COLUMN: Howard University student protest is inspiring


Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Columnist

For over a month, students protested at Howard University, one of the most prestigious HBCUs in the country, demanding improved living conditions in dorm rooms.

The protest was also held to address the low availability of affordable housing, how the university’s COVID-19 response did not go far enough and the lack of student representation in the university’s decision-making.

More than 100 students camped outside the university’s Armour J. Blackburn University Center, with dozens living in tents, partaking in the longest sit-in protest in Howard’s history.

This protest began in October, when Howard students took to social media to expose the university’s horrible living conditions. The conditions in these dorm rooms were not just unsafe, they were unlivable.

Howard students told reports of the air conditioning not working in the residence halls during the hottest days of the semester. Reports of mold were found in the dorm rooms, causing students to become ill. There were reports of mice, roaches, flooding, crumbling ceilings — just absolutely horrible living conditions.

The students demanded information on where the money they pay for housing is going, a town hall with the university’s president, voting rights for students on the board of trustees and amnesty for students participating in the protest.

After 34 days of protesting, the students were able to reach an agreement with university officials about two weeks ago.

Watching this series of events unfold over the past month, I could not help but wonder how the university administrators could see students protesting that long without doing anything about it. Or where all the money the university has goes if not to ensure students are receiving a good education and are safe while living on campus.

Seeing a university as prestigious as Howard University neglect its students in such a manner shocked me. I expect a university as respected and well funded as that one to listen to its students’ concerns and have resources ready for when they need help.

In fact, I expect all universities to listen to students’ concerns, after all, we are the ones spending thousands of dollars for higher education at their institutions.

If we are spending that much money, we should have our voices heard on issues that matter to us, because quite frankly, universities are nothing without their students.

If there is anything I want people to take away from this situation is that us college students matter, and we should feel like we matter to our universities.

I found Howard students’ work inspiring and was glad that they reached an agreement. I hope that the agreement they reached leads to better living conditions for Howard students. No student should have to endure those living conditions, and I am glad those students came together to address this major issue.

I also hope that seeing these students protest for better living conditions, and see results due to all their hard work, inspires students across the nation to fight their universities for what they need.

Those students show that we can be so powerful when we come together to fight for what’s right.

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez is a senior English major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]