Oct 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Howard president: Occupation of student center "must end"

tents outside a building

Tents set up near the Blackburn University Center as students protest poor housing conditions on the campus of Howard University on Oct. 25. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick in a letter to students and staff Monday said a weeks-long student sit-in at a campus student center "must end."

Catch up fast: Students began their occupation of the Blackburn Center on Oct. 12, aiming to get school officials to address safety concerns in campus housing, and to give students representation on the board of trustees.

  • Students had reported black mold, water leaks, and that they've seen bugs and rodents in university facilities.

What they're saying: Frederick lauded Howard's history of vibrant student protest but said the sit-in was a "departure from past norms."

  • "There is a distinct difference between peaceful protest and freedom of expression and the occupation of a University building that impedes operations and access to essential services and creates health and safety risks," he said.
  • "The occupation of the Blackburn center must end," he added.

Frederick said in the letter that the university had invited a building inspector, student leaders, board members and others to inspect conditions in the student facilities.

  • The problems that were reported concerned only a small number of buildings and "the vast majority of our students are living comfortably," he said.

It's the second large student protest of its kind in the last few years at Howard. Students and alumni say the university still isn’t putting students first.

  • The other side: “His focus is still not meeting our demands, but getting us out of this building. He must not understand that the only way we’ll leave this building is if he meets our demands,” the Live Movement, which helped organize the demonstration, posted on Instagram.

State of play: Howard's Blackburn Center hosts the school's largest cafeteria and other student services. The building's occupation had forced the relocation of a COVID-19 testing center, according to the Washington Post.

  • While about 50 students have set up camp inside the center, dozens more pitched tents outside, per the Post.
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