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‘Students Not Asking for Something Unreasonable’: Howard Students Stage Protests Demanding Better Housing, Some Say The Issues Are a Byproduct of Underfunding

Howard University students are protesting to have their voices heard and draw attention to poor housing conditions. “There are serious concerns obviously there are some things that can be done quicker than others,” said Leslie Jones, founder of The Hundred-Seven.

Social media videos from students have gone viral over the last week showing moldy dorm rooms with some fixtures possessing yellow and white mold meanwhile other videos show water drenched walls and ceilings with some of them showing signs of cracking.

Jones says the problems Howard University is facing is not unique and neither is the way students are protesting. “Howard attracts students who believe in activism and do things differently,” Jones said.

“The same things that might occur on another campus that would get handled one way. Howard students are going to handle it a different way.”

Protesting students are calling for more transparency from the school administration, they want representation on the Board of Trustees, and they also want the dorm buildings experiencing mold fixed.

“The students leading that protest were not asking for something unreasonable, and I don’t think they necessarily expect a quick fix,” Jones said.

She lays part of the blame on the pandemic, which shut down schools. “These buildings have sat empty for a year and a half, and whatever maintenance that may have been done on them on an ongoing basis wasn’t happening because there was no one there,” she said.

Some 94 percent of Howard University’s freshmen and sophomores live on campus, with housing costs ranging from $5,896 to $11,084 annually and overall undergraduate tuition $49,270 per year.

The student protests began the same week Howard received its largest donation ever, worth $5 million from alumni Eddie and Sylvia Brown.

Students want some of that money used to improve housing. However, that money is earmarked for the Graduation Retention Access to Continued Education (GRACE) grant for students facing financial barriers.

Jones says the situation at Howard University is emblematic of a larger problem facing Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the country because they are underfunded when compared to predominantly white colleges and universities.

“It’s nowhere near the landscape that historically white colleges have in terms of their endowment,” she said.

Atlanta Black Star sought comment from Howard University’s spokesperson but did not hear back as of this report.

The university did respond to students in a letter that highlighted, “The Board supports and encourages the administration’s open, constructive dialogue with students” the letter also said, “where issues exist, we will fix them.”

In August, the Brookings Institution reported that the ten largest HBCU endowments in 2020 totaled $2 billion, compared against $200 billion dollars in endowments at the top predominantly white institutions.

In May, Democratic congresswoman Alma Adams of North Carolina introduced the IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act.

The Institutional Grants for New Infrastructure, Technology and Education for Excellence Act provides support for renovation, repairing and constructing new campus facilities, improved high-speed broadband among other common needs among HBCUs. No action has been taken on the bill as of this report.

HBCU students mobilizing to attract attention from their school’s administration extends beyond Howard University. Atlanta University Center students from Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Spelman College protested for better housing recently.

Interim Executive Director of Atlanta University Center Consortium Michael Hodge says he is aware of the students’ demands for better housing and the students were told by their respective schools to speak with him directly about their concerns, but Hodge says he has not heard from the protesting students as of this report.

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