Howard student protesters look ahead with caution after reaching deal with university
EXCLUSIVE: Despite an agreement reached between students, legal counsel and the Howard University administration, students tell theGrio they are not fully satisfied with the institution’s response.
Blackburn Takeover student protesters have reached an agreement with the administration after a 33-day standstill at Howard University.
The terms of the agreement haven’t been made public, however, a deal was struck between the students, legal counsel and the administration after a series of meetings.
Donald Temple, who provided legal representation to the student protesters, told theGrio that the “students substantially accomplished their goals and objectives in terms of the issue of accountability, and transparency.”
However, theGrio was told by student protesters that they are not fully satisfied with the institution’s response.
“The fight always continues and we have to keep the momentum going all the way up until a town hall,” Jasmine Joof, a sophomore at Howard University told theGrio.
In a statement released on Monday, the university announced the agreement as “a welcome step forward as we continue to bring together our Howard community.”
On the surface, students are willing to comply, but they also are hopeful more will come from their efforts.
“A lot of us in this building 48 hours ago, we’re just almost destroyed. And now we feel invigorated,” Channing Hill, president of the Howard University NAACP chapter told theGrio. “This is not the end of something. This is only the beginning.”
“We have significant wins and accountability, I can say that we have made significant strides toward public safety and environmental safety,” Hill added.
One of the details of the negotiation required students to vacate the Blackburn Center on Monday evening. TheGrio has confirmed the students have completely moved out of the building.
President Wayne A.I. Fredrick said on Monday that in addition to the students leaving the Blackburn Center, he “expect[s] non-student protesters to depart the surrounding area – and to end their occupation of the campus.”
Among the students lending a hand to the clean up outside of the Blackburn Center was Alana Stone, a freshman at Howard. She told theGrio that despite a deal being struck between students and the administration, returning to the Blackburn Center for another protest is an action students are willing to take in order to hold the administration accountable for fulfilling its recent promises to students.
“There’s been a history of protests happening at Howard, which means that the administration hasn’t been held accountable,” Stone explained. “However with this protest now that [it’s] over, we have a really solid group of students and alumni backing us up as well as staff and other supporters to make sure that it will.“
Many of the students, including Tyler Davis, have taken down their tents and will be returning home for the Thanksgiving break.
TheGrio first met Davis when she was embattled in a confrontation with the Howard Campus Police over the recurring appearance of an officer who students allege assaulted a protester.
Students allege that the officer held a student in a chokehold during a struggle to reclaim the building.
Davis told theGrio that she has not received an update on the officer’s role in promoting an environment of tension on campus.
“I have not heard anything back from any of that,“ Davis said. “But I also have not seen the officer.”
According to the university, an internal investigation of the allegations of assault involving the officer had been conducted. The school administration said that it found that no assault had occurred and that the officer was continuing to patrol on his regularly scheduled shift.
As weeks passed as the students lived in tents and staked claim to living spaces within the Blackburn Center, donations of tents, sleeping bags, food, water and household items poured into the iconic Howard University building in abundance.
Organizers of the protest tell theGrio that they have begun filling U-Haul trucks in an effort to give away many unopened or unused goods that will be donated to local charity groups in the D.C. area.
After the deal was reached between students and the university, bricks holding down tents from strong winds were collected as students disassembled the structures they called home for more than a month. It was evident from the number of space heaters and generators that the demonstrators were committed to waging on the fight for housing conditions for as long as it took to get their concerns addressed.
Temple, the attorney for the student protesters, added that beyond the students’ agreement, “housing issues at Howard will probably involve legal questions and issues between the university and its contractor.” This is a challenge that Temple believes will have to play out but does not directly involve the student activists.
Students who participated in the holdout told theGrio that there were concerns about what message the protest sent to prospective students who considered applying to and attending Howard University. But they want to make it clear that their efforts were to advance the quality of student life for future students to come, not deter them from becoming the next generation of Bison graduates.
“We would never discourage any high school senior not to apply to Howard,“ said Joof. “[We] want to see you here next year or the year after because we were fighting for you.“