EDITORIAL: #StudentPowerHU

Members of HU Resist Alexis McKenny (left) and Juan Demetrixx speak during a March 30 press conference by a group of students protesting the university's financial-aid embezzlement scandal. (WUSA-TV via Howard University News Service)
Members of HU Resist Alexis McKenny (left) and Juan Demetrixx speak during a March 30 press conference by a group of students protesting the university's financial-aid embezzlement scandal. (WUSA-TV via Howard University News Service)

It’s been more than a week since students at Howard University took over the Administration Building garnering national attention for their protest over several issues stemming from an investigation alleging misappropriation of financial aid funds. While this moment in time is reminiscent of the student takeover of the Administration Building 50 years ago, it is also implicative of the fact or feeling that little has changed at the university since then. Accordingly, it’s also why both students and the administration, including Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick, find themselves in this predictable pickle of a situation.

In December 2016, President Frederick was, reportedly, made aware that six Howard University employees who have since been fired, allegedly embezzled approximately $1 million. Students learned about this, not from Frederick, but from an online post from a fellow student one week ago on March 27. That was the spark that ignited a firestorm that threatens to engulf the university.

While images portray a party atmosphere within the protest staging area, the protestors have given great attention to detail to create the kind of environment they say they would like to see and deserve campus-wide. Their weeklong stay included an Easter Sunday worship service, the provision of healthy foods donated by supporters, tutoring, a safe and nurturing environment and alternating protest hours to allow students to attend class while the protest continues.

Consequently, the students are receiving praise for their organizational skills and their clear and specific articulation of the issues. But of course, they are college students attending one of the nation’s most prestigious HBCUs. Their issues have evolved into nine demands, including the firing of Frederick, and they have expressed them to the board of trustees, as well as to the media.

It is overwhelmingly clear that young people today are what they preach. They “stay woke” and will not be blinded by what others would prefer them to “stay sleep” about, especially as it relates to acquiring a higher education that for many of them comes at a significant cost, sacrifice and struggle.

HBCUs including Howard can no longer rest on their laurels. They cannot ask for more but deliver less. Students like #HUResist are just not having it anymore. They admire and love the university, but HU and others must do more to attain targeted student enrollment numbers and maintain it.

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