Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick is calling for students to end their weeks-long occupation of the school’s student center.
“There may be areas where we agree to disagree. That’s the nature of a vibrant community. However, Howard University’s proud tradition of student protest has never been — and can never be — invoked as a justification for tactics that harm our students,” Frederick wrote in a letter to the school’s community Tuesday. “The current occupation of the Armour J. Blackburn Center is a departure from past norms.”
“The occupation of the Blackburn center must end,” Frederick said.
The Blackburn University Center houses the school’s largest cafeteria and its office of student life and activities, according to The Washington Post.
Howard spokesperson Frank Tramble told the Post that the school had to relocate a COVID-19 testing site from the building due to the protests.
“There is a distinct difference between peaceful protest and freedom of expression and the occupation of a university building that impedes operations and access to essential services and creates health and safety risks,” Frederick said in the letter.
About 50 students have occupied the university’s student center earlier this month to demonstrate against several issues they have with the university. The protests began Oct. 12 and are entering their third week, according to the Post.
The students have outlined four demands, including reinstatement of alumni, student and faculty affiliate positions with the board of trustees and a meeting with university leaders about housing, among other things.
The demonstrations largely revolve around on-campus housing conditions after students say they have encountered mice, mold and flooding, the Post reported.
The university's president argued that these problems are not endemic and that the majority of issues that have been reported have been remedied.
Tramble said that there have been 38 reports of mold, according to the newspaper.
"The vast majority of our students are living comfortably in their rooms," Frederick said, according to the Post.
Frederick said he has committed to expanded meetings with student leaders and added that university leaders have met with protesters to determine a path forward.
First-year Howard student Autumn Hester called Frederick’s letter “frustrating," the Post noted.
“The moment we leave, we lose leverage,” Hester said. “We’re staying put, no matter what he says.”