HBCU Buzz
Charter Day Convocation. Courtesy of Justin Edwards

Concerns Grow About Howard University’s President Amid Student Protests

Celebrating 150 years of excellence in truth and service, Howard University hosted its 93rd annual Charter Day Convocation on March 2 with speaker Mark A.L. Mason-Howard University Alumnus and Board of Trustee. The sesquicentennial celebration highlighted historical milestones, achievements, and the positive impact the university has had since its founding in 1867 in addition to an unforeseen statement that shifted the fluidity of the program.

While the 17th president of Howard, President Wayne Frederick, made remarks following the invocation, he was briefly interrupted by a movement entitled ‘HU Resist’ — a movement whose aim is to raise awareness to issues affecting students and propose solutions to these concerns. Their appearance seemed unexpected from the audience’s facial expression.

The two-minute outburst directed towards Frederick can be found here.

HU Resist member Juan Demetrixx shed light onto the direct action:

“All eyes would be drawn to Howard at this time as it celebrates 150 years. The only time the administration would listen is when Howard’s image is being questioned or challenged. There is a lack of transparency between President Frederick and the students and we wish that when speaking with President Donald Trump he speaks upon our behalf and interests as students. He continued. We know that Howard receives funding from the federal government and it would be illogical not to from some type of relationship with the Trump administration. We don’t want any additional funding that comes with stipulations. More money from a white supremacist will result in them having more say of various decisions within the university.”

References to the actions displayed prior to and during the interruption were mentioned by Chairman of the Board of Trustees Stacey J. Mobley, Esq., Mason and President Frederick. Two days prior, not an official act by HU Resist, spray paint was plastered upon Howard’s campus referring to President Frederick’s visit to the White House while meeting with Vice President Michael Pence and Secretary of Education Elisabeth DeVos to discuss the state of Howard University in a Trump era. Last week, signs were posted around campus claiming President Frederick does not like black people also an anonymous act.

Frederick said in a statement that “Howard University has been tied to federal government from conception. If it does not exist another day because we refuse to engage and direct people of who we are and how we can benefit, I would shed a tear. I acknowledge and understand the rhetoric and executive orders have aroused many of us yet we must define who are enemy is. We must remind each other of what the reality is.”

Frederick continued, “I attended the White House and met with Betsy DeVos, but was not apart of the meeting with other HBCU presidents. Every opportunity we get to exercise our case, exercise our talents and explain who we are we must do.”

Mobley shared his thoughts on the actions prior to, saying “Claiming President Frederick is the overseer of the Trump Plantation and not caring about black people is not tolerated. He is a very effective president who is doing an excellent job. The board has done a lot of great things and the best thing we have done is select him as 17th president of Howard. He chose to come to Howard and work at Howard University Hospital to care for predominately African American patients and train with African American doctor. These personal attacks on him are untrue, unfair, and I feel disrespectful and that behavior is not welcomed on our campus.”

Mason also tried to reassure the audience of President Frederick’s qualifications.

“When it was time to choose a new president,” Mason said, “it was clear, unanimously that President Frederick, as a transformative leader who bleeds Howard red and blue, was and is the right man for the job. As exact as he is with a scalpel in the operating room, he is the same when executing the vision for Howard.

“He focuses and engages on faculty, students, and student leaders in an unwavering commitment to the university. I can think of no one better on our march to history,” Mason added.

Freshman Ariel Adams comments on her first Charter Day Convocation experience.

“Everything could have been carried out differently,” Adams said. “For the alumni that came, it seemed like we were being disrespectful, but of course they are not on campus so they don’t know the issues on campus. No one is contributing or investing in us. We are not getting money from anyone else so we have to face reality.”

Although Howard is going through a period of dissimilar attitudes between students and faculty, Mason reminded the audience that “Howard’s cause is America’s cause. It’s the vessel that holds America’s promise and has been this way for 150 years.”

“It is my duty, your duty, our duty to lay our reputation on the line for it, our names are on it and we need to bring an honor to it when Howard puts its name in all of us,” Mason said.

Jacinth Jones

An aspiring journalist attending Howard University.