Fifty years ago, solidarity between Howard University students brought national attention to the class of 1968 due to university’s failure to include student input and in 2018, nothing has changed.
Since Thursday, at least 300 student demonstrators have staged an administration building sit-in “after 13 months of organizing, talking with administrators and exhausting all forms of protest.” The demonstration comes after a student whistleblower exposed the financial aid office for misappropriating funds on the online publishing platform Medium.
Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick confirmed these allegations Wednesday, March 28.
Many students applaud HU Resist for their leadership and efforts to raise awareness of issues and concerns plaguing the university. Students say the administration building has created unnecessary red tape also known as “the Howard runaround.”
HU Resist, the student organization leading the sit-in, has fostered a sense of family and community in a space where students previously felt intimidated, neglected and belittled.
“Before [the sit-in], I would come into the administration building emotionally armored to prepare myself for whatever attitude or obstacle might be in the way of what I came into this building for. Now, walking into this building seems very open. I don’t feel like I have to prepare myself for negativity. This whole building has a different energy to it. It feels like the bison family I came to Howard for,” said freshman Journee Harris.
Over the past seven days, HU Resist has organized tutoring and counseling services, know your rights workshops, healing spaces, art therapy classes and gender neutral bathrooms. Some say the student organization has produced more of an inclusive community than Howard has.
“The building has given me a sense of democracy, community and family. Before it was dreadful and painful. HU Resist made it feel like they weren’t worried about who was in charge as long as they got what everybody needed. The power structure is such an important thing at Howard and getting rid of that by creating a democratic society has prevented any problems that could occur in the future,” sophomore Jason Hilaire said.
“Since we are all here for one cause, there’s nothing we need to worry about. There is no craziness going on. Everyone is all in sync,” he continued.
From holding discussions about black queer spaces and placing an emphasis on respecting preferred pronouns, the administration building has transformed from what students say a belligerent space into a safe haven.
Although a junior transfer student at Howard, Savannah Howard has had her share of financial aid woes.
“Every time I walked into this building, I felt hopeless and annoyed. As a transfer student there have been a number of things that have gone wrong. The building wasn’t serving its purpose that it was promised to us, but now we have collective power. I’m not mad anymore. I’m not the way I felt when I had to come in this building to handle matters of my own. This building is filled with students that look like me which gives this building a comforting vibe. It has become a second home to me,” said Howard.
It is unsure how long HU Resist and other student demonstrators will reside in the administration building, but students claim they will not be leaving until the resignation of Frederick and the Board of Trustees is fulfilled.
HU Resist presented the Board of Trustees and Frederick a list of nine demands which include providing adequate housing, hiring more counselors for mental and emotional health issues and disarming campus police officers.
The student activist group formed in February 2016 to “make sure that Howard University fulfills its mission to [us].” HU Resist and student demonstrators hope to hold Howard administrators accountable for their lack of transparency and their abrasive treatment towards students.