Isolation and sleep deprivation visibly plagued the protestors who emerged from the Armour J. Blackburn University Center to follow organizer Aniyah Vines into the Administration building at 1:00 p.m. The group fervently chanted as they marched to meet President Frederick and members of his cabinet.
With a hoarse voice, Vines could be heard shouting, “Who keeps us safe?” To which the crowd responded “We keep us safe.”
The demonstrators alongside Howard University Student Association (HUSA) President Kylie Burke accompanied Vines until they reached the steps of the building. It was there that Burke and Vines separated from the congregation to go inside.
The two were notified to enter through the side doors of the building, but once they got there they found chains on double doors.
The pair waited patiently until Campus Police brought a key to let them in.
Once inside, the students were escorted to a meeting room on the third floor where President Frederick, the Executive Vice President, Tashni-Ann Dubroy and the Vice President of Student Affairs, Cynthia Evers were waiting along with a few other student leaders and faculty members. After everyone was seated President Frederick gave his opening remarks which contained confidential explanations for his absence last week and during the town hall.
“I do also want to state that alternative meeting times were suggested and we did try to make it as convenient as possible and we did repeatedly say that we were working on getting a part two town hall that we hope to have with administration,” Burke said. “We now know that is one of the current demands of the current students [protesting] right now.”
For the last two days the students fueling the student protest known as the “#BlackburnTakeover” have requested the University’s administration meet three demands. The first was a petition for an in-person meeting with President Frederick scheduled before the end of October. The next was a request to reinstate all affiliate trustee (student, faculty and alumni) positions on the Board of Trustees for Howard. The last appeal was for the president and chair of the board to meet with student leaders outlining their housing plan.
“Historically there has been a disconnect between HBCU students and administration in regards to the need for the student body so it is my job here today to represent the needs of the student body,” Vines said after sharing the list.
President Frederick acquiesced to the third demand by agreeing to set a meeting with students to share the housing plans with student leaders. He explained that information pertaining to their partnership with Corvias could not be divulged but that the University is actively working to clean mold from residence halls. Dubroy stated that workers would start in Drew Hall and move through the rest of campus accordingly.
“The Student Life Committee has a town hall planned for October 25 to discuss one of the issues, well several issues, but one of the issues about the board affiliates and Marie Johns is the chair of the committee,” said President Frederick. “So I will listen and my goal is to answer any questions that you have.”
Throughout the meeting President Frederick repeatedly mentioned how uncomfortable he was with in-person town hall meetings due to escalations he has seen in the past. Instead, he offered himself for bi-weekly meetings with HUSA and The Hilltop to remain in steadfast communication with the student body.
In addition to these petitions, Vines asked that President Frederick distribute an email through HU Communications that corrects all inaccuracies stated in a previous email.
“I was a part of the town hall, everyone that was inside of Blackburn was a part of the town hall actively,” said Vines.
“No one forcibly entered, we were already inside during the town hall and we decided to stay after the town hall so there are multiple lies that are in this email; so there needs to be a clarifying email sent out on behalf of HU Communications to make sure that people know that we are not violent, letting people know that we are not vandalizing, letting people know that we are not using any force and that we are peacefully protesting and occupying the space of Blackburn,” she continued.
He agreed to discuss options with Frank Tramble, the Vice President of Communications, to deliver this message and clarify emails that were sent out on behalf of the University Wednesday morning by Dr. Evers. President Frederick also confirmed that there is no evidence of damage caused to the building by protestors.
The final request on behalf of The Live Movement was for student protestors to be granted academic and legal immunity. The President shared that he did not have the power to grant exemptions on behalf of faculty. He expressed that this would have to be a decision made by individual instructors.
“Tonight we will be having a rally outside of Blackburn for students to gather at 6:00 p.m.,” said Vines. “The official and solidified demands will be released tonight after the town hall. We want to make sure the demands represent the student body; the Live movement advocates on behalf of the student body of HBCUs.”
The meeting concluded upon the agreement that both parties would meet again. Student protestors walked in soulful solidarity as they re-entered the lobby of Blackburn toting a banner that held anonymous testimonials from students and faculty.
[Correction: President Frederick did not agree to alter any statements made in reference to the protest on behalf of the University. He only agreed to consider sending out an email through HU Communications stating that the protestors were non-violent as reflected in the fourth to last paragraph.]