Student sit-in enters 2nd day at Howard University’s Blackburn Center

Students occupy Howard University’s Blackburn Center on Oct. 13, 2021. (WTOP/John Domen)

A Howard University student-led protest over housing conditions and a lack of representation on the school’s board of trustees has entered a second day.

Students entered the Blackburn University Center on the school’s Northwest D.C. campus around lunchtime Tuesday and are refusing to leave until school administrators address demands for an in-person town hall with Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick, the reinstating of affiliate trustee positions with voting power and a meeting with student leadership on future housing plans.

Several issues are leaving students frustrated, including “the housing crisis we’re currently going through, tuition (and) corona preparedness,” according to one student in the ongoing sit-in, who requested anonymity fearing punishment from school officials.

“We hear nothing from upstairs and we’re left in the dark,” they said.

When a WTOP reporter showed up on campus, police ordered them to leave. But early Wednesday, the demonstration was peaceful, with students occupying the hallway in a quiet manner while three campus officers gathered in the building’s entranceway.

People leaving the demonstration were not being allowed back in.

“President Frederick, I would just like to ask for you to hear us, hear our voices, respect our opinions,” the student said, adding school leaders should not be surprised it came to this.

“We have frequently voiced our displeasure. We have frequently asked for our voices to be heard. This is the culmination of the frustration of the unheard.”

Cynthia Evers, vice president of student affairs for the university, said that some of the students participating in the sit-in had violated student code of conduct and would be asked to meet with the university’s student affairs.

The university’s official response said they made on-campus housing available to juniors and seniors “and promoted this throughout the month of August and beyond.”

They also said that any students who reported mold or flooding in university residences were given the option to relocate temporarily or permanently, and that the vendor responsible for managing residences had been held accountable for those conditions.

In response to the lack of affiliate trustees — which had been held by students, alumni and faculty — the university said the decision was made to get rid of those positions on the Board of Trustees “with increased efficiency and real stakeholder representation in mind.” The university said they hope to provide students with “new ways to encourage meaningful and truly representative leadership…”

WTOP’s Zeke Hartner contributed to this report.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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