WASHINGTON - Protesting Howard University students held a press conference Sunday, saying one of their nine demands focusing on student housing has been agreed on. Negotiations continue between students and school administration and the Board of Trustees, as a student-led sit-in protest was held for the fourth day.
Howard University student newspaper "The Hilltop" first reported a deadline to submit a $200 housing deposit has now been extended to May 1.
The protests have been sparked by a leaked report that six university employees had been fired following an internal investigation of misappropriation of university-provided financial aid funding.
Student organizer Eric Adeyemon said as part of their demands, students are asking for housing for all freshmen and sophomore students.
"Under the housing contract given to us by Howard University, stated that freshmen and sophomores under the age of 21 would be guaranteed housing, however, there are approximately 500 students who are still not receiving housing. We were forced to sign the contract that says we were supposed to receive housing," he told FOX 5's Tisha Lewis.
On Sunday, The Hilltop reported quad renovations will be delayed if a significant number of students request on-campus housing.
BREAKING: In response to student’s meeting on March 31 with Board of Trustees regarding housing demand, the deadline to submit the $200 housing deposit is extended to May 1. If a significant number of students request on campus housing, Quad renovations will be delayed. pic.twitter.com/aMZ304RJyd— The Hilltop (@TheHilltopHU) April 1, 2018
"The Administration will engage our students in examining the adequacy of on-campus housing to meet with Howard University's housing policy," said Vice President for Student Affairs Kenneth Holmes, in a statement to the University community on Sunday.
Students say the university did not properly notify incoming students about the deadline, which resulted in a lower number of sign-ups than usual. That in turn prompted the university to sell off some of its dorms due to lack of demand. However, students say there's plenty of demand they just weren't given enough notice to secure a spot.
The protest, which has become one the largest and most-organized movements for change in recent university history. Students say they have received donations of money, food and supplies during their sit-in.
We would like to thank everyone for the food donations over the past two days. We are asking that moving forward before bringing food could you please contact us so that we don’t have food that goes to waste. All donations are greatly appreciated. #StudentPowerHU ✊🏾— #StudentPowerHU (@HUResist) March 31, 2018
Students leading this charge speak to a greater issue of student empowerment and want students to be involved in every function of the university. Protesters say they will continue their sit-in demonstration until all nine formal demands to university officials are fulfilled.
"I must emphasize this. We are prepared to stay for as long as it takes for all nine demands to be met. Not one, not three, not five, all nine. Because they are all essential and they are all problems on this campus that need to be addressed today," said Adeyemon.
Protesters said they were shutting down access to the building and were only allowing students and maintenance staff inside.
One of the demands from students also includes the resignation of university President Wayne Frederick, who announced the firings on Wednesday, and said he first became aware of a possible issue in December 2016.
In a statement released early Friday, President Frederick said he would respond to the needs of the students.
"I want you to know that I hear you, and my team and I are committed to being responsive to your needs," Frederick’s statement began.
"I am listening to you, and I am challenging my team to make the changes you are expressing a dire need to see," he continued. "In addition to that, I would like to further increase the engagement with a larger and broader portion of our student body." READ FULL STATEMENT HERE
However, organizers say they have not yet met with President Frederick.
*** EDIT ***— #StudentPowerHU (@HUResist) March 31, 2018
The press release states that we have met with President Frederick. This is an inaccuracy. We have not yet met with President Frederick. https://t.co/uswdP5lA6E
FOX 5 spoke to the student who anonymously leaked the report about the firings. The source provided FOX 5 with documents from Tyrone Hankerson, Jr., one of the people accused of improperly accepting an excess of financial aid.
The documents show that Hankerson received $78,000 in university and federal grants, some of which are listed as “need-based.” Hankerson’s story has since gone viral because of his social media posts, appearing to show off a lavish lifestyle.
Hankerson spoke publicly for the first time to journalist Roland Martin and denied any allegations of embezzling funds from the school. He believes he is "being used now as a means to get Dr. Frederick out of his current position."
Adeyemon said students are also demanding the disarmament of the entire campus police department.
"The police department is used as an intimidation department and we feel it's their presence with weapons is not necessary and we think that disarmament of them effective immediately would allow our campus to thrive," he said.
Students are also asking that the university put together a specific mission and plan to address what they describe as a rape culture on campus.
"We have an administration that has taken a passive role and doesn't seem to truly care about the effectiveness of their program, so our goal in this to ensure that these students and the victims of the rape culture on this campus have their voice heard aren't are able to have their investigations solved," he said.
Students have welcomed all to the Administration Building to participate in the protest and many say they've appreciated the community and inclusively brought on by the sit-in. Protesters even held an Easter Sunday service.
The service will actually be at 9 AM! https://t.co/QeQQoLxD4j— #StudentPowerHU (@HUResist) April 1, 2018