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Home / US / As the turmoil continues at Howard University, the president tells the student, "I'm listening to you."

As the turmoil continues at Howard University, the president tells the student, "I'm listening to you."



Hundreds of Howard University students occupied the school's administrative building on March 30 Friday's nine demands, including the resignation of Howard's president, increased access to housing, a temporary freeze on tuition and a revision of the University's sexual assault policies

The surprise takeover at the historic black university in northwest Washington began Thursday afternoon after the revelations in the week of a financial aid scandal that resulted in the dismissal of six employees allegedly seeking funds to go to needy students. But student frustration and anger have been firing on a series of fronts for months.

"This is something that is decades of development, years of development, and has concocted in our university culture," said Alexis McKenney, a senior and member of HU Resist, the student group that led the protest. On Friday evening, the crew leaders said the sit-in would continue after a meeting with two trustees did not resolve.

Howard, founded in 1867, has an enrollment of 10,000 students and has long been considered the nation's most eminent institution of black higher education. It has completed a rich list of graduates, including Toni Morrison, Thurgood Marshall, Taraji P. Henson, Jessye Norman and Kamala Harris. In recent years, however, the school has been increasingly criticized for financial mismanagement, deteriorating facilities, and administrative decisions that clouded its reputation and upset its powerful alumni base.

Last March, students were accused by students of the university being unable to respond to sexual assault complaints immediately. In May, five women, all students or former students of Howard, filed a federal lawsuit against the university, accusing the school of "discriminatory and vexatious reaction to multiple lawsuits for sexual assault and harassment." A sixth woman joined the lawsuit in November

Layoffs, accreditation issues, and sexual harassment and discrimination proceedings have plagued the university hospital, which has paid at least $ 27 million since 2007 in cases of unlawful death, according to an investigation The Washington Post revealed.

The school had to delay student openings due to building damage due to frost, power outages and cracked steam pipes. Many students eventually returned to dorms that had heat but no hot water.

And earlier this month, Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick reaped the anger of the students when he responded to an e-mail from a college student who was worried she would not be accommodated in the fall. The president told the student that her tone and tenor was inappropriate.

The students said the removal of Frederick was not negotiable and that they would not leave until his resignation was confirmed. Frederick, a surgeon and Howard alumnus who was appointed president in July 2014, did not comment on the requirement that he resign but gave a lengthy statement on Friday: "I listen to you and challenge my team to make changes Shortly after 6 pm On Friday, the leaders of the occupation appeared outside for a press conference, saying that the students had met with two university trustees for three hours in the afternoon. But McKenney said that during the meeting it became clear that several trustees had not read the students' demands.

More than 300 students were in the building Friday, planning to stay overnight until university officials negotiated with them, the students said.

"There is this blind belief in the president," McKenney said.

Frederick said he learned in December 2016 that funds may have been misappropriated for grants. An external auditor was brought in and Frederick said he received audit results in May 2017.

Six employees were later dismissed for "gross misconduct and neglect of duties," Frederick said. At that time, his statement indicated that the university would prosecute the issue, if necessary.

It is still unclear how much money is involved. Howard officials have not disclosed the total number.

The news of the investigations and terminations came in the same week in which an anonymous article was posted on the online blogging platform Medium, which reported a "brushless scandal" involving the University's grant department. The medium post was later dismantled.

In a separate letter, Stacey J. Mobley, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said: "Although I realized that this was a difficult week for our entire community, my fellow Board members and I support President Frederick's continued progress on critical issues, Our campus community is facing. "

The cast of Howard's Administration Hall began when members of the HU Resist student group took over three floors on Thursday afternoon. Backpacks lined the floor, a banner labeled "Student Power," hung on elevators and music, sometimes a rushing, improvised dance party.

Until Thursday evening air mattresses were distributed on the floor in the lobby. Upstairs the students hummed through the floors as if it were a makeshift dormitory, with groups of food and sleeping mats outside, and legal observers standing by. Some students crowded with laptops connected to power strips. Others studied handwritten mathematical equations in their notebooks.

On Friday morning, signs on the doors of the building indicated that only students were allowed to attend. The demands of the group were handwritten on a billboard and lined the front of the building. Among other things, they demanded fair accommodation for students, an end to "unfounded" study increases, and the university's involvement with the "rape culture" on campus.

There were no immediate plans by the demonstrators to end their sessions. in or from the university to remove the students from the administration building.

HU Resist leaders said their demands were informed by a survey of campus students in February and March. One of the student organizers, Juan Demetrixx, pointed to widespread complaints about housing conditions and the conviction that the university was protecting the accused and not the prosecutors in sexual assault. The new funding controversy, he added, added fuel, which was already a weak campus situation.

"That was the boiling point," said Demetrixx.

Throughout the day there was a steady stream of supporters – The students gave the students water, snacks and food.

Howard graduate Denville Myrie pulled up his Takeaway Jerk At Nite on Friday afternoon. He founded the company to provide students with a healthy alternative to food. On Friday he donated the protester jerk chicken and macaroni and cheese.

"I went here, I took the fight and just give back," he said.

While students were protesting in the administration building, life with relative normalcy continued elsewhere on campus. The students went to class, socialized and lived in campus restaurants.

Ajae Grisby, 22, said she does not always agree with the approach that HU Resist made to protest. But she said she agreed to some of the demands that led to the sit-in, and would attend if it was not for work and class.

"You can not be a great student if you can not get anywhere," she said. "You can not be a great student if there's no hot water in your dorm."

Quinn Smith remembered how the university had become a home for her. "I love the people here, I love the spirit, the energy, the diversity," she said. "I really can not imagine myself as here."

But the freshman may need to transfer or take a semester off. She learned of a deposit for the apartment she was supposed to pay the day before and was unable to get the $ 200.

She does not know where she will live next school year.

Protesters demand that the university offer accommodation to all students under the age of 21 – a change that would benefit Quinn, who comes from Texas and has no family in the district.

Quentin Mansfield, Vice President of Howard, faces the Administration Building University Student Association, saying that concerns are widespread about housing and financial aid that are reflected in the claims.

"Some of these demands are very simple corrections," said the 22-year-old. "The fact that they are not fixated points to a bigger problem that has led to the mistrust and bad relationship between administration and students."

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Sarah Larimer contributed to this report .addEventListener ("DOMContentLoaded", function () {});
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