Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick urged student demonstrators to end their protest at a student center on campus.
“The occupation of the Blackburn center must end,” he wrote in an open letter on Tuesday (Oct. 26).
“There may be areas where we agree to disagree,” he stated. “That’s the nature of a vibrant community. However, Howard University’s proud tradition of student protest has never been – and can never be – invoked as a justification for tactics that harm our students. The current occupation of the Armour J. Blackburn Center is a departure from past norms.”
The demonstrations began Oct. 13 and now, after taking over the Blackburn University Center, some of the students are camping out in tents, according to local Washington station WTTG. At the center of their complaints is poor housing conditions on the campus, including mold and mice in the dorms.
“There is a distinct difference between peaceful protest and freedom of expression and the occupation of a University building that impedes operations and access to essential services and creates health and safety risks,” Frederick said.
According to The Washington Post, the campus’ largest cafeteria is located in the occupied building, as well as offices for student life and activities. The occupation forced the university to relocate a coronavirus testing site to the Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library, university.
“It was sad,” Folasade Fashina told The Post, reacting to the president’s letter.
Fashina, a senior, attended the protests but lives off campus.
“It echoes a lot of the sentiments that were in previous emails, as far as attempting to make it seem like this protest is different from the ones of the past. They’d prefer to attack [students'] credibility than to do their job,” Fashina continued.
Frederick addressed the housing conditions in his letter, saying that all students “deserve a best-in-class dormitory experience.”
“While there have only been a small number of documented facilities reports relative to our entire inventory of residence rooms, we are actively inquiring about unreported issues that may be in the residence halls by going door to door to interview and assist each resident,” he stated.
In addition to fixing housing conditions, The Post said protesters have three other core demands: an in-person town hall with Frederick and other officials before the end of the month; the permanent reinstatement of student, alumni and faculty affiliate positions that are being removed from the school’s board of trustees; and legal, disciplinary and academic immunity for protesters.
RELATED: Howard University Students Protest Housing Conditions
RELATED: Lil Durk Walks Off Stage During Performance At Howard University Homecoming
The demonstrations come in the midst of Howard University’s annual homecoming celebrations, one of the most popular among HBCUs. But at least one participating celebrity was less than happy with the environment.
Chicago rapper Lil Durk was captured in a Tik Tok video walking off the stage during a performance, complaining that the atmosphere was “bogus.” It is unclear if his exit had anything to do with the protests.