By Dawchelle Hamilton and Victoria Mba-Jonas, Contributing Writers
Posted 11:15 AM EST, Thurs., Mar. 2, 2017
On Tuesday morning, Feb. 28, graffiti was found throughout Howard University’s campus that criticized Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick’s recent meetings with President Donald Trump’s administration.
“Welcome to the Trump Plantation | Overseer: Wayne A.I. Frederick” read one of the many messages on The Yard and across campus. A message from anonymous protesters that rang out beyond the campus of Howard University garnered the attention of alumni, other HBCUs, the media, and undoubtedly, Howard University’s 17th president.
So this is on Howard University's Yard this morning. pic.twitter.com/e8WGA4EPHq
— certified cereza𓅓 (@srirachasoul) February 28, 2017
The graffiti statements occurred a day after a number of HBCU presidents and administrators met with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the White House. The meeting was held to discuss the plan to issue an executive order on funding for HBCUs. Earlier last month, Frederick and selected Howard University student representatives held a private meeting with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, to which Howard was her first campus visit since being confirmed.
Messages were left on other buildings throughout the campus as well. Campus ground workers and a campus police officers stood guard around the graffiti messages as students walked taking pictures, commenting and posting to social media. The messages around campus left some students mixed with emotions.
In today's episode of Howard University Shenanigans pic.twitter.com/W6aEMrc98H
— Lauryn Kai (@laurynkai_) February 28, 2017
“The messages are 100 percent valid. Students don’t feel that they are being heard. But, defacing the campus isn’t the right way to go about the issue. I think we need to be doing something with meaning like sitting in his office and protesting,” said Justice Brown-Duso, a sophomore public relations major.
“I feel that the graffiti is a waste of time because President Frederick doesn’t care about us, only money,” said sophomore chemistry major Nia Rivera.
This isn’t the first time Frederick has seen such public criticism. Students have been voicing their concerns about what they describe as his lack of transparency, accessibility and action in regards to outstanding campus issues. These issues range from lack of housing options, unkept infrastructure, Wi-Fi and connectivity problems as well as the general administration within the financial aid department.
Some of the more recent, noteworthy reactions to these issues include protests in the Administrative building with #TakeBackHU, a student exposing Frederick’s home address to the public, a viral letter asking the President Frederick “What’s Good” and posters across The Yard stating “President Frederick Doesn’t Care for Black People.”
A sign has appreared above Locke Hall regarding HU Pres. Wayne A.I. Frederick. According to sources, the sign was put up early this morning. pic.twitter.com/PptGZtn7Tb
— The Hilltop (@TheHilltopHU) February 23, 2017
“Our students are respectful and only reach this point when they feel like they aren’t being heard,” Howard University Student Association Executive President Allyson Carpenter stated in response to the vandalism.
“He [Frederick] has a responsibility to protect our values and our principles that we have built Howard around…a lot of students are wondering what are administrators values and are they the same as mine. I think Dr. Frederick struggles with transparency in how he plans to lead the University in a Trump era,” Carpenter said.
As of now, the current messages can be seen as the most public and brutal demonstration against him. Later that Tuesday, Frederick released a statement addressing the writings across campus.
“While I respect freedom of speech, I strongly oppose vandalism as a form of free expression. I am aware of the recent vandalism that has occurred on this campus and these actions will not be tolerated,” he said. “The key to our progress is respectful dialogue, not bullying behaviors. I encourage us all to avoid the use of condemning speech in the face of adversity and to be mindful that our opinions and words can elicit strong actions that diminish the University’s commitment to providing an excellent educational experience for all students.”
All of this comes on the week of Charter Day celebrations and the signing of a vague HBCU Executive Order by President Donald Trump which doesn’t promise the funding that many thought it would, but rather moves the HBCU initiative from the Department of Education to the White House.
Prior to the signing of the Executive Order, President Frederick did meet with newly appointed and controversial Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, Trump’s director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison Omarosa Manigault, and two other student leaders.
Virgil Parker, president of Bison Pre-Alumni Club was one of those students.
“When I saw some of the messages on-campus I couldn’t believe it,” Virgil said. “You know, as student leaders, it’s kind of sad and regressive and on our perspective what are we not and what are we doing to the community for students to feel this way.”
When asked about the University president’s actions leading up to this, Virgil said, “We have a vital role in what’s happening with the American identity…hopefully Dr. Frederick can make some wise decisions about what Howard can do to stay vocal.”
Frederick also hosted a meeting with representatives from HU Resist, also known as Concerned Students, 1867, a student movement that gained attention after creating a list of demands for the president in regards to how they believe he should address the Trump administration. They presented their issues in the meeting which was live streamed to the public on periscope.
"The time is always now."
These are our demands:
— HU Resist (@HUResist) February 13, 2017
The president also provided HU Resist with an email that stated “It is my responsibility to represent Howard as a flagship HBCU and continue meaningful conversation with the current administration.”
President Frederick offers response after students flood radio show phone lines and are placed on hold still. pic.twitter.com/8aNgJ8WS5f
— HU Resist (@HUResist) February 16, 2017
In a previous interview, Howard student Juan McFarland of Concerned Students, 1867 stated they are organizing this because “President Frederick wasn’t voicing our opinion, he always says we in terms of Howard University, but he has never taken us the student body into account.”
There has been a clear division on social media about the demands HU Resist has presented and the overall public vandalism of the campus.
Some tweets read:
Whoever behind this, y'all take it EASY and have several seats… Some of y'all don't know a thing about logistics at #HU respect our YARD !
— Icklo.™ (@getfeas_) February 28, 2017
“In the revolution there’s going to be difference in how we feel about how things should be communicated,” stated Jaleel Brown, founder of Society of Young Black Revolutionaries “Either we can stand divided about the little things or come together on bigger issues.”
Brown’s organization recently partnered with HU Resist for a town hall meeting.
Beyond the tweets, some have pointed out the lack of feasibility in HU Resist’s demands since the University receives a substantial amount of funding from the federal government.
“Don’t condescend them [HU Resist] because they don’t know the ins and outs of laws,” stated Carpenter. “Just understand what they are afraid of. The University compromising their values and being used as a prop for a hateful fascist [Trump] administration.”
Carpenter herself has had trouble accessing the University president and has tweeted:
With the HBCU executive order and recent meetings between Frederick and the Trump administration, will there be any more controversy on Howard’s campus during The Mecca’s Sesquicentennial? Time will tell as the year continues on.