Howard University Students Protest Unsafe Housing Conditions
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- Students say the housing accomodations at Howard University are unsafe.
- Their protest movement includes an on-campus sit-in and a social media campaign.
- Students are also concerned with recent changes to the university's board of trustees.
Rats, roaches, and black mold are among the many issues plaguing Howard University housing, according to students who have launched a protest movement demanding improvements.
Students fed up with housing conditions launched a protest on October 12 with a staged sit-in at the Armour J. Blackburn University Center. They've also taken their movement to social media, where the hashtag #BlackburnTakeover has been trending as students document current living conditions on campus.
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According to Jacqueline Matter of Fox 5 DC, some students say mold and fungus are growing in the dorms. Others report an increase in the number of roaches and rodents in dormitories this fall. A viral video purportedly shows a burst pipe.
These concerns aren't new for the historically Black university. In 2012, HBCU Buzz reported that 19 Howard students filed a lawsuit against the university concerning the presence of rats, roaches, and mold in a dorm building.
University officials took a hardline stance on the protests at first, admonishing those who continued to obstruct access to university buildings for violating Howard's student code of conduct.
However, Howard administrators softened their stance in recent days. On October 19, Vice President for Student Affairs Cynthia Evers, Ed.D., released a statement on behalf of the university outlining actions Howard is taking to address students' housing concerns.
"Members of the administration have … toured and inspected every residence hall on campus and are addressing any documented facility issues directly with our third-party housing managers," reads the statement. "Our students can attest to Howard University staff and our housing providers visiting housing facilities over the last month to survey rooms and address concerns. [On October 18], the maintenance team conducted microbial wipe downs as a part of their full room checks in Drew and the Quad. This work will continue until every room has been checked."
The statement added that the reported problems don't seem to be widespread. Evers went on to say the administration invited the building inspector to tour residence halls within the past two weeks, and no regulatory fines were handed down.
"Our standard of excellence has never been the building inspection," the statement says. "We want our residents to be comfortable and safe. We will continue to have dialogue with our residents to enhance residential living."
Student housing isn't the only issue #BlackburnTakeover aims to address.
Protestors also request that the university's board of trustees reverse a June decision to remove all affiliate trustee roles for faculty, students, and alumni. The board stated in June that it will adopt "a number of additional mechanisms and forums across the university to solicit and provide broad input from a wide array of university stakeholders, particularly faculty and students." However, the board did not state how it plans to do this.
Those who oppose the move worry removing the affiliate trustee roles will in turn remove representation for faculty and students on the board.
Most recently on October 16, the board stated that the student life committee plans to hold a dialogue session with select student leaders to address concerns later in the month.
In the meantime, #BlackburnTakeover continues on campus with growing support from influential leaders, including Martin Luther King III.
Feature Image: The Washington Post / Contributor / The Washington Post / Getty Images