Dozens of Howard University students are staging a sit-in at the university demanding better housing conditions in dorms.
According to The Live Movement, the #BlackburnTakeover sit-in started Tuesday night when students gathered at the Blackburn University Center and rallied for university officials to address their concerns.
Videos posted to their Instagram account show students sleeping on the floor and in sleeping bags.
The Live Movement says students have three specific demands:
- In-person town hall with President Frederick and the administration scheduled before October ends
- Reinstate all affiliate trustee positions (students, faculty, and alumni) on the board of trustees with voting power
- The president and chairman of the board propose a meeting with student leadership outlining their "housing plan" to protect the incoming classes of Howard's immediate future
According to their page, students say "instead of helping with getting our demands met, Howard University shut down the Blackburn Building were occupying and not allowing students to eat breakfast."
Additionally, some students are calling out the university on Twitter.
"The fire alarm was pulled by police as a tactic to get the students out," user @HarrietsDreams tweeted.
Another student tweeted Tuesday night that "Howard Students are doing a #BlackburnTakeover! We are staying here ALL NIGHT until the demand for BASIC HUMAN DECENCY are met. There are rats and roaches in the cafe, students without housing and mold in the limited housing that is available. This is unacceptable. #FightBack"
More footage from the sit-in Tuesday night:
Howard students have previously dealt with issues in their dorms. Earlier this month, 7News reported on flooding issues in several dorm rooms of the school and in January 2018, some students didn't have heat in their dorms due to boiler issues and ruptured steam pipes caused by cold weather.
7News reached out to officials with Howard University on comments regarding the sit-in. They released this statement:
On Tuesday, October 12, the Office of Student Affairs was alerted of a protest led by a group of students at the Blackburn Multipurpose Center on Howard’s campus.
While we will always support the right to a peaceful protest, this small faction group interrupted a constructive dialogue during a town hall led by the Howard University Student Association, instigated a sit-in in the Blackburn Multipurpose Center, and moved to occupy the building forcibly.
Some students also committed multiple violations to the Student Code of Conduct and as a result, the students were asked to vacate the Blackburn Center and to meet with judicial affairs to discuss these Student Code of Conduct violations.
The well-being of our students is one of our top concerns and the University continues to offer support to students who report needing assistance. In the past two weeks, University administrators prioritized meeting with the students over lunch and already addressed many of the concerns this group of students has voiced, including:
While we have always prioritized freshman and sophomore for on campus housing, we opened on-campus housing availability to juniors and seniors and promoted this throughout the month of August and beyond. Students who reported any issues related to flooding or mold growth in the residences were met with options to relocate to comparable spaces, either temporarily or permanently, and the third-party vendor responsible for managing our residences was held fully accountable.
Financial Support for Students
Throughout the pandemic, Howard helped students access laptops, kept the campus food pantry open, housed displaced students, and provided emergency funds for families in need.
In August, Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick announced it would clear the debts of juniors and seniors facing financial hardships as a result of the pandemic. Students who had an expected family contribution of $0 and an outstanding balance for the Spring 2021 semester received a credit to their accounts that completely eliminated their debt. Additionally, the University has continued to leverage its financial aid resources through the Graduation Retention Access to Continued Excellence (GRACE) Grant, which pays the remaining tuition and selected mandatory fees for highest-need students who are on track for graduation.
The University values student's voices and perspectives. In June, the Board of Trustees, after an extensive review of its governance structure, made the decision to phase out affiliate positions held by alumni, faculty, and students. We have addressed this decision with the student protestors in recent talks and have made clear that the decision was made with increased efficiency and real stakeholder representation in mind. The University is continuing to develop new ways to encourage meaningful and truly representative leadership from its students.