Students mobilized under the campus activism group HU Resist at Howard University are calling for massive structural changes in residence life, public safety and finance and management in a newly-released document published on Twitter.
This is exactly what college students should do; yell for change and pressure working adults to hear them, in the hopes that some things can be conceded. The goal of creating a better experience for HU students is laudable, reasonable, and if it results in changes to the school’s business model, could position Howard to boost its recruitment, enrollment and alumni support in dramatic ways.
But when you read through the document, you realize that HU Resist has some ground to cover in its attempt to move administration. Here’s a walk through the document to find out where the problem spots may lie in their demands, potential administrative response, and what it means for the future of collaboration between the two sides.
We demand that Howard University provide adequate housing for all students under the age of 21 and extend the Fall 2018 housing deposit deadline to May 1. If the university cannot accommodate all students under the age of 21 who wish to live on campus (after extending the housing deposit deadline), it must provide alternative facilities to offset the impact. The selection of housing for students 21 and over will be determined by financial need. All dorm buildings will match the D.C. Housing Code standards outlined by the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which includes dorm rooms not exceeding appropriate capacity.
It would appear that this demand is in response to Howard’s recent issue with housing assignments, but doesn’t reveal any audit of how many students require housing versus those who didn’t or won’t receive it for the fall semester. There is no survey data showing measurements of student dissatisfaction with or inability to secure housing, no data on capacity versus student demand for housing, and no correlation on why housing access should be tied to student age or financial need.
As for the external housing options, the biggest question will be who is going to pay for it?
We demand an immediate end to unsubstantiated tuition hikes and complete access to administrative salaries…We want Howard University to freeze tuition costs and undergo a transparent recalculation process…provide access to administrative salaries.
If Howard freezes tuition, faculty and staff will lose their jobs. Academic programs and student services, which are already understaffed and without appropriate technology will be further compromised, and it will force the university to shrink in the number of students it can enroll, the number of employees it can staff, and the number of facilities it can use to adjust to such a reality of reduced revenue.
And if you make HU or any private school reveal salaries, you won’t have administrators working there. Just like students would not want to attend a school that would mandate the public release of individual household earnings in the name of transparency for taxpayers who fund education through Pell Grants and federal student loans.
We demand that Howard University actively fight rape culture on campus in an effort to prevent sexual assault. The university will implement a mandatory one-credit course that is required for graduation focusing on gender, consent, sexuality, and sexual health. The university will begin providing rape kits to survivors at Howard University Hospital. The university will create a new task force of students, faculty, staff and administrators whose primary objective will be to create and carry out policies that prioritize the safety of sexual assault survivors and combat rape culture.
This is actually one of the strongest demands in the HU Resist list. All of these things could and should be implemented by the administration, but the challenge will be in getting academic affairs and faculty to agree to the details of the course, and the maintenance of the task force. As students graduate or leave, and faculty and administrators leave or retire, it can be difficult to maintain follow-up with such committees and the work they are charged to do – especially since sexual assault cases, even those publicized by survivors, are still privy to student privacy regulations.
We demand that Howard University implement a grievance system to hold faculty and administrators accountable in their language and actions towards students with marginalized identities…to manage reports and grievances, investigate and evaluate incidents of misconduct, keep a public record of trends and patterns and determine and mandate disciplinary action.
We demand that Howard University hire more counselors and implement an inclusive attendance policy that accounts for mental and emotional health issues. Hire more counselors who specialize in gender and sexuality, substance abuse, interpersonal violence, intra-community violence, etc. Absences due to mental and/or emotional health issues should be considered excused and included in the student handbook as a permissable reason to complete missed assignments.
Without tuition increases, with more resources dedicated housing and Title IX issues, who will pay for additional personnel and record-keeping infrastructure? With respect to health issues, who determines the line between incapacitating health issues? Would ADHD be a diagnosis that rises to the level of excused absences? Would the death of a parent or relative qualify? Does a doctor’s note make the determination, or sign-off from academic affairs?
We demand 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….(The committee shall) have the power to manage complaints against all sworn members of the HUPD, review and advise departmental policies, procedures and budgets, conduct independent investigations if necessary.
How will these complaints be “managed,” with what resources will this management and investigations be conducted, and what advisement role could they take that would be honored by police unions? What recommendations could they make that would be actually implemented by state and federal policing guidelines, such as full disarmament?
Moreover, who pays for the lawsuit when a student or an unarmed police officer sues Howard for a being victimized by a crime that could have been prevented by an armed police officer?
We demand that Howard Unviersity allocate more resources towards combating food insecurity and gentrification within the LeDroit-Shaw community. The university must allocate funds to the creation of a community food pantry which will erve the food insecure and homeless population in the LeDroit-Shaw Community. This pantry will be regulated by both students and community members. Establish (and fund) a group of faculty and students which would partner with the surrounding community on the challenge of gentrification to the existing residents, work with community groups to reduce the negative impacts of redevelopment, and advise the university on the steps it would take to reduce the negative impact of neighborhood change.
Wouldn’t this be a better ask of the Mayor’s office instead of Howard University? If D.C. is dealing with gentrification, is it a resident’s duty to reverse its impact, or the city council which controls zoning, tax benefits which attract grocery chains, and jobs for citizens to remain in and to fund livable areas?
Moreover – Why is this a charge for the university? Couldn’t HU Resist fund and operate its own pantry, community development committee and advisory council – without Howard University?
We demand the immediate resignation of President Wayne A.I. Frederick and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees. We demand that students have the power to democratically influence the decisions of the administration and the Board of Trustees by popular vote.
Good luck with that – because the quickest way to get a board to not do something is to tell the board that it must do something.
But even with all of these demands, which all HU Resist members would say are made in love and admiration for Howard U., three words with the weight of the universe behind them are missing. They are the simple words that have shaped nations, started wars, and defined humanity’s views of courage and conscience.
Or else what?