The nation’s most highly regarded HBCU is under protest this weekend, as Howard University students continue a takeover of the main administration building. Days after it was revealed that six employees were fired for financial aid fraud, HU students have decided that enough is enough.
Questions remain about the fate of the university’s embattled president Wayne Frederick in light of these issues. But for Howard students, many of who are aware of the history of accomplishment at the university (Chadwick Boseman, Taraji P. Henson, Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad are alumni) the time for him to step down or lead is now.
Student protesters at Howard University met for several hours with representatives from the school’s board of trustees Saturday for what both sides described as productive negotiations. But the student-led takeover of the university’s administration building continued with no immediate end in sight and there were no plans for additional negotiations until Sunday evening.
“There has been a great deal of respect going on both sides, and it appears that the antagonistic force that was there before is starting to dwindle and wither away,” Juan Demetrixx, one of the student leaders, said at an early afternoon news conference across the street from the administration building on the school’s campus in Northwest Washington. “So we’re hoping that in the next coming days we are able to get these demands met.”
Rock Newman, a Howard graduate and a member of the school’s board of trustees, also spoke at the news conference, saying that the board was “extremely impressed with the way that the students have handled the negotiations.” He was hopeful they would continue to be productive.
But even as leaders welcomed the development of new negotiations, students inside the hall prepared for a lengthy stay. A steady stream of supporters, including fellow students and alumni, and students from American University and George Washington University, pulled up in cars to drop off food, supplies and encouragement.
More than 300 Howard students have occupied the building since Thursday, sleeping on the floor on donated pillows and mats in hallways and offices. Protesters have issued nine demands to the university, including that Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick resign.
“We’re not budging on that at all,” said Imani Bryant, a freshman from Atlanta who is a leader with HU Resist, the student group leading the protest.
The occupation at the historically black university in Northwest Washington began Thursday afternoon following revelations of a financial-aid scandal that led to the firing of six employees who had allegedly taken funds that should have gone to students in need. But the students’ demands extend beyond the scandal to include guaranteed housing, a voice in university decision-making, an overhaul of how the university responds to sexual assault on campus and more transparency when it comes to university finances and administration salaries.
“This is not just one problem,” said Maya McCollum, another student leader and also a freshman from Atlanta. “This is a systematic problem.”
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