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Student Protests Continue at Howard University

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

College is not easy. It is the first time you are responsible for yourself- your time, your accomplishments. And, living away from home doesn’t make it any easier. Sometimes, you live away from your home-state, even home-country. On-campus housing is supposed to act as your home away from home. It is your sanctuary and helps to release the day-to-day stress from class. You can do whatever you want with that space. All they ask is that you don’t have alcohol in the common spaces. Students at Howard University, as of recently, aren’t given that basic right. Many students have taken to social media to express their disdain for Howard’s housing. The students have reported mold in the dorms, Wi-Fi connection issues, dining halls infested with rats and roaches, and unresponsive administration. Chandler Robinson, a freshman at Howard University, told NBC that the mold problem started over the summer. Mold has been identified in at least 38 dorm rooms, out of the 27,000 rooms in total. Robinson also told NBC that she wasn’t able to connect to Wi-Fi for over a month. This means that she couldn’t access Blackboard for all that time. And, if you’ve been to college in the last ten years, you know Blackboard access can make or break your college career. It is a platform colleges use for assignments and grades. I had the app on my laptop and my phone.

Howard promotes itself as an illustrious institution. It isn’t the first HBCU, but it may be the most famous one. It is founded on “excellence, leadership, service, and truth” This is straight from their website. “Howard’s aim is to forward the development of scholars and professionals who drive change, and engage in scholarship that provides solutions to contemporary global problems, particularly ones impacting the African Diaspora.” How can they claim this if they are hurting the people of the Diaspora right in their university?

Students pay a lot of money to stay on campus. Below is a list of their housing plans:

To combat this unfair treatment, over 150 students with the Live Movement, an organization advocating for education reform and academic advancement, began protesting at the school’s Blackburn University Center on October 12. Since then, other groups such as the Young Democratic Socialists of America at Howard University, and NAACP Howard University, all under the umbrella of #BlackburnTakeover Advocates have joined the protest.

The protesters are demanding an in-person town hall with university President Wayne A.I. Fredrick and other administration by the end of October. They want to address their concerns about housing and student life. According to their Instagram post, the Live Movement has a list of demands, including:

  1. the permanent reinstatement of student, alumni and faculty affiliate positions that are being removed from the school’s board of trustees;

  2. a meeting with university leaders about housing; and legal, disciplinary and academic immunity for protesters.

In an interview with WJLA, Kaedrine Turenne said, “There really doesn’t seem like there is a plan of action.” She said because of all her issues with on-campus housing, she’s considering transferring from Howard after she completes her first year. The students have taken to sleeping in tents over housing that they pay for.

A TikTok by @itzjustautum, showcased an alleged email by the Howard administration. It states, “Some students committed multiple violations of the Student Code of Conduct; failure to comply with University or civil authority...This letter serves as a warning to all students who are in the Blackburn Multipurpose Center...without authorization...You will be asked to meet with Student Conduct and Community Standards. If you do not attend the meeting as requested or do not vacate the center by noon today, you will be subject to discipline under the Student Code of Conduct. Specifically, you will proceed through a student conduct hearing and face consequences up to and including expulsion.”

Howard isn’t a stranger to students protesting about student life. In 1968, about 1,000 students held a rally in front of Douglass Hall. From there, a group of students entered the administration building. The next move was to conduct a sit-in at President James Nabrit’s office until their demands were at least addressed, if not met.

According to wtopNews, the activists wanted “Nabrit’s resignation, a judiciary system for student discipline, an emphasis on African-American history and culture in the curriculum, and the dropping of charges against 39 students inspired by the above issues who had made a protest three weeks earlier at Howard’s centennial Charter Day celebration.” This happened again in 2018. The students had a list of 11 demands including: an overhaul of the school’s sexual assault policy, the creation of a food bank to serve students and the wider community, and a review of policies allowing campus police to carry weapons. Some of the demands were met following a 9-day protest occupying an administrative building.

As a Black woman, I have many feelings about this matter. I don’t want to bash an HBCU. It is hard enough to get positive coverage and funding for safe spaces for and by Black people. So, my intent is not to feed into the stereotype that HBCUs are subpar organizations compared to PWIs. However, my goal in life is to uplift Black people. And, because Howard’s housing conditions go against that goal, this story is important to me. Most universities care primarily about public perception and donors. The people who represent these universities say things like, “We support you, the student, first and foremost.” But, when that student gets to college, they find out fast that that isn’t the case. And to learn that, especially at a college made by people who look like you, can be disheartening. While in college, I’ve had to take measures into my own hands when I and other Black students weren’t being heard. I’ve made videos, blog posts, held events, even after graduating. With that being said, I am sympathetic towards the students of Howard University.

As of October 28, this is still an ongoing issue. The Live Movement released a press release stating they will be holding a press conference to notify the community about “the victimization of Howard University students, new support for student protestors, and negotiation updates.” According to this press release, on Sunday, October 24, students reached out to the Board of Trustees, after the University asked them for the name of their lawyer. Students and their attorney met with the University’s lawyer and provost. After they explained their grievances and demands, they were told that President Fredrick and administration won’t even listen to the demands until after the students stopped their protests. Tony Gittens, former Howard student, said something very interesting when showing his support for the 2018 protests. “Give them what they want. If not, they’ll come back. You’re not going to win this...It’s about the students. They paid their money. If it’s not good, you’ve got to change it.” My sentiments exactly.

Picture does not belong to MelaninGirl Mag

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