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Howard University President addresses students amid protests on living conditions

Students occupied the Blackburn University Center and set up tents on the Yard last month to bring attention to several issues, including student living conditions.

WASHINGTON — The protests at Howard University have entered the 24th day on campus as of Friday.

Dozens of students occupied the Blackburn University Center and set up tents on the Yard in October to bring attention to several issues. Among them, the students said they want better living conditions in their dormitory rooms as they claim some have been found to have mold. They also want student representation to be restored on the university board of trustees.

“We’re not just these radical Black students,” said Channing Hill, Howard University Junior. “We’re simply trying to garner the first-class living conditions that Georgetown students have.”

Hill said the way student protesters have been treated the last month is unfair.

“I have wanted to come to Howard since I was in seventh grade and now I’m here and they’re criminalizing me,” she said.

The day’s protests coincided with Howard University President Wayne Frederick’s annual State of the University address.

At that virtual event, Frederick took questions from students and alumni. He said he hears the concerns of students.

“I’m also empathetic with the students who have concerns,” Frederick said.

He added if one student has mold in their room, that’s one student too many and that Howard University needs to make sure its housing partners who are responsible for the upkeep and cleaning air ducts are doing it at a high level.

“If that upkeep isn't at a high level, we're going to have some of these issues,” he said.

However, Frederick also maintained that dorms are not any worse now than they have been in the past.

“The physical infrastructure of our residence halls today is as good as it's ever been,” he said.

Over the last few weeks, the student protesters have attracted the attention of various alumni. Howard alum and actress Debbie Allen visited the students’ campsite Friday afternoon.

“People are hearing you,” she said. “I’m hearing you.”