Students feel let down as they continue to be forced to live in poor conditions at the historical Black institution Howard University, gaining national attention on CNN and NBC News bringing awareness to them.
Howard junior Taran Richardson said the issues stem from problems with on-campus housing. Some of the issues Richardson noticed are molding, lack of PPE, unmaintained rooms and buildings, frequent flooding and other hazardous circumstances that affect the well-being of students.
While Richardson said the issue does not directly affect him, he was not able to live on campus due to the very limited housing options available.
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Howard sophomore Asha Abdullah said the housing situation all around is not the best. Abdullah said a lot of frustration comes from upperclassmen as they have been forced to live off-campus.
“Rent is expensive, and there is not a lot of affordable housing so students have to live in Maryland and buy cars to commute,” Abdullah said.
For many students the living conditions are quite hazardous as some students have had to be admitted into hospitals for illnesses, according to Abdullah.
“For the first three weeks, I had this horrible cough that many other students had,” Abdullah said. “I was taking all kinds of medicines, but nothing was working. Turns out we had mold in our vents.”
Abdullah said the #blackburntakeover took off after a student town hall meeting where students asked the campus president and administrators to attend, but they did not.
The hashtag #blackburntakeover gained traction on social media to draw attention to these issues on campus. The tag has over 1,300 posts on Instagram as of Monday.
“It is now day 24 of protests, and it is really unfortunate because you would think that the administration would do something, so that students don’t feel they have to be outside of a building when it is 50 degrees outside,” Abdullah said in reference to the student-led protests.
Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick responded to these protests during his State of the University Address.
“I am empathetic to the students who have had concerns,” Frederick said in the speech. “Whether one student had mold in his or her room or one student was affected by wifi, that is more than enough.”
Richardson has also noticed a response from the Howard administration.
“I would say that overtime of the issue picking up a lot of traction and causing more commotion they have become very responsive and very alert about the issue,” Richardson said.
Abdullah has a family legacy when it comes to attending Howard University and said the administration has never been the best.
“It is 2021, I feel like basic living conditions should not be something we have to advocate for,” Abdullah said. “I would think that Howard would care about their reputation; we have alumni in the White House.”
Abdullah still has a great adoration for the university despite their lack of urgency.
“I still love Howard, I am not going anywhere,” Abdullah said. “I like the institution, but I wish it felt like our voices were being heard instead of ignored.”
Richardson said the university has some work to do in order to regain the trust of their students and the Black community.
“The university's lack of urgency was and is an issue and definitely is letting the Black community down in a major way,” Richardson said. “I say this because many people advocate for HBCUs for their support of Black people and their stature.”
Richardson believes Howard can improve and move past these issues.
“By taking into account the mistakes that they made and learning from them rather than not learning anything will show the student that they are making the effort to improve and that's how you regain trust with the students,” Richardson said.
As a beacon of light and hope for many Black individuals across the world, Howard should do better for their current and prospective students.