Howard President Responds to Students' Demands

Published September 14, 2009

In an effort to address the student demands raised during the Sept. 4 protest , President Sidney A. Ribeau and Interim Provost and Chief Academic Officer Alvin Thornton sat down  with The Hilltop to go through each presented demand.

Demand:  Hours of the  Financial Aid office should be immediately extended until 7 p.m. until the set purge date with staff (i.e. certified financial aid officers and managers) in place to render quality customer service and to serve the unusually large number of students who have yet to be validated.

Response: “That’s something that I agree with and will, in fact, do,” Ribeau said.

Thornton said even before students raised the concern, this issue was a priority. He said that the office will be open from 8:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. until the set purge date. He said additional staff people will be needed, but they have agreed to move a substantial part of the operation back to the Amour J. Blackburn Center. Ribeau said this move will be completed by Friday. “It’s not easy, but that’s what we’re going to do.”

Demand: 24-hour, 7-day a week access to the Undergraduate Library and Founders Library, as well as significant capital improvements and renovations to Founders Library and Undergraduate Library.

Response: According to Ribeau, studies have been conducted to show there is not a demand for 24-hour, 7-day-a-week libraries. He said the university cannot afford to keep them open all the time when the demand is not there. However, he said if there is a substantial demand, then the university will find a way to do it.

Demand: A student-accessible, consistently updated, itemized budget.

Response: According to Ribeau, that is already available to  students. The budget is available online via http://www.provost.howard.edu/HUBudgetProcess.asp. Ribeau said, previously, no one knew where the money was being allocated or how the money was generated, but it is transparent as of last semester.

Demand: Expand university technology platform to include Google Apps for Education (free e-mail, calendar, documents, spreadsheets, etc.) – a proposal student leaders submitted two months ago [Google Apps for Education].

Response: The Senior Vice President Strategic Planning, Operations & External Affairs & Chief Technology Officer Hassan Minor was on leave at the time the proposal was presented, but he has returned. He will meet with School of Business President Jewel Burks, Undergraduate Student Trustee Nnamdi Anozie, who presented the proposal, and whoever else, according to Ribeau. Ribeau was not able to comment on the specifics because he cannot verify that we have the capabilities or the necessary infrastructure for these programs. He expects those questions to be resolved at that meeting.

Demand: Immediate resignation of executive leadership in the Office of Student Affairs for reasons including, but not limited to, intimidation of students, unprofessionalism, infringing upon students’ First Amendment Rights and not adhering to the Howard University Employee Code of Conduct.

Response: Ribeau said if in fact these allegations are true, then they need to be brought to the attention of Thornton, who resides over the Office of Student Affairs. “Everybody is entitled to due process,” he said.

Thornton said a formal grievance must be filed; It cannot be innuendo or hearsay. People must have their day in court before action is taken, he said.

Demand: Immediate evaluation and reorganization of Howard University Judiciary process to include students to be facilitated by the Office of Special Student Services in collaboration with HUSA.

Response: According to Thornton, students already have the option of having their case heard before their peers, faculty, staff and students, or a judicial review board.

Demand: Expedite the process of hiring both a permanent provost and vice president of Student Affairs; Interim periods should be limited to six months.

Response: The search for the provost and vice president of student affairs will conclude in December of 2009. A provost will be in place in January, Ribeau said. He also said there will be another opportunity for students to meet the candidates, but the previous candidates did not have the right combination of qualities for this university as it is right now. He said that it is a mixture of managerial skills, disciplinary expertise, timing and knowledge of the judicial process.

Demand: All handicap entrances and elevators need to be updated and made compliant with the Federal ADA Standards.

Response: “This is a work in progress,” Ribeau said. Locke Hall has been completed and Douglass Hall and the C.B. Powell buildings are under construction. He said that Physical Facilities Management has identified the areas that need improvement and will work upon those areas as funds become available.

Demand: Establishment of a Student Advisory Committee for the Office of Student Financial Services with student evaluation of entire Office of Financial Services to ensure staff competence and transparency.

Response: Ribeau said this is not something that he had previously given much thought.He is considering establishing the committee, but more thought about the feasibility and implementation needs to be discussed before it can come to fruition. Philosophically, he said he doesn’t believe that the university should be run by a singular group. Howard will succeed or fail based on the people at Howard, he said.

Demand: Establish wireless connectivity for the entire campus with an operational date of no later than Nov. 1, 2009. (In the 21st century it is imperative that this university is technologically adept, and the last stand is a wireless campus.)

Response: “We don’t have the  money right now,” Ribeau said. He said that each academic year they try to do a little more, such as the School of Dentistry receiving wireless this year. He said that the need for wireless Internet capabilities competes with the needs for dorms, facility upgrades and other issues.

Demand: Implementation of comprehensive recycling program in compliance with Washington, D.C. regulations. (Please be mindful that this program was scheduled launch on Sept. 1, 2009 and has been pushed back numerous times prior to setting the aforementioned date.)

Response: He said he will have to check on the delayed process, but we should have had a recycling plan on Sept. 1. Currently, a letter of intent has been signed and a vendor  has been identified.

Demand: All recipients of university-issued scholarships who have satisfied all necessary requirements should be validated immediately.

Response: “If I am reading this right, then you are right,” Ribeau said. He said he has not heard before that students on scholarship are not validated and that this should not be the case.

Demand: All university officials who are obligated to raise money for the university should be charged with the responsibility of contributing funds to a major fundraising campaign for capital improvements, most especially a new dormitory.

Response: Ribeau said he does not know if he can dictate what people raise money for and support. Some people raise money for AIDS, cancer and other causes.

Written by Jessica Lewis, Black College Wire 

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