Is Howard U. President Making a Difference?

With one year left in his contract, Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick recently accepted a five-year extension to continue as the leader of the historic Black institution.

And while he’s received a vote of approval by the school’s Board of Trustees, some students and alumni remain concerned about his effectiveness and plans for their beloved university.

“There are a lot of mixed feelings concerning President Frederick right now,” said Jade Agudosi, president of the Howard University Student Association.

“I believe the student body would like to see several ongoing challenges addressed sooner than later including updated facilities and some tell me they’re ambivalent in terms of his leadership and his effectiveness. But I still have faith that President Frederick will make a conscious decision to meet students halfway,” she said.

Although Howard’s president can now count on his term continuing through June 2024, some students say they cannot forget his “ill-advised” meeting with President Donald Trump last March where one or more individuals expressed their discontent by spray painting a message that included words like “plantation” and “overseer” on a frequently-travelled campus walkway.

Several weeks after the meeting with Trump, Frederick would receive a “vote of no-confidence” as a result of a polling of the university’s leading faculty members, and others, in which a majority responded “No” when asked if they supported those policies implemented by the H.U. president.

Some students and alumni interpreted the vote as an important wake-up call to Frederick.

“We want to implement changes and still preserve the history and culture of the school,” said Meghan Lewis, a Howard graduate. “There has been much talk surrounding financial problems, lack of transparency and failure in Frederick’s leadership. But he’s already been reinstated now, so let’s hope that he makes these next five years better than the first two.”

Agudosi said she believes Howard University will remain strong and continue to head in the right direction under Frederick’s continued leadership.

“Howard has historically had with the administration and the way they interact with students,” she said. “But I think we are still on the right track in making strides to [move] the university forward for another 150 years.”

Since the 17th president’s appointment in 2015, he reportedly announced a $21.2 million profit in fiscal year 2016 after several years of losses – a positive outcome that Frederick said occurred, in part, due to adopting a strategy of diversifying revenue streams from the university’s $1.5 billion real estate portfolio.

He also facilitated the recent launch of the Howard West Campus – a partnership with Silicon Valley-based Google designed to serve as an outpost of the D.C.-based institution of higher learning in order to address diversity in the tech industry. In fiscal 2016, Howard also received an award totaling $101 million in federal financial aid compared to an estimated $40 million in fiscal year 2009.

In recent announcements, the president has appointed former FBI Director James Comey as the university’s Opening Convocation keynote speaker and as the 2017-2018 Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University.

“I am pleased to welcome Mr. Comey to Howard,” Frederick said in a statement. “His expertise and understanding of the challenges we continue to face today will go a long way in sparking rich discussion and advancing meaningful debates across campus.”

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Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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