Howard president delivers state of university address amid student housing protest
WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - The President of Howard University delivered his state of the university address Friday afternoon as hundreds of students continue to protest on campus for better housing conditions.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Howard students enter second week of sit-in on campus to protest poor housing conditions
Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick's address began by acknowledging the student protests.
"The current events that are taking place on campus are very important and I hear the concerns," he said. "I also am empathetic with the students who have concerns, whether one student had mold in his or her room or one student was affected by Wi-Fi. That’s more than enough and certainly, we apologize to anybody that was inconvenienced in any way shape or form."
Students have staged a sit-in over the past few weeks, camping out in front of the Blackburn Student Center on campus. Many say housing conditions at Howard are unacceptable and have posted videos of mold, bugs, rats and more in their dorm rooms.
Frederick says they've had reports of mold in 41 out of the 2,700 rooms.
The latest development occurred on Tuesday when the university tweeted that they had laid off a number of workers and said the student protest had led to the unintended consequence.
READ MORE: Howard University lays off workers amid student protests over housing concerns
Frederick says the school has been working to fix some of the issues students have brought up during the protests.
He also said the university needs to improve communication and transparency when it comes to housing students and responding to issues in the dorms.
Students had set a deadline for the university to hold an open house with President Frederick for this past Sunday.
FOX 5 reached out to Howard on Sunday and received a response saying officials have met with several students and their legal representation to discuss the occupation of Blackburn as well as a path forward.
The university also said in a statement that the well-being of the students remains their top concern.
READ MORE: Howard University vows to address some housing concerns
Many students FOX 5 spoke with say Howard is not taking their health and safety seriously.
"I see they painted over the mold and the showers with white paint but you can still see the mold," one student said. "That’s what Howard likes to do; they like to paint over issues. They like to keep up a façade."
Students also responded to Frederick's speech on Friday night.
"A lot of what he was saying, the students in the building along with me were just really saying, ‘This is outrageous,’" says Sariah Adams. "And how he was responding to it was just very blatant and disregarding everything other students have reported."
President Frederick sent out a letter on Tuesday leading up to his annual address, saying he remains willing to sit down with students as soon as the Blackburn Center is vacated.
However, FOX 5 has learned none of the students from the protests were asked to participate in the Q&A portion of Frederick's address Friday night.
"I feel like there were a lot of things that a lot of us had even more follow up questions we couldn’t even ask because there wasn’t a chat option," says Adjoh Odame-Adams. "None of them asked us to be on the panel. They didn’t ask if we had anything we wanted to say and you could tell there was a reason for that."
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The letter also explained that President Frederick has been meeting with the Howard University Parent Advisory Council and spoken with nearly 900 parents.
Students at the Blackburn Center say they're not leaving until their demands are met.