Howard University relocates classes as semester begins with pipe, boiler problems

- Spring semester classes will finally begin for Howard University students Tuesday after pipe and boiler issues in early January caused damage to several building and forced university officials to postpone classes for more than a week.

About 300 students in residence halls lost heat and hot water when cold weather froze and burst pipes, releasing steam throughout multiple buildings.

The university estimates the debacle has caused about $1 million worth of damage and could take longer than originally estimated to fix. All of the moisture is a cause for ongoing concern for the structural integrity of the buildings as well as possible mold that may develop.

Until permanent repairs are complete, the university will relocate classes and offices in the affected three buildings -- Annex I, Annex II and Douglass Hall.

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Anthony Wutoh sent an alert to Howard University students, staff and faculty Monday saying:

Dear Howard University Community,

I must take this opportunity to thank the entire Howard University community for your support, suggestions, and understanding as we continue to deal with the challenges caused by the weather-related infrastructure damage that has negatively impacted the University. I also wish you an early happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; I find it quite fitting that we will open to receive our undergraduate, graduate, and Social Work students this Tuesday, January 16, 2018.  In the words of Dr. King, "the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands attimes of challenge and controversy."  Likewise, the ultimate measure of an institution is not where we stand in times of comfort and convenience, but where we stand, and how we respond to challenge and controversy.

During the various Town Hall meetings that were hosted on campus last week, President Frederick, Dr. Tashni Dubroy, and I have provided details regarding the steam boiler issues, recurrent steam pipe fractures, and building pipe leaks related to deferred maintenance and extreme weather that have adversely impacted our academic buildings. We will be placing FAQs on the 'Campus Response to Weather-Emergency' webpage based upon questions and suggestions that were received during the Town Hall meetings.

I commend Dr. Dubroy and her Facilities team for their prompt response. As the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff are our primary concern, we have decided to remove from service Annex I, Annex II, and Douglass Hall this semester pending major renovations. We will do the same for any other building that is deemed professionally unsafe.


As a result of the loss of Annex I, Annex II and Douglass Hall as teaching facilities this semester, we have relocated over 500 teaching sections to other classrooms, and instructional spaces on campus.  Students and faculty, are strongly encouraged to check BisonWeb frequently for class relocations and real-time updates. To accommodate this significant re-location process, and lessen the impact on our faculty students and staff, we are utilizing every available space on campus that will be amenable to instruction, including:

Cancer Center
College Hall South- Multipurpose Room (Office of Residence Life entrance)
Howard University Research Building (HURB1)
Howard University Hospital (HUH)
Howard University Plaza Towers- West (Multipurpose Room)
Interdisciplinary Research Building (IRB)
Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library
Wonder Plaza

A map of the relocation buildings and classrooms will be included on the 'Campus Response to Weather-Emergency' webpage. We are also maximizing the utilization of classrooms in all of our traditional academic buildings. We ask that faculty be flexible, understanding that students may need additional time to travel from locations at opposite ends of campus.


We also are cognizant of the tremendous impact that the loss of office space will have on faculty who were previously housed in the affected buildings.

Okianer Christian Dark, Esq., Associate Provost for Faculty Development, is leading the re-assignment of office space for faculty who have been displaced.

Unfortunately, we will not be able to assign an individual office to each faculty that has been impacted by the time classes resume on Tuesday.  As a result, we are also creating Faculty Lounges, and communal office space in several locations (Locke Hall, Social Work, Mackey Building, etc.) to assist.

A number of faculty have also offered to share their existing office space with faculty who have been displaced.


Annex I, Annex II, and Douglass Hall remain "No Entry" zones, and for safety reasons, we cannot permit entry into those buildings, for any reason, by faculty, students or staff.

As remediation and renovation crews, and insurance adjusters review the damage in those buildings, they will inform us when any limited public entry may be permissible.

Due to the high heat (180 degrees) associated with the dissemination of steam throughout those buildings over several days, our preliminary presumption is that there will be significant loss of computers and other technology, as well as damage to walls, ceiling tiles, wiring, and other infrastructure.

Our insurance covers the loss of personal effects, and a process to submit personal claims will be provided by the Chief Financial Officer.


As the primary source of building damage we are experiencing is secondary to water and steam infiltration, we are monitoring for development of mold and other concerns multiple times daily in all affected buildings.

We are taking all other necessary precautions as advised by U.R.I, the professional firm managing remediation and repairs.

All impacted buildings are being prioritized and will undergo a pre-clearance process that includes structural integrity and air quality testing before they are cleared for entry.


The original academic calendar was designed with contingencies for snow days secondary to inclement weather.

The modified calendar, with a start date of January 16, 2018, that is being implemented utilizes those contingency days without impacting Spring Break, or the originally scheduled last day of classes. 

Any potential inclement weather that results in campus closure later this semester may require further adjustments to the calendar.

The updated calendar has been posted on the website, and has also been distributed to Deans and Faculty.

The registration period for all students (undergraduate, graduate, and professional) has been extended through January 26, 2018, to accommodate schedule changes for all students. 

Our Facilities staff, in conjunction with various contractors, are working around the clock to address remaining facility issues, and continue in preparation for the start of classes on Tuesday, January 16, 2018. Although we will continue to face various challenges as we navigate this most recent emergency, I am confident that as a Bison family, we will continue to work together and focus on the life-changing educational opportunities that Howard University continues to provide our students.

God bless, and thank you for your continued collaboration and understanding.

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