Howard University protest organizers have this message for the school administration – so listen

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Driven by the supposedly “unlivable” housing conditions at Howard University, students and community members are staging a sit-in turned into a residence at the Blackburn Student Center to voice their grievances. Among the main complaints are reports of outdated air filters, rodent and insect infestations, moldy walls and a lack of urgency on the part of administrators. Although reported to the administration, many protesters expressed that such conditions have worsened since the start of the school year – so much so that they organized themselves with a camp-like camp on campus to encourage a immediate action.

The protest, commonly referred to as #BlackburnTakeover on social media, is led by senior Aniyah Vines and brought together more than 100 students, alumni and local businesses to support the movement. The District of Columbia chapters of organizations like Freedom Fighters, Harriet’s Wildest Dreams and Until Freedom have also shown solidarity. Now, as the sit-in experiences its first week of protest, students have survived visits by DC Metropolitan Police, a false fire alarm reportedly set off by university officials, and police intervention from the campus. But still, they continue to stand firm in their decision to occupy the center.

Requests have been communicated through The Live Movement’s Instagram account in hopes of reaching a mutual agreement, but student leaders remain dissatisfied. Here’s what they want the public and academics to know:

An appropriate in-person public meeting with the President of Howard University, administration and all students must take place

The organizers’ first request says there must be a call for an in-person public meeting that would include University President Howard Wayne Frederick, administration officials and the entire student body. Although a meeting took place on the afternoon of October 12, before the first night of occupancy, it was not a town hall, but a pre-scheduled meeting scheduled primarily for speak with Howard University Student Association President Kylie Burke. He was also arrested by university officials almost an hour and thirty minutes before the scheduled end time. Not feeling heard and rejected, the student body followed Vines and other student leaders to the protest site, initiating the movement.

“We say to administration, ‘You’re not going to waste our time anymore unless we talk about the current demands,” Vines told REVOLT hoarsely. administration talks to students, but attempts were unsuccessful because administration doesn’t care about requests. “

Campus newspaper The Hilltop reported that President Frederick has on more than one occasion mentioned his discomfort with face-to-face public meetings due to escalations he has seen in the past, volunteering for meetings. biweekly with the Howard University Student Association. and The Hilltop instead to communicate. Yet protesters do not believe that such communication efforts are enough to truly effect change.

There must be representation for students, faculty and alumni

The second on the list of demands was a call for the reinstatement of all affiliate administrator positions, including students, faculty and alumni, which were removed over the summer. On June 11, the Board of Trustees announced the decision via an update from Howard University Communications. The update read:

“There was an overwhelming consensus that our current process of governance and engagement across the University, from the Board of Trustees to various stakeholder groups, is not working. Additionally, the board agreed it needs to improve its processes and seek governance models that more closely align with leading institutions of its peers.

Based on the findings of this review, submitted to the Board’s Governance Committee in February 2021, the Board voted unanimously on June 11, 2021 to approve a single unit category of directors to fulfill a traditional fiduciary role for the Board. ‘University, gradually eliminating administrator roles for students, faculty and alumni over the next year.

Many organizers feel that such an update was insensitive and ultimately deprives students of a say in matters that directly affect them. “We want to see them respond to our requests and we will not stop until they (the administration) give the student body the power to tick them off the list,” Vines added.

The event will not end until a new “housing plan” is proposed.

The Live Movement’s final request called for the board chair and chairman to meet with student leaders, including the Howard University Student Association (HUSA), the Undergraduate Student Assembly (UGSA), the graduate student assembly (GSA) and school and college. Boards must define their “housing plan” to protect all graduate and undergraduate students. An accompanying condition was that all the results of the meeting be made transparent to the student body.

The third written and taped request at the main entrance to Blackburn.
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According to The Hilltop, President Frederick has refused to release any information regarding the university’s housing partnership with Corvias, which funds, manages and maintains four residential facilities on campus. However, Frederick partially accepted the appeal, saying, “The student life committee has scheduled a town hall on October 25 to discuss one of the issues – well, several issues – but one of the issues regarding affiliates of the board of directors and Marie Johns is the president. of the committee. So, I will listen to you and my goal is to answer all your questions.

The protest site also serves as a food resource for students without access to any on campus, as Blackburn, which houses a cafeteria and other food vendors, remains inaccessible. “Since the administration is not going to protect and help us, we are going to appeal for help from the community. This is when The Live Movement started to lead people to a central and trusted platform, ”Vines said with reference to the designated protest grounds. The area remains afloat, in part, thanks to donations from grassroots organizations. Through the fellowship of the community, the students were provided with food, toiletries, blankets and other essential materials to help them support their demonstration.

Student going to Harriet’s Wildest Dreams DC tent to eat.
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University police remain present at the Blackburn Takeover protest site.
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Students have struggled with homelessness since the start of the school year

While the university signaled its intention to return to in-person learning in June, there were still several complaints that some classes have moved from virtual to in-person, or vice versa, as little as one. week before the start of school, leaving little time for students and teachers to establish accommodation. Students felt there was a lack of communication about housing availability and blended learning expectations, causing disruption that would precede the Blackburn takeover.

“We were on hold with the [university] housing department for over an hour, some people reported up to two hours, ”said Erica England, a political science student, of her efforts to find housing solutions for some students through the housing line of the University. “When we were finally successful, I was directed to a website that I could have found on my own. When I expressed that [the listed] housing partners who did not have enough places to accommodate all the students, I was told that I was going to have to find this on my own.

England, who is also president of the Howard chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America, felt called upon to make a statement on behalf of homeless students, staging what it called a “sit-out” protest. at the start of the school year. . On the edge of campus, for a total of 12 hours, she sat with other dissatisfied students hoping to encourage the university to be more diligent in its solutions to no avail.

“There should have been something in place to help these students. Howard has received a lot of funding this year and a lot of people don’t see the responsibility of where it’s going. But we continue to see tuition fees rising, ”she added.


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