Howard University Morale Is Sinking

Bogged down by a credit downgrade and internal conflicts, the HBCU tries to make sense of its future.

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Drummers from Howard University's marching band

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Howard University, one of the nation’s most-famed HBCUs, has not been having a good year, and some fear the faculty and university are losing their spirit. This comes as the school’s Faculty Senate voted no confidence on the school’s Board of Trustees, NPR reports.

"All of the negative news has not been good for [the morale of faculty and staff]," professor Gregory Jenkins, who teaches in the physics and astronomy department, told NPR.

According to the news site, Jenkins became concerned when he saw an internal letter written by Renee Hingginbotham-Brooks, the vice chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, which was leaked to the press.

In the letter, Hingginbotham-Brooks writes, "Howard will not be here in three years if we don't make some crucial decisions now." The letter signaled a troubling financial future for the university due to issues such as drops in enrollment—albeit now recovering—due to changes in federal loan policy, NPR notes.

In September, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the historic university’s credit rating, stating some of the financial challenges the school was dealing with, such as loss of patient revenue and volume at its hospital and cuts in its federal funding, the Washington Post reported.

The "Baa1" downgrade signaled that Moody’s considered the private university to be a moderate credit risk and was a slap in the face, as the school was previously held at an esteemed "A3" rating. The service also indicated that another downgrade could be possible, given its negative outlook for the university.  

Shortly after the downgrade, Howard’s president Sidney Ribeau stepped down, NPR reports.

Read more at the Washington Post and NPR.

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