Mold, rats, and roaches. That is the current housing situation for students at Howard University. Last week, hundreds of students rallied at the Blackburn University Center to protest the university’s poor housing conditions and lack of student representation on the school’s board of trustees.
HU students have been dealing with deplorable situations of rats, roaches, mildew, mold, and broken pipes in their dorm rooms. Students have also been documenting their experiences using the hashtag, #BlackburnTakeover on Tiktok. One TikTok user shared a video of mold growing on her shoes, clothes, and her fan.
Howard Students are doing a #BlackburnTakeover! We are staying here ALL NIGHT until the demand for BASIC HUMAN DECENCY are met. There are rats and roaches in the cafe, students without housing and mold in the limited housing that is available. This is unacceptable. #FightBack pic.twitter.com/bNSrdBbSZr
— Afeni 🔥 | #SaveSilwan (@ReddIsAri) October 13, 2021
Another video sent to Fox DC shows exposed leaking water pipes and mildew.
One woman tweeted, “I have to contextualize the issues students have had at Howard because it is truly inhumane what undergraduates go through. This thread will go the history of civil disobedience and issues with the living conditions at Howard.”
Another wrote, “What in the world?! Isn’t @HowardU one of the most if not the most prestigious HBCU in the country? These students are paying money to live in these conditions and what is the school doing? Howard, get your act together!
Students are also demanding representation in student leadership on the Board of Trustees.
Protest enters the second week
The sit-in over the poor housing began on Oct. 12, followed by protests the next day. The demonstration was organized by the historically Black college and university coalition group, Live Movement. The demonstration is currently in its second week.
Students were reportedly threatened with expulsion and refused to leave until administrators addressed demands for an in-person town hall with Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick. Demonstrators have slept in the center since the strike began.
Cynthia Evers, student affairs Vice President, sent out an email on Oct. 13 stating that students violated Howard’s code of conduct by demonstrating and will face the repercussions.
“This letter serves as a warning to all students who are in the Blackburn Multipurpose Center and have occupied University-owned and -operated space, after hours, without authorization and with disruption to the University process,” Evers’ email said.
“Specifically, you will proceed through a student conduct hearing and face consequences up to and including expulsion from the University. The judicial process will be conducted within the procedures of the Student Code of Conduct.”
Refuse to leave until demands are met
But the students have made it clear they are not going anywhere until their demands are met. Many are camping out in tents outside of Blackburn, as the cold temperatures set in.
— Dr. Ravi K. Perry (@raviperry) October 19, 2021
“We will refuse closed meetings,” the students released a statement as a whole on Tuesday in response to Evers’ message. The video was posted on Live Movement’s Instagram. One student added, “This is a clear and concise message from the Blackburn Takeover Family to administration; we will not be leaving this building until our demands are met,” one student said. “So, the sooner you come to that realization, the sooner we can get the f*ck out.”
The group also added they were willing to disrupt any homecoming activities or potential donor opportunities for the school until the administration sat down with them. But disrupting homecoming should not be an issue since several celebrities who were slated to perform during the festivities have opted out and joined in solidarity.
This week, Gucci Mane and his 1017 label artists Big Scarr, HotBoyWes, and Bic Fizzle canceled their HU homecoming performance to show support. One video posted on Instagram showed the rappers demonstrating outside with the students.
HU’s homecoming week kicks off on Oct. 21.
Board of Trustees respond
Last weekend, the board of trustees issued a statement advocating for a welcoming and accepting environment on campus.
“Howard University represents a long-standing tradition of using our voices to drive change. The student voice is – and always will be – an essential component of the Howard University community. Simply put, we hear you and we continue to welcome your viewpoints on all matters pertaining to Howard,” the statement read.
The board also addressed the recent protests happening on the campus.
“We recognize that, despite our efforts, there are those in our community who have struggled to find housing opportunities. We are committed to helping these students and working with the administration to ensure adequate on-campus housing conditions.”
The #BlackburnTakeover has garnered support from several Howard University departments, including the university’s NAACP chapter.
“We stand in solidarity with the student body who has continuously been ignored and mistreated,” the organization posted on their Instagram. “We stand in solidarity with the student body who has declared that enough is enough.”
The chapter currently has a petition calling for the administration to take action. The Alpha Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. has also expressed its support.
In a statement posted on their Instagram post on Oct. 14, the sorority said in part, “Like our beloved Soror Zora Neale Hurston once said, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”We believe it is time to provide answers for the Howard University community at large.”
Deidre Redhead is a junior journalism and international relations student at Stony Brook University. Her bylines include The Statesman and Mission Magazine.