Howard University Protests Enter 6th Day, 1 of 9 Student Demands Met

Security Versus Free Speech On College Campuses

Howard University has met one of nine demands made by student protesters after it was revealed that university employees misappropriated financial aid money from 2007 to 2016.

Students with the group HU Resist began occupying an administration building on the historically black Washington, D.C., campus on March 29 and are refusing to leave until all nine of their demands are met, reports CNN.

Last year, an investigation determined that some university employees were receiving grants to attend classes while also receiving tuition remission, earning more money than their education cost and pocketing the differences.

While the school confirmed the findings of the investigation, it did not say how much money was misappropriated and the public did not find out until an exposé was published last week.

The protesters are demanding:

  1. Adequate housing for all students under the age of 21 and an extension of the Fall 2018 housing deposit deadline
  2. An end to unsupported tuition hikes and complete access to administrative salaries
  3. The university takes necessary steps to fight rape culture on campus to prevent sexual assault
  4. The implementation of a grievance system to hold faculty and administrators accountable in their language and action toward students with marginalized identities
  5. The hiring of more counselors and an inclusive attendance policy that accounts for mental and emotional health issues
  6. Disarming of campus police officers and the creation of a Police Oversight Committee controlled by students, faculty, staff and off-campus community representatives
  7. Additional resources for combating food insecurity and gentrification within the LeDroit-Shaw community
  8. The resignation of President Wayne A.I. Frederick and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees
  9. The power of students to influence the decisions of the administration and the Board of Trustees by way of popular vote

On Saturday, the Board of Trustees agreed to meet the group’s demand to provide adequate housing for all students under the age of 21 and an extension of the Fall 2018 housing depot deadline, according to Alexis McKenney, Howard student and lead organizer of HU Resist.

Vice President of Student Affairs Kenneth Holmes sent an email to students confirming that the school will extend the deadline. If a large number of students request on-campus housing, Holmes also wrote that the school will delay renovating The Harriet Tubman Quadrangle, which includes five dorms and houses approximately 640 freshman women.

Howard University’s on-campus housing policy requires freshman and sophomore students under 21 to live on campus unless they live with a parent or guardian. Holmes says the administration will work with students in examining the adequacy of the policy.

Some Alumni Show Support for President, Others for Student Protesters

The school’s alumni association released a statement showing support for President Frederick and the Board of Trustees, pointing to four consecutive years of faculty salary increases and the school’s partnership with Google. Although the group expressed support, Association President Nadia Pinto says the school must address the students’ concerns.

“The hearts and actions of our students today mirror the students who stood outside the A-Building fighting for change during the 60’s, 80’s and 90’s,” she said. “When we see student protests, we know it is an indication that their voices are not being heard.”

Other alumni who attended the school during previous protests have come out to support students and to provide guidance on how to handle negotiations, according to Fox 5. They also say the official campus alumni association is controlled by Howard University.

“The budget of the alumni association is controlled by the administration as well as the majority of the operations of the alumni association across the country are controlled by the administration,” said Talib Karim with the TEC Law Group. “Therefore you can read for yourself whether or not you think that is an independent voice or not.”

On April 2, Howard University officials tweeted that they met with students to “hear their concerns and answer questions”. However, student protesters claim they were not informed of the meeting. Students represented at the meeting included HU United, FLA, Bison STEM scholars and some graduate students.

“Students who were part of these groups were not fully aware of what they were walking into,” explained protester Ahmari Anthony. “Not all of them knew they were going to be walking into a meeting with the president. Not all of them knew how it was going to be utilized in the press. And not all of those students who are in those organizations were informed of this meeting because of some of our involvement in this building.”

McKenney says students will continue to occupy the administration building until the remaining eight demands are met.

“We want people to see that there is a reason why we are here,” she said. “It’s not just the financial aid situation — that highlights a very serious and a very pervasive issue of the lack of transparency with this administration, and the lack of student involvement in all functions, which has led to a lot of issues.”

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