comprised of students from American University, is releasing an EP full of quarantine-inspired music today, on April 9.  

  • Silver Screen: "French Exit" is a drama with a Wes Anderson-like aesthetic starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges.

  • AU Lacrosse suffered its fifth loss of the season with a close and agressive game against Bucknell on Saturday. 

  • Loyola defeated the AU women's soccer team 1-0 Saturday afternoon. Though AU hasn’t been able to find its way into the win column or score a goal this season, the team's defense showed noticeable improvement against the Greyhounds.

  • The men's soccer team tied with the Loyola Greyhounds 1-1 Saturday. The Eagles’ defense held firm, allowing just four of Loyola's 19 shots to come on goal.

  • The AU field hockey team defeated Lafayette College in double overtime on Sunday. The game marked a rematch of the 2019 Patriot League Championship, in which AU defeated Lafayette.


  • Staff Editorial: "The history of anti-Asian violence in this country is more than decades old, and it is intolerable that the University accepts that its students have no deeper than a surface understanding of the situation."

  • Satire: Check out our best interior design tips to transform your childhood bedroom into a dorm room. From stains and rats to breeding mold, these tricks are sure to give your room an on-campus feel.

  • Satire: Students anticipate an exciting return to campus, whether that be tomorrow, next semester, or in 10 years.
El Águila:

  • Estar en casa es la combinación de mis tres cosas preferidas: la comida de mamá, la comida de mamá y la comida de mamá.