We’ve reached the most wonderful time of the academic year: some students are back on campus, midterms have commenced, Homecoming is approaching and Howard students are starting to protest again.
Student activism seems to be a right of passage at Howard University due to the precedent of ongoing issues being presented to new classes each year. This year is no different with two new classes stepping on campus for the first time since March 2020.
Many new students arrived on campus expecting nothing short of ‘Black Excellence’ here at The Mecca. For all, this is the university that produced figures like Vice President Kamala Harris, Chadwick Boseman and Toni Morrison. This is the university that prides itself on its national rankings and for developing the world’s next Black leaders. This is also the same university that has received millions of dollars in donations within the last year and garnered attention from spaces that would have typically overlooked us.
There comes a time, though, when these accomplishments become diluted. When students are met with uncomfortable living conditions, when they can tell without doubt that the university was not ready to receive them and when it feels like their needs are unmet even when voiced, the optimism one had before stepping on campus begins to deteriorate.
This is not the first time students, faculty and the administration have had a bittersweet relationship. In 2018, students staged a sit-in in the Administration building for nine days until they were able to negotiate some of the demands they had. This sit-in happened after the financial aid embezzlement scandal was made public knowledge.
The sit-in ended after the university and students were able to compromise on several of their demands, students were also fed up with housing, or lack thereof, tuition costs and representation on campus and within the university’s decision making leadership.
Students held a protest on Oct. 5 voicing their concerns with campus conditions, financial aid, sexual harassment and saftey. During the protest, Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy, the university’s executive vice president and chief operations officer, addressed students and their concerns.
“There are issues that are excessive and we will solve them, but it does require that you communicate with us directly,” Dubroy said while addressing the crowd of student protesters.
“Students pick and choose who they think is responsible for those issues, right? And they have an expectation of who should be responsive to it,” she later continued.
While this is true, students should openly communicate directly with the university and should understand the workings of Howard, it does us all a great disservice to not acknowledge that students have and continue to attempt some level of communication. Students are consistently voicing their concerns whether it be through protests, social media platforms or through organizations on campus. In return they complain they received the ‘Howard Runaround’ or that you can’t get direct answers from the university when there’s a problem.
Instead, and what would make the relationship between students and the administration better, is if the university was more transparent about what is going on with the university from the inside and out. Students would like to know how all of the money the university has received within the last year is being spent. Yes, we can see some obvious changes to the physical appearance of the school, but students deserve a detailed explanation into how money is being spent or saved.
It may be within everyone’s best interest to place emphasis on a bi-annual, student friendly report that details this information along with detailing how the university either did or intends to address any student concern raised throughout the semester. This is a way for students to hold the administration accountable, but also a way for the administration to show that they have been holding themselves accountable as well.
Yes, students don’t often know exactly who to blame when an issue arises on campus, but that should be an issue the university seeks to alleviate quickly. Rather than not addressing an issue that the university has no control over, why not fully address the issue at hand and give students the tools and resources they need to address the issue? Why not consistently push for us to know the whole truth about what is going on, on campus rather than letting us “pick and choose” what we do or don’t know. Furthermore, the lack of student knowledge of the inner-workings of the university is proof that we need more student representation at the same tables as our president and Board of Trustees.
Aside from a proposed accountability report, the administration should make more of an effort to form a relationship with all students, especially those who are the most vocal about the issues on campus. Howard is supposed to be our home and there should not be this level of disconnection between how students and the administration view the status of our university. The administration shouldn’t want students to feel negatively about them and our institution overall.
Transparency can go a long way, even if it does not bring about tangible results immediately. Howard students have been calling for transparency and open communication from the university for years, and they deserve it.