Students at one of America’s top HBCUs are protesting a long list of problems faced by students at the school, including sexual assault, safety, food and the lack of maintenance of campus facilities.
The long-simmering situation at Hampton University is reaching a slow boil, pitting the student body against the university’s leadership and administration. Faced with a maelstrom of criticism over the school’s perceived apathy and lack of concern for the constituents of the heralded Virginia school, the Pirates of Hampton now face a quiet mutiny that has not only manifested itself on campus but has also spilled over onto social media and the public eye.
Hampton trails only Spelman College and Howard University on U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 list of the best HBCUs in America. Founded in 1868, the liberal arts institution of more than 4,600 students is always included in the list of historically black schools known as the “black Ivy League.”
On Feb. 20, Hampton students, frustrated by a number of unaddressed issues, held a town hall meeting to confront the school administration’s seeming indifference to the concerns repeatedly raised by various groups at the school. According to several Hampton students who spoke with The Root, the airing of grievances quickly turned contentious when students felt that Hampton’s leadership was ignoring and belittling their concerns.
One of the more important issues mentioned at the protests and by the students who reached out to The Root was what the students described as a prevailing culture of sexual assault on campus and the administration’s perceived unwillingness to address the issue.
Each freshman and transfer to Hampton is required to take a course called University 101, focused on the tradition of the college. According to the university, the U101 course covers test anxiety, personal finance, the dress code and even the alma mater. The student catalog describes the University 101 course as:
A one-semester required orientation course designed to improve the quality of the freshman experience for entering students by helping them understand the purpose and value of higher education at Hampton University, as well as the larger context in which that education takes place and the multicultural nature of the problems and concerns which it addresses; to develop positive attitudes toward the teaching learning process; and to acquire coping skills essential for successful college life.
Despite the school’s past problems with sexual assault, including a 2014 case of a faculty member allegedly assaulting a student and a report that the school is being investigated by the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division for violating Title IX campus sexual-violence policies, Hampton still lags behind other schools in informing students about sexual assault on campus.
For comparison, since 2014, Howard University has mandated that all freshmen take Title IX training. According to student organizers, Hampton, in its University 101 course, has chosen to solve its campus problem of sexual misconduct in a unique way:
By not addressing it at all.