Despite the Homecoming activities and Yard festivities that came to a close this weekend, the ever present tents outside of Blackburn serve as a reminder that two weeks later, the student protesters and Howard’s administration remain divided and unable to reach an agreement.
On Monday, a small group of student protesters met with representatives from the Administration including Provost Anthony K. Wutoh. According to Erica England, one of the protesters, the University said they would not meet the students’ demands of an in person town hall with President Wayne A. I. Frederick present, the reinstatement of all affiliate trustee positions and a comprehensive and effective housing plan. This was reaffirmed by an email sent out to the student body on Tuesday by President Frederick stating, “The occupation of the Blackburn center must end.”
Junior strategic, legal and management communication major Channing Hill mentioned Howard’s president’s name during a press conference Monday, rhetorically asking the group of reporters and supporters: “Wayne A.I. Frederick, how do you expect to lead a student body if you refuse to speak with them?”
This conference came on the heels of a Howard campus police officer pulling a baton on the protestors after they attempted to enter Blackburn on Oct. 23. This same officer then shoved student Elishabeth Cunningham by the throat while trying to reenter the building. Cunningham, seen in the orange sweatshirt, was quickly aided by others. The incident deeply troubled the protesters. Cunningham also states she has not seen campus police at the protest since the incident.
Cunningham said she has seen similar aggressive acts from the same officer, A. Smith Badge #389. In the earlier days of the protest, the officer attempted to push students blocking the doors so he could remove another protester from the building. When he told them to move so he could do his job, Cunningham responded, “No, because I’m doing mine.”
“I’m really trying to hold my tears,” Cunningham said, “I know this is a family and they got my back, but part of me wants to make sure I stay strong for them because I am an active voice in that, and I don’t want them to be scared with me.”
Marcus E. Lyle, Howard’s chief of police, did not respond to two emails seeking comment.
Despite not wanting to be scared, the protesters can’t help but face fear in this ongoing battle.
“We are fearful from retaliation from our own school,” senior Erica England said in reference to lack of an amnesty agreement with the University.
Pushing forward in spite of their tribulations has become the reality of the protest. Worries of retaliation first began after an email sent by Dr. Cynthia Evers, the Vice President for Student Affairs, on Oct. 13 stated that if the protesters did not leave by noon the following day, they would be “subject to discipline under the Student Code of Conduct.”
Evers later clarified in an email sent on Oct. 19 “that no Department of Public Safety (DPS) or University administration representatives have threatened any of the student sit-in participants.”
In a meeting with several student leaders, President Frederick and The Hilltop Editor-In-Chief Ashleigh Fields, the topic of academic and legal immunity was discussed, though President Frederick explained he did not have the ability to instate this.
There are also students still struggling with health problems because of the mold present in the dorms.
Student Valerie Jean-Jaques said his mother was home working three jobs to keep him in college.
“While she’s at home slaving away, I’m here coughing up blood thinking I have COVID from the first two weeks of being here,” Jean-Jaques said. “ It really hurts me to see her doing this.”
Despite all of this, the protesters have made it clear the demonstrations will continue until the University’s administration meets their demands.
“We will not leave, we will not tire,and we will fight for this university that we love until it begins to live up to its legacy of ‘In Truth and Service,’” Hill said.