Spurred to action by the recent allegations of the misappropriation of nearly $1 million in financial aid funds, hundreds of Howard University students have occupied the school’s administrative building for a fourth straight day.
With unofficial student campus group HU Resist leading the charge, the students have presented the administration with a list of demands, including an update to its title IX policy in response to campus sexual assault; increased housing accommodations in a rapidly gentrifying Washington, D.C.; and the immediate resignation of Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick and his board of trustees, who are standing with the embattled HU head for now.
The Root was able to speak directly with @veritas1867 (preferred pronoun: “they”), the person who originally posted the since-deleted financial aid misappropriation story on Medium, “Howard University Officials Stole Nearly $1 Million in Financial Aid Funds, Records Show.” Veritas promised that the protesting students were “just getting started.”
“The alumni and the board want to make this about numbers but this is really about people, and about how they’ve been abused,” said Veritas to The Root on Sunday. “[Frederick] is a bully who intimidates people. He’s done that to faculty he’s done that to students for years. And he has gotten away with it. The reason this thing has gone on for so long is that people were afraid of him, but this time we’re not afraid.”
Veritas confirmed that at least one of the students’ demands had been met, with the administration extending the housing application deadline to May 1. They also confirmed that students planned to meet again with the administration on Sunday evening.
As evidence of what the current administration’s pattern of intimidation, Veritas told The Root that “Chase,” the student worker in the HU financial aid office who provided proof the theft, “has had his life destroyed” in the aftermath of the story going public. Veritas alleges that the university has leaked his name through anonymous social media sources.
“They want to humiliate him and silence him,” says Veritas. “And sadly, it’s working. He’s in a whole other state, he doesn’t want to talk to press. He’s not at ease.”
President Frederick issued a statement addressing HU Resist’s demands on Friday, touching on each of the stipulations which run the gamut from housing and gentrification to food insecurity, mental health services, campus rape culture and greater salary transparency for administrators.
HU Resist has used Twitter to call on alumni and supporters to send cash via mobile apps to support protesters with food, snacks and water, surge protectors, fans, sleeping bags, pillows, blankets and ice coolers.
Veritas confirms that there is another meeting between the board and students this evening, but doubled down on their assertion that students were in it for the long haul, noting that the numbers have not waned and that many protesters are going home, showering and returning.
They say that they are occupying the administration building, not only in solidarity with “Chase,” but for all other struggling students.
“It’s time for new leadership. Alumni and the administration think this is about financial aid but the truth is that [Frederick] has created a culture at the university where people don’t hold people accountable.”
They paused and then added, “We have no plans to leave until our demands are met.”