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Howard University students protest campus conditions

By Janelle Berry/Howard University News Service
On September 27, 2015

Howard University students sit in the lobby floor of the Administration building to protest a myriad of problems on campus.
Credit: Howard University News Service

Dozens of disgruntled Howard University students piled into the Mordecai Johnson Administration Building last Friday to protest customer service the financial aid office and other student services. 

Students sat on the floor in the lobby of the administration building to express their weariness with the university’s inability to place students in dormitories, give proper academic advising, address the lack of Pell Grants, award scholarship money, financial aid packages and inability of the university to explain how it plans to resolve the issues.

They demonstrated their frustration with the university by posting sticky notes of their worst experiences on the walls of the administration building. 

Nadalee Koth, a 21-year-old senior from Cincinnati and organizer of the protest, said she and her roommate had problems with housing while living in the Towers apartment building last year.

“It was one of the worse experiences I’ve ever had,” said Koth. “We’ve had mice and multiple maintenance issues that weren’t addressed. We’ve actually been locked in our suite for hours and had to call the fire department.”

Imani Harmon said because of mishandling of her housing, she was temporarily homeless.

“I was on the waiting list and homeless for two weeks,” said Harmon. “I just got housing a couple of days ago.”

Aliya Jones, a senior from Norfolk, Virginia, and organizer of the protest, has been struggling with financial issues since she first came to Howard University.

“I’m an independent student coming in as a freshman and they said ‘everything would be covered,” she said “It wasn’t covered.”

Jalen Williams, a 21-year-old senior from Cincinnati and one of the organizers, said he is also dealing with several financial issues with Howard.

“I’m just waiting for funds to be dispersed,” said Williams. “I have financial issues where now it’s becoming a problem. Now, I need to pay rent; I need money for my books. I need to eat, and if I’m making plans for money based on a date that was given to me by the university, I expect them to uphold their end of that situation.”

Udodilim Nnamdi, 21, of  Berlin, New Jersey,  said she is also having money problems with the university.

“I’m a recipient for an alumni scholarship,” said Nnamdi. “To this day, I have yet to receive it.”

She said she came into the financial aid office on her birthday after receiving her acceptance letter to make sure that her entrance into Howard would be a smooth one.    

“I was told no funds were available,” she said. “I just broke down crying on my birthday in the A Building and the person sitting across from me sat stone-faced and said, ‘Is that all you came here for?’ and I left.”

President Wayne Frederick spoke to the leaders of the protest the night before the sit-in to express his concern and to support the students’ activism.

In a statement to the university community dated Sept. 3, Frederick apologized for the “shortcomings that have occurred and escalated” in the past week. In another statement, Frederick said providing quality education for our students is our highest priority and will never be compromised. “We are working with our students with a sense of urgency to ensure that the quality of life on campus is what they expect and what they deserve,” it read.

Koth said she and the other organizers plan to have more sit-ins to show the administration and the university that they are serious about solving these issues.

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