Howard U. president: Blackburn Center protest ‘must end’

Howard University’s president said in a letter to the community on Tuesday that the student occupation of the Blackburn Center “must end.”

Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick acknowledged the tradition of protest at Howard, saying that “Protest has been a perennial part of our institutional culture.” But he said the Blackburn Center protest was “a departure from past norms” and that the students’ tactics “harm our students.”

“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.”

The protest began two weeks ago, over housing conditions and a lack of representation on the university’s board of trustees.

Protesters formed a tent city and have said they will only talk to Frederick and the board, rejecting attempts by Vice President of Student Affairs Cynthia Evers to negotiate.

The statement wasn’t a surprise; a student said Monday in a statement posted to Instagram that the administration’s counsel said that they wouldn’t discuss student demands until the protest was over.

“We will not leave; we will not tire,” the student said, adding that the protest was in the Howard University tradition. “Be bold; be brave,” the student said they’d been taught.

WTOP’s Ivy Lyons contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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