Howard University Students Unite to Invoke Change. Here’s Why.


In a not all too unfamiliar scene the wide sidewalk on the 2300 block of 6th street on the campus of Howard University houses the revolutionary spirit of disgruntled students seeking change. The concerns of the student body are wide, ranging from financial aid and registration topics, to updated facilities and increased hours, to the demand for staff resignations and new hiring.

The issues aren’t all that new, and several have a familiar ring to them. Student’s at the Howard took similar issues to the steps, hallways, and rooftop of the A-building at least twice previously, in 1989 and 1996.

Are the students of our university being properly served, and if not what are the reasons and what do we do about it?

Below you will find the list of demands made to the University by the student leadership. A response posted in the school paper is required by Wednesday September 9, to forego further demonstrations.

(Click to enlarge)

HUSA Demands to Howard University Administration
HUSA Demands to Howard University Administration

0 responses to “Howard University Students Unite to Invoke Change. Here’s Why.”

  1. Would it be crazy, as a show of solidarity with current students, for alumni to withhold donations until things are up to par? One hand it makes a bold statement… on the other, will that further affect services students recieve?

    Just thinking out loud….

  2. I don’t know, Veronica, I think a more appropriate approach would be for us HUAA to work with HUSA to ask, “What can alumni do, short-term and long-term, to help?”

  3. I agree with Angela. Their demands are just, and I am extremely proud of the students’ alliance with the staff union. BTW, why are we the only ones who have commented on this?

  4. I like the fact that the students Demands have several concrete suggestions – even if some of the deadline dates seem unrealisitic.

    Does anyone know the specifics that prompted allegations of “intimidation”, limits on “free speech” etc?


  5. I think the “threat” of Alumni withholding donations is a hollow threat since by and far Alumni of HBCU’s don’t give back as much as our counterparts at majority schools.

    As we’ll discuss later, I actually fault that very issue as part of the reason these problems are recurring.


  6. Basically the entire top layer of the administration is complacent and incompetent. All alums know the trains never ran on time, so to speak. I have a sister working there and believe or not it is worse than ever. Also, are alumni aware they just fired the VP for Business? They belived this shyster when he said HU has a $14 million deficit. Guess what? It’s $57 million!!! If alumni want to help alma mater, they need to get on tne Board of Trustees–where are they???? The big names you hear–they really never come to Board meetings. The chair Barry Rand used his position to get the presidency of AARP, so he hardly gives a crap about Howard anyymore. The main problem is they picked Sidney Ribeau to be president, one of the worst possible incompetents who never worked at or attended a black school in his life. He is clueless!! And did you know they had an early out for anyone with 10 years or more service? Not only did 340 some people beat a path to the door, but a lot of these people were in critical jobs and there is no one to replace them. People got a year’s salary too, and where did this money come from? Oh, and by the way, Middle States comes for a re-accreditation visit in November!!

  7. Is there some sort of fund that we as Alumni can create for the students regarding this protest. Also, I agree with you Be, we haven’t given back to our alma mater as much as we should.

  8. I graduated from Howard and worked there for 37 years. I was one of the people who could not wait to get out. When they offered the early out I was one of the first people to sign up. A mob of people have left. A whole bunch of faculty were going to leave too but at the last minute they said faculty was ineligible. There would probably not have had enough faculty left to teach classes if they had not done that. People on the outside including alumni have no idea what a degraded place HU has become for everyone there. Some who have been there for decades do not even make $35,000 a year. But do you know how much the president and cabinet make? Just guess.

    I can confirm what a.howardite says. Howard is really falling apart with everything from the finances to the buildings to the classes and everything else. The truth is withholding money will not do anything. The only way to fix this sad mess is to get to the board of trustees. Flood them with letters or e-mails to show your concern.

    If you care anything about Howard and what it did for you, DO SOMETHING!!

  9. Interesting comments to say the least.
    We need to get proactive on the underlying issues family, or we may be looking back in regret, and NOOOOOOBODY like regret.

  10. I think the list of demands is just and I commend the students for taking charge — its in the spirit of HU. While there are issues at Howard, by no means is this unique to HU, HBCUs or other colleges/universities and while this is no excuse, we must remain realistic and note there are many in far worse situations. With that said, I believe President Ribeau deserves a chance to address the demands and make changes. There is a lot of beauracacy and politics at Howard and he needs to work through and with them. And the list of demands should be his priority. I am an alum and have two children at HU and am concerned that the high level of education, staff, faculty and reputation of Howard remains stellar and continues to improve. Space and housing is STILL a major issue. Building renovations, critical (but looking better). Technology updates, definately. So alumni needs to add to the pressure by calling, writing and demanding that these issues be addressed with action plans and timelines; and alumni, parents, students be updated at least quarterly on the progress of these demands and future action plans. We also need to give more and give often and if so, designate where and what your $ can assist–overall or speicifically at the university. If you don’t give at least time and money, then step up and help the university and its students.

  11. Wow!! I had no idea that so many things have not changed at HU. I took a tour with my school in NYC to HU last year and I was impressed with the updated classrooms, technology, and new buildings. I have not spent any significant amounts of time there, as I have been investing in the children of New York City. I must admit that I have not kept up with the progress or issues at HU. The list of demands from the students looks very similar to the list of demands from us (the student body in 1989) My whole family went there. I am going to contact my family and DC and friends that I know and try to get things going. Please keep me posted.

  12. Just to keep the alumni abreast of the actions that have occured, there is a planning committee that has met three times since the protest. We are mobilized and are ready to improve Howard and make sure our demands are met.

    We need your help though. We are starting an email campaign to let the administration know that we are serious about these demands are met, and we need all members of the university community to be involved.

    Please email and let him know you support the demands. The email campaign is starting @ 9:00 p.m.

    Because of the sensitivity of our plans, they will be unveiled as they happen. We will stay in contact with the Managers of bisonroundup to make sure the alumni are kept up to date.

  13. I am fully in support of the students and your demands. I will do what I can to help spread the word and might event show up to a protest if given advance notification. Keep the faith!

  14. Couldn’t anyone have predicted this “was” coming in the wake of the economic crisis. 15% unemployment among African-Americans. Almost 10% unemployment nationally. Now we are all gasping over the students protest. This same drama happened when I was there in 1989. We staged a sit-in. It made national news. We got some change but not much. I remember all that stuff…it was painful.

    Fast forward, today everyone on scrimping to make ends meet; barely enough to pay bills and enjoy your life. This time around I think the kids may just be SOL. I’ll do what I can to help but let’s be honest the administration, the students, the families and the community should have really seen this coming.

    And there are plenty of wealthy celebrities from Howard that can pitch in. Ask them to hold a fundraiser. Ask P.Diddy, Ask Omarosa, Ask Alonzo Mourning’s Wife, Ask Chris Rock’s Wife, Ask L. Alonzo, Ask some of these people that are doing well and can afford to throw a few thousands to help these kids with books, tuition and whatever else they.

    Sorry to be salty but I’ve seen it all before and it wasn’t fun. As black people we always wait to the pot boils over before we decide to turn the STOVE OFF!!!!

  15. Howard is at the lowest point I have ever seen it, We has a “George Bush” in Pat Swygert, but no “Barack Obama” in Sidney Ribeau. For decades Howard alumni have seen the mess, some of them working there. When are we going to make somethinmg happen!!! It seems like our more affluent and well-known alumni have just given up on alma mater–why? I personally know many alumni who wanted to give money but could not even get an answer from the campus about who to talk to or what actions to take. I know many alumni who have given numerous ideas to improve things. They have met with deaf ears. I am convinced the only way to finally right the wrongs at Howard is through the Board.

  16. Alumni giving at HU is significantly up from 10 years ago and yes, it could improve. Nevertheless, the issue of importance is the survival of HU.

    The greater majority of those alumni gifts directly fund student scholarships. Withholding those funds will create a greater burden on current students who are in dire need. We must continue to support HU. Those spewing the greatest rhetoric are not giving to HU;, less than 3,000 even bother to pay $35 annually to support HUAA.

    The problem with HU did not just occur this year or within the one year that Dr. Ribeau has been in place. Leadership has long been asleep at the wheel.

    The current deficit resulted from decades of deception.

    Barry Rand did not need Howard to ascend to CEO of AARP. Research his history and background. He has been a trailblazer in helping many Blacks ascend the corporate ladder in the Fortune 500. He was second in command at Xerox and CEO of Avis. He among others has given significantly from his own pocket; if I recollect correctly, at least one million in the name of his mother alone who was a Howard Alumni in Education.

    Rand is responsible for bringing the Board of Trustees out of the dark ages and into a period of accountability. Dr. Ribeau had only an inkling of the problems beseiging Howard and given what he knew, chose to take a job that many refused. Give the man a chance! Trying to undue years of neglect will not happen over night.

    The morale at HU has been in the gutter for some time now, as a former employee, I know this personally.

    The students have legitimate concerns as do many alumni.

    Solving HU’s financial and administrative debacles wills take great resolve and partnership with students, alumni and the administration.

    This is a time for coming together of all interested parties to create both short and long-term solutions to ensure the viability of Alma Mater.

    Alta J. Cannaday
    Region II Chair

  17. Y’all are HARD on Presidents man. Whew.

    It’s GOT to be hard holding a paid leadership position in front of Black folks. We typically offer very little in the way of financial support and don’t give folks an INCH!

    Just a moment of reflection.

  18. I am both an alum and employed at Howard University. Please do not withhold your funds to make a point. Our students need financial support. There is frustration because Howard University lost 340 employees, some of them with key functions and a larger number of freshman and transfer students were admitted without the infrastructure to support them. In addition to losing personnel, schools and collegss’ budgets were cut which further translated to losing positions normally used to hire adjunct instructors to teach introductory courses. Even with the budget cuts, we are desparately trying to assist students. So far, my college assisted more than 20 students with books and with very limited resources awarded scholarships that were so small, they probably will not make much of a difference. In some cases, individual students’ needs exceeded a considerable portion of the small budget we had for financial support. As a proud alum, I give over a $1000 a year for scholarship. While it may not be much, I am unsure that my gift as well as others is accounted for. It appears that Ribeaus is cleaning house because the VPs for Development and Business and Fiscal Affairs stepped down as well as the Director of Sponsored Programs. Howard University is paralleling the nation with the challenges we are facing. We need to be patient with the President and not react with the “town meeting” mentality. By the same token, the students’ demands need to be addressed and alumni need to hold the administration accountable. But if you don’t give to the University (I have to say this) I personally don’t think you earned the right to say anything. If Howard University is on your resume and you are in a position to give and have not, please refrain from taking an active role in this protest movement. If all alum gave something, I believe the conversation would be quite different.

  19. i am so pleased the students are finally addressing these administrative issues. for far too long we’ve just accepted that this is the way it is at an hbcu. shame on all of our hbcus expecially the premiere hbcu, the “mecca” for having a come on people moment. i love HU but this is your “come on people” moment. Howard, you’re being called out on the carpet.

    registration, financial aid, housing were plagued with these same problems 27 years ago. Big Ups to the students for tackling these issues HOWARD STYLE!

    Alumni- don’t withhold funds. volunteer your expertise.


  20. I work for PFM and I can tell you that Management is the Blame- They are all friends in it together. They do not talk to the little people to see what the actual problems are- The men let some tight clothes, big breasted woman run there show from the Vice President to the Managers. Facilitating any recommendation she makes. PFM does not have enuff staff to cover all the work that comes in, however, the A&E dept hires project managers and then dont monitor them. So when a job is incomplete-they blame it on our guys and than wound up paying the contractors additional money for the same job. Its a discriminatory place against women and I’m a man so I can tell you straight up that no woman will be promoted only intimidated by management to complete there work while they get all the pay. Us Non-Union Employees need help too but where do we go with the economy so bad? We need our jobs so we just shut up!

  21. I noticed among the students, there were a many employees with SEIU union posters and shirts. There were also Howard University employee uniforms in the crowd – cheering on the students and participating in the protest. Is it the case that they were there to promote their own issues or concerns, or support the concerns of students? That was not clear.

    While I understand that these students are young adults, where are the parents who sign off on the financial aid forms? Unless you are 25 years of age or deemed emancipated by a Court, parents are still required to complete the financial forms and provide information regarding their finances. Are parents involved in these matters, and to what extent have parents been notified that this current situation is taking place?

    Many colleges are experiencing similar issues, but what has plagued Howard has been its funding source. I was informed some years ago, that Howard and Gallaudet are the only schools in the nation that receive direct funding from the Federal Government. That being, when the Federal Government decides to cut funding, all sate-wide college and university budgets feel the crunch. However, Howard is has no state or local government entity to supplement its budget when the Federal Government reduces its education budget. Howard doesn’t have a state budget that will increase taxes or raise toll fares to create resources for its university system. Where other university and colleges have state support in some form or the other, Howard has none. Therefore, Howard is forced to find resources that it loses in changes to Appropriation Bills every year or so. Howard is at the whim of Congressional Appropriations. It’s a sad fact, but it is Howard’s reality.

    As a graduate, I experienced similar concerns, but I relish in the fact that my degree gave me a network unlike that of other schools. I enjoyed an education second to none. I understand that the university may be plagued with administrative issues that discourage many to contribute. However, I implore you to continue to give. If you don’t want to give directly, then create a scholarship in your name. Create criteria for the student you wish to receive the scholarship and fund your own scholarship. I discovered this process, and it has made donating to Howard more satisfying for me. I know who is getting my money. I have a sense of their goals, progress and background. I get to see my money help a student who needs the resources – like many at Howard. It was easier to complain, but it has been rewarding to give back – especially when I think that there is a Congressional body that determines the future of Howard. I am determined to make sure that the future of Howard is what I make it – not what some Legislation says it should be.

  22. As an alumni and former employee who worked closely with students i have to say, I am happy to see them stand up for what they want but they have to understand that financially some of these goals just won’t be met. Howard employees already have had massive layoffs and furlough days off to make up for the deficit – HU can’t afford to staff the libraries 24 hours a day and I highly doubt students will volunteer to staff it for free. I do agree about the acting positions being held too long and that it seems that some of the people they have in office are so inappropriate and unqualified and HU needs to do better. But there needs to be an honest discussion between students and administration – a little transparency on both sides in order for everyone to come to a realistic agreement.

  23. As an alum of HU, I support the students and ecourage them to continue. But the new President does need the time to work through the issues. I must admit, I was shocked by the demands. I guess the last President H. Pat Swagert had a smoke and mirros game going. My fault for not paying close attention. Now as alum, we need to hold the board accountable. The new President has inherited a mess and needs the time to work it out. How much time should be what the students and alumni must decide. Working together for solutions. Thank you Linda Jones for your first hand insight.

  24. @concerned alumna. You asked where are the parents in the financial aid process. We have so many scenarios regarding parents:

    1) bad credit-loan application declined
    2) upset because child did not go to a less expensive state school-refuse to support and accept the offered loan
    3) absentee parents through unhealthy personal choices and (sorry for the term guys) dead beat dads. Lsst year, I had five students in my office, at one time and engaged in a conversation about their fathers. Some did not know their father, or he was not in their life, or incarcerated or delivered promises that were never kept.
    4) absentee father and deceased mother, grandparents and guardians cannot help
    5) recently unemployed or gravely ill

    What do you tell students who tell you all of their lives, Howard was their dream institution and they came in spite of all of the obstacles? I know many of us had the same dream. However, I take exception to parents who can afford to pay for their child’s education and send them around campus begging different offices for support. This is the waiting game in which the parent eventually pays. Why subject students to this?

  25. Howard University needs a new Board of Trustees. The whole Board needs to be re-constituted. The next march by the students and anyone else should be on Capital Hill. The Federal Government gives Howard over 200 million dollars a year and they don’t know where it goes–because they don’t audit it like they are required to according to the rules regarding the funds and/or the Congressional Charter that extablished HU in the first place. Research the Charter and the rules (on Request information from the Dept of Ed on HU’s federally allocated funds and how they use it (through the Freedom of Information Act – FOIA). You want change at Howard – go to Congress. Go to the accredidation board – Middlestates. You will never get change fighting the battle in-house. The BOT is strong and they have been at it too long. Only by taking the fight OUTSIDE can you hope to win (ANYTHING). Use the internet and especially YouTube to your advantage. Your list of demands is good but it doesn’t say what you will do if you don’t get them or at least a sit down discussion with the President and the Chair of the BOT. Formulate a response if your demands are not met. Request a meeting with the Education Committee on Capital Hill.
    Unless you want your great-grand children to fight this same battle.

    Your biggest uphill battle will be getting the majority of the students to care enough to get involved. As far as the Alumni – HU has probably over 50,000 living and less than 5,000 in the Association. I have family members who graduated from HU who don’t give back because of what they experienced AND because the Alumni Association (according to them) has niether courted them consistently or convinced them that their dollars will be put to good use.

    What will it take at Howard for a majority of Students, Alumni, Faculty and Staff to get on one accord with bringing about change? If we can figure that out and make it happen… then and only then will Howard become in reality the true Mecca and Premier Institution in the 21st century it only claims to be now. As a staff person and student at Howard I am telling you as long as we as a people are willing to be divided inspite of knowing the truth – we can’t and won’t succeed. WE MUST COME TOGETHER. One thing I have learned since coming to work at HU and going to school here… All the education in the world won’t give you good character, integrity or the courage to stand up for what is right. That cultivation had to start long before you sought higher education.

    Having said all that–I am hopeful and I believe CHANGE can happen. Once we all come to the realization that the changes needed and sought are for the greater good of ALL.. All who go to school here, teach here, work here and went to school here… We can bring about lasting CHANGE.

  26. The list of demands seem reasonable. I’m truly impressed that the students have the foresight and passion to care enough about their education and the education of future students to demand better more up-to-date facilities.

  27. @Linda Jones- you have brought some insight into the personal struggles of some students. Thank you for the info on funding a private scholarship in one’s name, that is a very good idea!

    @LRHT – well said! I would like to thank you for the info you shared!

  28. have you all seen today’s Hilltop? There are two stories in there. The first has President Ribeau talking about the demands w/the the Hilltop and discusses at least his position on the demands – interesting comments. The second is the HUSA president refusing to meet w/President Ribeau yesterday privately and wanting to have a public meeting (which i am on the fence aobut…).

    i 100% agree that change needs to happen and that the demands were not unreasonable. i just hope that all this press and attention is utlized to really do good for the ENTIRE student body as a whole……….

  29. Who requested the meeting? A private meeting with the President does not rule out a future public meeting. Why not agree to meet with the President conditional – if they agree to have a public meeting in the near future and share the same things or agree to allow you to record the private meeting. I applaud the President for wanting to meet and for his letter to the University students body today. Remember, President Ribeau inherited this situation. He needs to be given a chance. Granted the BOT is the final authority but having Ribeau on your side is a very good idea. Ask if you can record the meeting so that you can provide a transcript for the students–the big word on campus these days is “Transparency”.

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