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Letter to the Editor: Please negotiate fairly and protect our students!

The Mecca. The Hilltop. The Illustrious Howard University. Home. OUR home. It is where we sleep, eat, learn, and dream about all the possibilities that lay in front of us. We are among the brightest, most compassionate and boldest that our families and communities raised. We were so ready to take on the challenge of Howard University, willingly, with open arms. We were ready to receive Howard, but she wasn’t ready to receive us back. The administration’s lack of sensitivity and empathy towards us as we try to resolve our protest has left us wondering if its leadership is still committed to “Truth and Service.” 

Our demands are really not that demanding! 

Past generations of Howard students have always stood up against injustices, whether on or off campus. At the time, there were those who may have disagreed with their efforts, but as time went on, history placed them on the right side. We’re on the right side now. It is evident from every parent email we receive, every alumni that donates food, and every faculty member that supports our linked struggle. For they too are fearful of the stern hand of administration, also concerned that they will be retaliated against, for just speaking out. 

We are not criminals. We are students who have been let down. We are the victims in this story. We are the ones that are affected by every misstep the administration makes and continues to make. Howard has always held a high standard for students. Is it wrong for us to have the same expectations of the administration? No! 

It was student protesters who urged administration to come to the table to resolve this issue. When we did on Monday, counsel for the administration refused to negotiate or even speak about our demands. She implied that President Frederick does not want to give student amnesty. Since we started this protest, we have been exposed to threats of expulsion, and even arrest, despite that we have been hurt and had to force the administration to be accountable to student safety and health. We are now concerned that President Frederick WILL retaliate against us. Throughout this entire process he has shown very little empathy for our protest, and its leaders. We now fear our own University president, and that he could do us harm. 

Every student deserves accessible, affordable housing free of health and safety risks. Every student deserves representation when life-altering decisions are made. Every student deserves an administration that cares, and listens to student dissent, without fear of retaliation (all student concerns and not just a special hand-picked few). Effective communication is transparent, and doesn’t happen in closed, secret meetings. Nor should the administration censure student dissent, expression or speech because it disagrees. 

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The Blackburn protest sparked change. Maybe because it was the one the administration could no longer ignore after ignoring us for two months. It was the one that brought attention to the issues, issues that students and our parents tried to resolve with administration after hours and hours of frustration. 

On today, we will meet again with the administration’s lawyer to once again attempt a negotiated resolution that respects student rights to protest without retaliation. We also want public safety and public health in our dorms, including verification of proper mold remediation. 

At this time we are still calling on President Frederick to do the right thing. He refuses to give us amnesty and because of this we are in fear of retaliation. We are asking parents, alumni, faculty, the media, community and national leaders to make sure students who have participated in this protest for the betterment of Howard University are protected and respected, not harmed. We want amnesty and honest negotiations, not retaliation. 

In Truth and Service, 

Blackburn Takeover Family

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