Students occupy Howard University administration building

Howard University students’ win continues legacy of protests
A student sit-in at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

The student occupation of the administration building at Howard University in Washington, D.C. was in its seventh day on Wednesday, with demonstrators drawing inspiration from the historically black college’s history of protest in their sit-in over misappropriated financial aid funds.

The protest, spearheaded by the student group HU Resist, continued even after the school’s board of trustees agreed over the weekend to meet one of the protesters’ demands in a bid to end an occupation that started on March 29.

“We have officially reached our 7th day occupying A Building!” HU Resist tweeted. “Because of our supporters and student participants we are able to continue to fight. Nothing will stop us from demanding the change we deserve!”

The university board agreed to the first of nine students demand — “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.

But the several hundred students said to be occupying the administration building have refused to leave until the university agrees to its other eight demands, including the resignation of the President Wayne A.I. Frederick.

Maya McCollum, 18, an HU Resist spokeswoman and journalism major from Atlanta, said this week that the student body’s history of protest, including sit-ins in 1968 and 1989, served as an inspiration for many.

“It made me realize that the issues at Howard aren’t just individual issues, they’re systematic issues that have lasted for years and there has to be something to make them change,” she said.

The protests started after 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 allegations came to light last week after blogging platform Medium posted an expose which has since been deleted.

Kenneth Holmes, vice president of student affairs, confirmed in an email to students 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 as, includes five dorms housing about 640 freshman women, Howard’s website states.

McKenney has said the eight others demands remain on the table and students have no plans to leave the administration building until they are met.

The Howard University Alumni Association released a statement Sunday expressing support for 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.”

The Howard University Council of Deans also expressed its support for the administration.

On Tuesday night, the student protesters made an appeal for hot food via Twitter.

“This fight is bigger than just us taking over the A building,” said Batenga Kiboneka, 19, a member of the HU Resist leadership committee and a health management major from Tacoma, Washington. “This is just the first step to bigger changes and things that need to come in the future.”