More than 100 Howard University students occupied the school administration building Thursday, the day after the iconic school revealed a financial aid scandal that sparked the dismissal of six employees.
"Today, the goal was to take over and occupy the hotel A building to influence the university," said Llewellyn Robinson, 20, a Howard junior who was with the HU Resist student group. "And we obviously succeed."
Some students who were in the building on Thursday afternoon were sitting on the floor with their backpacks nearby. A banner labeled "Student Power" hung on elevators and music that sometimes led to a lavish, improvised dance party. Robinson said a list of claims had been published days before and the group was planning to stay in the building until those claims were met.
"The whole goal here is student power," he said. "We need power through our university."
Jason Ajiake, 20, a junior at Howard, who is also at HU Resist, noted the history of the campus demonstrations at the university and said Thursday's protest reflected a series of concerns at the university. Only the financial aid scandal.
The demonstration overcame concerns over financial aid, said Howard senior Alexis McKenney, though she admitted the scandal gave organizers "the fuel we needed."
"Students were angry," McKenney, 21, said. There are Howard students who struggle – students who have problems with housing or scholarships, she said, and yet the university still seems to be having problems.
"Well, now we are standing," she said.
This week Howard's president, Wayne AI Frederick, promised "quick action" against those involved in embezzling financial aid.
"My team is currently working with outside experts to help us find all the ways to recover the funds," Frederick said in a message to the students on Wednesday. "I firmly believe that any dollar taken by a deserving student for abuse or fraud is unacceptable, and we will continue to quickly prosecute all individuals involved in this misconduct."
Howard officials revealed This week the scandal, but had not said Thursday morning, how much money was there. An email seeking an estimated number sent Thursday to Head Girl Alonda Thomas was not returned immediately.
Robinson said students are angry about the financial aid scandal.
"People were hurt," he said. "People felt," Where is my money going?
Police were present at the demonstration, and Robinson said there was concern that they might try to end the occupation.
"Honestly, we're in here. We control the building, "he said." We control the entrances. Now we are in a good position. "
The University has no plans to remove students from the building," said Howard spokeswoman Crystal Brown on Thursday night.
"Howard University students have a legendary history of exercising their civil rights," Brown said, "We support this wholeheartedly. "
A university survey found that for a period of nine years – from 2007 to 2016 – some employees who received tuition fees for the cost of tuition also received university scholarships, a double immersion that exceeded the actual cost of participation and signaled that the workers seemed inferior.
Frederick said he learned in December 2016 that money could have been misused for financial assistance, a revelatory that triggered an internal investigation, an external auditor was brought in, and Frederick said he received audit results in May 2017.
Six employees Lte was later fired for "gross misconduct and neglect of duties," Frederick said. His testimony indicated that Howard would, if appropriate, refer the matter to criminal prosecution. A spokeswoman for the DC police said Thursday that the agency had not been contacted for the allegations.
Frederick said he met with student representatives on Wednesday evening to discuss the situation and answer questions.
"I've heard their concerns first-hand," he said in his statement. "It was a productive meeting and I look forward to being more involved in critical issues as we move the university forward."
Jade Agudosi, president of the Howard University Student Union, said the student leaders had been "left a bit dissatisfied" with the response they received, though Frederick provided some details of the investigation.
"Some things just did not add up for us," she said. "More precisely, the timeline."
Agudosi said she had seen transparency issues with the way Howard handled the matter, as discussed at the meeting. Student leaders are aware of howard's legacy, she said, but a lack of transparency suggested that the university would prioritize its brand to its students.
"And that's something I'll never leave," she said.
While no definitive data is available The US Inspector General of the US Department of Education routinely investigates school officials accused of embezzling federal aid.
Over the past three years, the Office of the Inspector General has been involved in nearly 40 cases involving colleges and college officials abusing student resources. Some of these cases have resulted in criminal prosecution, while others have been settled out of court or are ongoing. Some involve employees in for-profit colleges, while others involve institutions such as Baruch College, New York, and Suffolk University, Boston.
Howard officials said the expropriated grant money was not from the federal government, not even the money donors had earmarked for grants.
Frederick had said that the results of the investigation were reported to the Ministry of Education. The Inspector General of this authority would on Wednesday neither confirm nor deny whether the officials had made investigations.
News of Howard's investigation and subsequent dismissals came the same week that an anonymous article was posted on the online blogging platform Medium for a "office-wide scandal." Participation of civil servants at the financial assistance college of the university. Later, the Medium Post was no longer available online.
The financial misdeeds also arose in the same month that Frederick came under fire for criticizing the students' "tone and tenor" when she was worried that she would get shelter. The student wrote her exchange with the president of the university on Twitter, where she attracted attention.
In his message to students, Frederick said that Howard's learning of abused money was "difficult to process." He acknowledged that some students may feel that the university did not sufficiently communicate when they did not announce the existence of the investigation earlier.
"The objective set out at the beginning of this study was to conduct it in a confidential manner without ensuring a thorough investigation of the issues that threaten the integrity of the results," he said. "However, this does not diminish the sense of mistrust that many students and members of our community feel right now, we understand that and we hear you."