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Howard students, administrators reach agreement, ending sit-in

Marie Johns, a Howard University trustee, discusses the agreement ending the student sit-in. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

WASHINGTON — Howard University students and administration Friday agreed on a “statement of commitment,” ending a sit-in that was in its ninth day.

Representatives and campus officials outlined their agreement during a late-afternoon news conference outside the site of the protest: the university’s administration building.

Seven of the protesters’ nine demands were addressed, but both the university president and trustees will not be stepping down.

“Despite the challenges we face and the differences of opinion amongst us, we recognize the importance of coming together to best serve our institution,” trustee Marie Johns told reporters Friday.

As part of the agreement …

  • The university will seriously consider holding undergrad tuition for 2019-2020.
  • Howard officials will engage students in examining the “adequacy of on-campus housing,” Johns said, to meet the school’s housing policy.
  • A series of task forces will be formed
    • to examine the current campus climate, in an effort to promote an academic/living environment free of sexual assault, harassment and other violence;
    • to enhance psychiatric and behavioral health services;
    • to review the Public Safety Department’s engagement with the student body, including its use of force; and
    • to address grievance mechanisms.
  • Students will have a voice in selecting the student’s ombudsperson.
  • The university will support a student-led effort to establish a food pantry in the Le Droit/Shaw area, near the campus.
  • A board committee on student life and affairs will also be formed (subject to approval from the school’s board governance committee).

Last week, administrators had also agreed to extend the deadline for a $200 housing deposit to May 1.

“It’s important for us to acknowledge that no significant change that has ever happened within the black community has happened without struggle,” protester Alexis McKenney told reporters.

The sit-in began March 29 amid the fallout from President Wayne A.I. Frederick’s statement confirming a “misappropriation of university-provided financial aid funds” from 2007 to 2016. Hundreds of protesters had occupied the building for over eight days.

The student group HU Resist had issued a variety of demands, which included adequate student housing for students under 21; an end to “unsubstantiated tuition hikes”; and addressing food insecurity and gentrification in the surrounding neighborhood.

Johns indicated that administrators know there is still work to be done. That was echoed by Frederick himself, who currently faces a no-confidence vote from faculty.

He agreed with McKenney that the agreement represents not an end but a beginning. “It is also the beginning of a process,” he said, “not just of reconciliation and healing but a process of how we go forward.”


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