Howard University meets 1 of 9 protest demands
After days of continuous student protest, the Howard University board of trustees has met one of the students’ nine demands.
Protesters with the group HU Resist occupied an administration building on the Washington, DC, campus of the historically black university on March 29 — days after it was revealed that an outside auditor had determined that university employees misappropriated financial aid money from 2007 to 2016.
Students occupying the administration building have refused to leave until all nine of their demands — including the resignation of the university President Wayne A.I. Frederick — are met.
The board agreed Saturday to the students’ first demand: to “provide adequate housing for all students under the age of 21 and extend the fall 2018 housing deposit deadline to May 1,” according to Alexis McKenney, a Howard student and lead organizer of HU Resist.
McKenney said that protesters reached the agreement with the board on Saturday night.
In an emailed statement to students, Kenneth Holmes, vice president of student affairs, confirmed that the school will extend the deadline to put down a deposit for housing. If a large number of students requests on-campus housing, Holmes said, the university will delay renovating the The Harriet Tubman Quadrangle to accommodate them. “The Quad,” as the area is better known, includes five dorms housing about 640 freshman women, Howard’s website states.
Holmes also said that the “administration will engage our students in examining the adequacy of on-campus housing to meet Howard University’s housing policy,” which requires students under 21 to live on campus unless they live with a parent or guardian.
“Our students are our priority, and we look forward to supporting them in their holistic Howard University experience,” Holmes said in the statement.
An investigation found last year that some university employees were receiving grants from the school to attend classes while also receiving tuition remission, earning more money than their education cost and pocketing the difference. The university confirmed the results of the investigation, but did not say how much money may have been misappropriated.
The public did not find out about the allegations until an expose was published on the blogging platform Medium last week; it has since been deleted.
Even though one demand has been met, McKenney said there are eight others, so students will continue to occupy the administration building. HU Resist is not willing to negotiate on the remaining demands, she said.
“We want people to see that there is a reason why we are here,” McKenney 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.”
The Howard University Alumni Association released a statement Sunday expressing support for President Frederick and the Board of Trustees. Association president Nadia Pinto said there have been many advancements under the leadership of Frederick, including four consecutive years of faculty salary increases and the university’s partnership with Google. Pinto said in the statement it is important that the university address the issues brought by students.
“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,” Pinto said. “When we see student protests, we know it is an indication that their voices are not being heard.”