Howard students occupy admin building, demand disarming of police

Student activists at Howard University are demanding that the school disarm its police force and create an “investigative body of students” to evaluate offensive language.

The demands come in the wake of a financial aid scandal that resulted in six employees being fired for allegedly pocketing about $1 million in excess tuition funds over a period of nine years.

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“The investigation found that from 2007 to 2016, University grants were given to some University employees who also received tuition remission,” university President Wayne Frederick explained in a statement last week. “The audit revealed that the combination of University grants and tuition remission exceeded the total cost of attendance. As a result, some individuals received inappropriate refunds.”

According to News Fix, the student group HU Resist issued a list of demands in late March, claiming that the university administration has been careless with its financial practices.

“We are trying to transform this institution,” a Howard student protester, Juan Demetrixx, told the publication. “We want to spark a national campaign where students all across the nation start to build a movement where they democratize their own institution.” 

Last week, the students staged a protest at the school, occupying the university’s administration building and vowing not to leave until their grievances are addressed by Howard officials. The students remained in place as of Thursday afternoon, marking eight days since the occupation began, HU Resist tweeted.

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According to the list of demands published by HU Resist, the students want the university to implement several changes “in order to transform our institution into a democratic, Black University that acts as a safe-haven for all Black students.”

“We demand that Howard University implement a grievance system to hold faculty and administrators accountable in their language and actions toward students with marginalized identities,” one of the items states. 

“Currently, there is no effective system in place for students to report misconduct and harmful behavior, such as the use of sexist, classist, colorist, queerphobic, ableist, and xenophobic language,” the document explains. “Under this system, complaints would be reported to an investigative body of students, faculty, and administrators.”

Additionally, the group is calling for the “immediate disarming of campus police officers and the formation of a Police Oversight Committee controlled by students, faculty, staff, and off-campus community representatives.”

“If the University truly respects the value of Black life, it must take a preventative approach to police violence,” the students argue. “As long as campus police officers have guns, there is a potential for lethal violence, and we cannot afford to wait until a tragedy occurs to disarm them.”

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Other demands published by the group include a call for “adequate housing for all students under the age of 21,” an “immediate end to unsubstantiated tuition hikes,” an active fight against  “rape culture on campus,” implementation of “an inclusive attendance policy that accounts for mental and emotional health issues,” an “immediate resignation of President Wayne A.I. Frederick and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees,” and more.

According to the Howard student newspaper, The Hilltop, HU Resist has also engaged in controversial activity in the past, making national headlines last year for protesting a speech by former FBI Director James Comey.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @The_MasonMcKie