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Faculty Union Gathers Howard Community On Charter Day to Discuss Financial Instability, Housing, Board Representation 

Students, faculty, and alumni came out to support the teaching faculty union and the students. Photo by Eliana Lewis.

During Howard’s Charter Day Convocation ceremony in early March, the HU Teaching Faculty Union held a forum in co-sponsorship with the Claudia Jones School for Political Organization. A panel discussion was held to discuss issues that some faculty said are challenging undergraduate students, graduate students, doctoral students and faculty members.

Housing insecurity, a driving factor of the Blackburn Takeover and an issue many at the March 3 event said is ongoing, was discussed at length by English Ph.D. student Cecily Duffie and senior Channing Hill, president of the Howard Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a key figure in last year’s “Blackburn Takeover.” 

In front of an audience of about 40 people, both argued that the university should be held accountable for the role it plays in affecting students’ collegiate experience. 

“We’re still working twice as hard,” Duffie said. “Graduate students aren’t guaranteed funding, including summer funding,” she said. Her comment comes after she asked the audience a series of rhetorical questions about their experience navigating academia while dealing with financial insecurity stemming from the university.

In Duffie’s case, her current Ph.D. program is a four-year commitment at a minimum and requires attending mandatory classes in the daytime. According to Duffie, the difficulty for some to obtain their degree comes at the expense of selling items such as their house.

A flyer circulated around campus advertising the event. Photo Courtesy of @LecturersHU on Twitter.

With some graduate students being unable to secure funding, working a job despite taking graduate-level classes seems to be the only plausible option. However, for some students, the cost of their education is also coupled with the costs of commuting or paying for a place of residence near the university.

According to Howard’s financial services website, the cost of attendance for a traditional graduate program at Howard during the 2022-2023 school year is estimated to be $57,812 for those living on campus and $65,888 for those living off campus. The current cost per credit hour is estimated to be $1,930, with plans for the price to be raised to $2,027 in the following school year.

Amir Demeke, a Ph.D. student studying African Studies with a focus on East and Southern Africa, commutes from Baltimore to campus during the week due to the expense of living in D.C., he said. Demeke’s main problem with his commute is that it takes away the valuable time he could be spending studying or networking on campus.

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“Organizing requires a presence on campus, networking requires meeting people,” he said. As a student with a background in international development, education and economics, Demeke believes Howard could make itself stronger by “providing more housing for undergraduates and graduate students at an affordable rate.”

Master Instructor of English and Howard alumnus Cyrus Hampton and Associate Professor of Africana Studies Joshua Myers represented the faculty on the panel. Myers suggested that the Howard administration holds a strong grip on the university and student experience, “This authoritarian [regime] is affecting every part of the student experience,” he said. 

Other panelists included Chair of the Claudia Jones School Aaron Booe, international and racial activist Bill Fletcher Jr., and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò, who highlighted the significance of staying politically conscious in the current climate.

The panel, which was on the upper level of the Armour J. Blackburn University Center, was held ten days shy of the anniversary of last spring’s union rally.  

Howard alum of 75’, Roger Glass (left), speaks on behalf of Howard Alumni Reunited. Photo by Eliana Lewis.

Robert Glass, a member of the second graduating class of the Cathy Hughes School of Communication, spoke briefly about Howard Alumni Reunited and their current lawsuit against the Board of Trustees. Glass believes that the Board violated “its own bylaws” by removing the faculty, alumni and student seats on the board, he said. 

Audience members also had the opportunity to hear from the chair of the Faculty Senate Marcus Alfred, who shed light on the battle for control between faculty and administration.

According to the senate’s website, the Faculty Senate at Howard shares “governance with the Board of Trustees, the President and designated Administrators.” 

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“Our recommendations are supposed to be it,” he said. Though specific details weren’t given, he continued to explain that his “colleagues were experts in their classes” and that the thought of faculty having control over the nature of their classrooms should be considered the norm. 

Myers continued this conversation by reminding the audience that in the Western model of education that Howard follows, faculty are at the center of the university. “The administration is supposed to support the faculty. We somehow flipped this,” he said.

A discussion around HBCUs turning towards authoritarianism was briefly held before turning towards a focus on upcoming student elections and thoughts on igniting the sense of community and HBCU culture on Howard’s campus.

The event was part of a larger nationwide movement, Labor Spring 2023, to increase visibility on issues affecting marginalized groups in the workforce. 

Copy edited by Nhandi Long-Shipman

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