A nine-day occupation of the Howard University administration building came to end on Friday, after students said they reached an agreement with university officials who promised to meet most of their demands.
The announcement was met cheers and celebration, and students are calling the agreement a victory.
“This is a long time coming,” HU Resist student organizer Alexis McKenney said at a press conference Friday.
“It’s important for us to acknowledge that no significant change that has ever happened within the black community has happened without struggle,” she added.
Among the changes agreed to in the dayslong negotiation is an overhaul of the school’s sexual assault policy, the creation of a food bank to serve students and the surrounding community and a review of policies allowing campus police officers to carry weapons, WAMU member station reporter Patrick Madden told NPR.
“Today marks the next chapter of progress at Howard University,” Marie Johns, a member of the board of trustees said. “These commitments are meant to address the needs and are for the benefit and welfare of the entire Howard University community.”
The student group HU Resist led the sit-in that began on March 29.
Over several contentious sessions, student leaders hashed out a final version of a “Statement of Commitments” with members of the Board of Trustees. For days the two sides deliberated over a nine-point list of conditions. In the end, they compromised on seven.
One major win for students is an agreement by the board to consider freezing undergraduate tuition rates at current levels. Howard will also reexamine the adequacy of on-campus housing for students.
HU Resist had been calling for university President Wayne Frederick to resign, but eight days into the protest, they backed off.
On Tuesday, student organizers issued a tweet alerting other activists, “There have been 8 days of negotiations, and we have been deliberating ways in which we can recenter our cause around the overall improvement of our institution instead of the elimination of one figure.That being said,we are no longer calling for the resignation of the president,” the message read.
Some additional terms to which the university has agreed to include:
• Students will have a voice in selecting the student ombudsperson, who will be a graduate student, will report to the vice president for student affairs and is expected to attend the Board Student Life and Affairs Committee meetings to make reports.
• Subject to approval, university “stakeholders will engage with the student body, to provide a forum to convey concerns regarding all aspects of student life to the Board as needed.”
• “The Board agrees to establish a task force, co-chaired by a student, with representation from the Howard student body and Howard administration to review existing grievance mechanisms at the University, and best practices at other universities, and establishing a grievance system that holds faculty, administrators and students accountable in their language and actions towards anyone in the Howard community.”
Local television station WUSA obtained a copy of the complete Statement of Commitments.
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