As its students continue their month-long protest at one of the nation’s most prominent HBCUs, Howard University officials are saying the housing conditions are not as bad as students are making it seem. They also said they are working to address the dorms where there are issues.
“The well-being of our students is always one of Howard University’s top concerns, and we always support students’ right to peacefully protest. The administration is actively addressing the concerns students have shared,” Howard’s Vice President of Communications Frank Tramble told ABC News in a statement. “While there have only been a small number of documented reports, we are actively seeking out any issues that may be in the dorms by going door to door to address each room.”
According to Howard University officials, there have only been 34 reports concerning mold, fungus and discoloration out of 5,050 beds. This is a total of 0.67 percent of the total beds on campus, they said. Tramble also said students need to follow protocol and submit maintenance requests if there is an issue in their dorms
“We also remind students to submit a maintenance request so we can address each situation and ensure our students’ living conditions are safe and habitable. We care about our students and are working to ensure that we are finding, addressing, and remediating any issues,” Tramble continued. “Cabinet members have personally visited our housing facilities every week over the last month to survey dorms in an attempt to address concerns.”
However, students persist there are major housing and infrastructure issues and they won’t stop protesting until they get sanitary dorms, reinstated Board of Trustee positions for students, faculty and alumni and assurance student protestors won’t be expelled or otherwise disciplined for their actions.
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“We are not satisfied. What we’re hearing is all talk. We’re waiting for those actions to be put in place so we can allow Howard to have their Blackburn cafeteria back, but until then, we will still be occupying that space until the demands are met,” Howard freshman Lamiya Murray, 18, said.
According to Murray, she has mold in her room she believes led to a respiratory infection. “I’m not going to say that I expect a lot more, I expect the bare minimum. I expect decent housing,” Murray added. “I expect to be in a space where I will feel safe and secure, but the dorms became a health hazard. I was waking up every morning with a cough that I didn’t go to sleep with the night before and struggling to breathe at night.”
Howard graduate student Deja Redding agreed with Murray. She is the director of The Live Movement, an organization on Howard’s campus that advocates for racial equity in education.
“There are students whose belongings were lost, or have been destroyed by floods, by mold, by all types of insufficient living conditions and it’s hurtful. Even if you’re not the person who is experiencing that, just listening and taking it in, with us being a community, it’s very hurtful to hear,” Redding said.
Some users on social media came to the students’ defense and said Howard University officials aren’t being forthcoming – including people who said they have relatives that attend Howard.
“Sir, my daughter is a freshman at Howard, and I can assure you it is more than 41 rooms. Her dorm alone almost hits that number and her room may be one of the worst,” @dre30047 tweeted. “My niece is at Howard and I know this a lie,” added Twitter user @KdotCam.
While students and their supporters certainly want to hold Howard’s administration accountable, they told Politico the problems they and fellow HBCU students across the country are facing are not new and could be helped if the federal government properly funded their schools.
Since Howard is U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris’ alma mater, students said they were hoping she would “pull” for HBCUs, whose proposed funding was drastically cut in negotiations for President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan.
“I expected that she [Harris] would definitely advocate for HBCUs because she talks about how much she loves Howard. So I’m hoping that she will,” said Erica England, one of the protest’s organizers. “Even if she doesn’t comment on Howard’s protest for whatever reason, I’m hoping that she will push either behind the scenes or publicly for there to be more HBCU funding.”
England added she believes if Biden really wanted to help HBCUs, he could.
“We have heard this before. Let’s be honest,” England said. “If he’s [Biden] really committed to racial equity, then that would include these historically Black colleges and universities, and finally giving them the care and attention that they deserve.”
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