Nov 3, 2021 - News

Howard University student protest continues

Tents outside of Blackburn Center on Howard's campus.

The protest extended beyond Blackburn Center as some students pitched tents outside. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Blackburn Takeover at Howard University has gone on for over three weeks as students continue to protest unsafe living conditions and advocate for representation on the board of trustees. 

The big picture: University officials and student protesters are in a deadlock as administrators promise to sit down with students occupying Blackburn Center once they leave, but the students say they won’t go until their demands are met.

Driving the news: Student protestors have gotten support from notable Howard alumni and others.

  • Rev. Jesse Jackson was on campus this week to meet with students and university officials.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) tweeted in support of protestors on Tuesday.
  • Rappers under artist Gucci Mane’s label have also shown support.

What’s happening: Since the protest began, the university has released multiple statements supporting the right to peaceful protest, but condemning the occupation of Blackburn Center, which also serves as a cafeteria. 

University president Wayne A. I. Frederick on Tuesday released a statement saying in part that Sodexo, the company that runs the cafeteria inside Blackburn, has had to layoff some employees as the result of being closed for so long.

  • His statement also mentioned COVID concerns, as some students are moving back and forth from Blackburn Center to their residence halls. 

Zoom in: Mold, leaks, and vermin are all issues in residence halls, according to students.

University officials have reported improvements in student housing and say the majority of students are "living comfortably."

  • But, students say unsafe living conditions are still an issue, and are calling for the historic HBCU to end its contracts with Corvias, the company that manages campus housing.
  • There have also been recent reports of safety issues in the university's chemistry building. The university addressed some of those concerns on Twitter.

Meanwhile, The Hilltop, HU’s student newspaper, also released a statement on Tuesday saying that it’s consulting with the Student Press Law Center following concerns about what The Hilltop calls efforts by the university to censor their reporting. 

In response, Frank Tramble, Howard's vice president and chief communications officer, sent Axios a statement saying in part, "To challenge student reporters to be accurate is not a call to silence their voice but elevate their practices to be respected in the industry."

Tramble went on to cite a few incidents involving Blackburn coverage where a student journalist recorded after being asked not to, and published off-the-record comments, among other issues.

The bottom line: The Blackburn Takeover has already far exceeded the 9-day Howard student protest in 2018, which ended with a deal between students and the university. This time there’s no clear end in sight. 


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