An assault that occurred at the end of move-in week for freshman dormitories has left many Howard Students feeling stunned and scared for their safety.
Four Howard sophomores were reportedly assaulted and robbed at Howard Plaza Towers, East on Aug. 14, resulting in one victim being stabbed during the assault and later hospitalized, as reported by the Hilltop.
Current residents at Howard Plaza Towers, East described feeling uneasy about moving into the dormitory hall soon after the incident.
“I felt a little scared to come back, only because it happened like right at East and that’s where I live,” Jayda Roach, a sophomore health science major from Atlanta, said. “So it was just kind of a bad note to try and start the school year off.”
Ivanni Francois, a junior health science major from Union County, New Jersey, expressed feeling sad after hearing the news but also desensitized due to the overall rise in crime on campus.
“It was just kind of sad but it was also like here comes another thing like it wasn’t anything surprising to me,” she said. “Because there’s always something going on with Howard.”
On Aug. 22, Howard administrators hosted a second virtual follow-up public safety town hall to provide updates on recently implemented safety measures since the attack.
Marcus Lyles, Executive Director of Campus Safety and Chief of Police of Howard University Department of Public Safety (HUDPS) listed numerous safety additions to the campus such as increased police presence, the distribution of over 1,500 Peace of Mind (P.O.M.) devices, and a safety tip video released in collaboration with Howard University’s Student Association (HUSA).
Lyles said that DPS has placed armed officers in the Plaza Towers and “doubled our resources” with third-party safety contractors. He added that there will also be a mix of bike patrols, unmarked cars, DPS officers, Metropolitan Police Department officers, “green light” patrol cars through third-party security, and security contractors to serve as “additional eyes” on campus to report anything.
Tashni-Ann Dubroy, executive president and chief operating officer of Howard, also emphasized the importance of student partnership with administration during this time to help with the transition to new safety measures.
“I recognize that it’s pretty tough. You don’t want to feel policed. You don’t want to feel like you’re in prison. And that’s not the environment that we’re trying to create,” she said. “But it does require us to ask a few questions, just that we can be smart about how it is that we traverse campus. And we need our students’ partnership to do that.”
“There has certainly been an enhancement of our officers on campus,” Dubroy said. “And I know that the emails that we’ve gotten from our campus community have demonstrated that they’ve seen officer presence as they’re walking our campus, especially at night, which is when we have ramped up the volume of security.”
Michael Arowolo, a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student at Howard acknowledged the school’s efforts to provide more security for students.
“I have definitely noticed security in front of buildings,” he said. “They always make sure to monitor movement within the Howard campus.”
Some students on campus, however, reported seeing little to no change in security and police presence.
“I would hope that there would be more security, especially at nighttime in front of the side doors or just in front of the Plaza Towers just in general,” Knyla Pendleton, a sophomore health science major and biology minor from Atlanta, said. “I don’t see a lot of that and that still makes me feel unsafe.”
Evan Favors, a sophomore nursing major from Atlanta, Georgia, and resident at Towers, East expressed seeing more security during early move-in when parents were present.
“I think that those first couple days I think I saw a little bit like more patrol from police cars at night. And I think that during move in I think especially things were more heightened,” she said.
“But I wonder if that was just because parents were present because after the fact I don’t see any of that anymore,” Favors said. “So I haven’t seen very many changes.”
Francois shared that she witnessed an increase in overall security on campus, but feels that the efforts are being done too late.
“I did see some more police presence happening when I got to campus, just security everywhere, campus police, things like that. I did see a little bit but I feel like it was kind of late. Like they decided to do this after an incident happened,” she said. “If this incident weren’t to happen we would just be waiting for the next one you know for them to start enforcing you know campus police and things like that.”
Since the incident, students shared that they plan to move more cautiously around campus to ensure safety.
“I have a lot of Howard alumni in my family. They were really saddened to hear what was going on on campus, very cautious to send me back, definitely got me plenty of pepper sprays and tasers to keep with me and just warning me to be cautious walking around campus, always staying with people,” Pendleton said.
Favors expressed the attack has affected the way a lot of students move throughout campus and safety precautions are especially relevant now.
“But I think that now that we’ve seen something happen that’s really, really close to us, I think that everyone is moving with a little bit more caution,” she said. “So just being cautious when things are dark. When it gets dark outside making sure that you’re not walking alone I think is important, just in general, but especially now.
Moving forward, Lyles announced new safety initiatives in the town hall that will come soon, including an approved budget for increased lighting, and DPS’ aim to increase their uniform police force by 10 percent this quarter.
He additionally mentioned that DPS is in daily communication with city leadership, specifically the Metropolitan Police Department as they “increase the tracking of the youth groups” on and around campus.
Copy edited by Whitney Meritus