Howard University president: Student protests have led to layoffs of cafeteria workers

The president of Howard University in D.C. said the student occupation of campus buildings due to an ongoing protest has led to layoffs in the cafeteria because it has not been able to operate.

Students have been occupying the Blackburn University Center since Oct. 12 over a number of issues they said the university has failed to address. Among them: the condition of on-campus housing, the availability of university-run housing, COVID-19 preparedness and student representation on the university’s board of trustees.

University President Wayne A.I. Frederick released a statement Tuesday saying the ongoing occupation of Blackburn had kept the cafeteria from operating, and that the university’s food service provider, Sodexo, had made the decision to lay off staff as a result. Sodexo is a global company with over 400,000 employees.

“I once again wish to share my support for peaceful protest and the rights of Howard students to use their platforms to advocate for change,” Frederick said in the statement. “The Howard University team and its partners continue to go above and beyond to proactively address facilities concerns.”

On Nov. 1, the university said 15 employees of the cafeteria had been laid off as a result of the occupation of Blackburn.

University students and alumni responded to the university’s statement on Twitter, calling it misleading to put the blame on student protesters.

Frederick said that students have not been able to use their campus meal plans fully during the protest. The university said students would be able to roll over dining dollars into the spring semester because of the disruption of services.

Frederick also said he would be willing to meet with the students who were protesting to hear their concerns, but only after they end their occupation of the Blackburn Center.

The university announced Monday that it had added two student representative positions to the committee level of the board of trustees, and that the university’s student body president and graduate student council president would be taking over those positions.

Frederick will address the university in his annual State of the University speech on Nov. 5.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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