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After students protest housing conditions, Howard places residence halls in 'hypercare'

WJLA – Washington D.C. logo WJLA – Washington D.C. 10/26/2021 Anna-Lysa Gayle
While some celebrate during Howard Homecoming, others protest housing conditions
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While some students celebrated Howard Homecoming week, others protested in front of the Blackburn Center.

At the top of their list of demands, is a comprehensive plan for housing issues.

READ MORE: Howard U administration meets with students as Blackburn Takeover sit-in continues

Students have shared several viral tweets about the issues they’ve experienced.

Following the protests and viral tweets, Howard's EVP/COO Tashni-Ann Dubroy tweeted on Monday, "Today, we announced that we are placing all res halls in 'hypercare'. We are ensuring our property managers go above and beyond to clean HVAC systems, change filters and be exceptionally responsive to maintenance needs. Maintenance techs are at all halls working to address issues."

“I looked at my painting and I was like wow, I didn’t know my painting was this dusty,” said Freshman Kaedriana Turenne.

Turenne found mold in her room last week, at the Harriet Tubman Quadrangle.

She was since moved to another room, down the hall.

Since September, mold has been discovered in 34 rooms on the campus.

In total, there are roughly 2,700 rooms on the campus.

“There really doesn’t seem like there is a plan action,” Turenne said. “I really don’t think I’m going to come back next year. What I’m going through, it really doesn’t live up to the expectation of the school that I thought I was coming to," she said.

Sophomore Micah Anglin also had some maintenance issues at the Towers, which he experienced in September.

“There was kind of a big hole, with a fridge moved and it took a couple days to get fixed,” Anglin said.

Many of the university’s residence halls were left empty for more than 18 months, at the height of the pandemic.

“It is possible, that some of what we’re seeing is due to the building not being used in the manner that it was previously,” said Executive Vice President and COO Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy.

The university moved students to different rooms when major maintenance problems were reported.

“The unfortunate piece is that we’re coming from a deficit, in terms of infrastructural investment and we are playing catch-up,” Dubroy said.

Since students’ viral tweets, there have been questions over the university’s handling of large donations.

“Howard University has given $169 million in institutional and donor-funded scholarships,” Dubroy said. “Very few times, do you see that donors are giving to infrastructural needs.”

The other two demands from protesters include a town hall with the student body and the administration, as well as a call for the reinstatement of affiliate positions to the Board of Trustees.

“We will continue to protest, none of the items on the list are things that are outlandish,” said protester Erica England on Thursday evening.

The Board of Trustees released a statement in response to the recent sit-in:

“We remain committed to our decision to update the board structure. Howard students hold an array of opinions, as do faculty and alumni. This sit-in reinforces the fact that hearing from a much wider group of students on a constant basis is not only necessary but critical. We are committed to having at least 50 percent of the board be represented by alumni—currently, 64 percent of our board members are alumni.”

The university released the following statement about housing:

Dear Howard University Community,

The foundation of any effective community is care and concern for others. This past week, we have seen students demonstrate to express their worries – not only for themselves but for their fellow students. While we recognize that students have concerns, we want to make it clear that no Department of Public Safety (DPS) or University administration representatives have threatened any of the student sit-in participants and have allowed the group to peacefully protest. It is important to know that we are all united in our efforts to support one another.

In an attempt to provide clarity surrounding conditions on campus, I would like to update you all on the current status of student housing and campus safety. Please continue to monitor your inbox to receive the latest updates and information on the state of our community.

Housing Conditions and Availability

Students have reported on social media that there are Howard University students who are homeless. We have a 94 percent occupancy rate at present, which means we have hundreds of available beds to house students. Please refer any students who present as homeless to us. They can email hureslife@howard.edu for assistance, or they can contact the Office of Student Affairs. As we did last year, we will assist with securing housing and addressing food insecurities. Our food pantry remains open and available on campus for students who have food insecurities. We will continue to provide these accommodation to our students.

Our priority is to keep our students healthy and safe. As a University, we are devoted to providing quality living conditions for students in Howard residence halls. To fulfill that responsibility, we ask that students alert us to issues as they arise and take the actions necessary to protect yourselves and others. We can only address what is reported to us. We encourage any student with facility condition concerns to submit a maintenance request via the work order portal (Hufixit.com) to ensure all maintenance concerns are properly reported, tracked and resolved. In addition, any student who feels sick, potentially due to an issue with their living conditions, should visit the student health center immediately.

The University along with its campus housing providers are actively addressing the concerns our students have raised. While there have only been a small number of documented facilities reports, we are actively inquiring about unreported issues that may be in the residence halls by going door to door to interview each resident. Additionally, members of the administration have also toured and inspected every residence hall on campus and are addressing any documented facility issues directly with our third-party housing managers. The results of our inquiries affirm that the issues are not widespread, and the vast majority of our students are living comfortably in their rooms. Our students can attest to Howard University staff and our housing providers visiting housing facilities over the last month to survey rooms and address concerns.Yesterday, the maintenance team conducted microbial wipe downs as a part of their full room checks in Drew and the Quad. This work will continue until every room has been checked.

The University and its housing providers have consistently passed building inspections, and recently, after the social media flare-up, invited the building inspector to tour our residence halls. No regulatory findings or fines were administered to the University or to its housing provider. We will continue to hold our third-party campus housing providers accountable to ensure that when issues are reported by residents, they are fixed within the stated timelines. Our standard of excellence has never been the building inspection. We want our residents to be comfortable and safe. We will continue to have dialogue with our residents to enhance residential living.

Campus Safety

We have listened to the concerns that our students and parents have raised regarding campus safety and have ramped up patrol, where asked. We have rigorously assessed and evaluated all the University’s safety measures and have participated in numerous discussions regarding their enhancement and implementation. Our ongoing conversations have included groups with students, residence life, housing partners, parents and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). As a result, I want to share some of the additional safety measures we have put in place.

DPS will increase their patrols and presence around the residence halls to deter and prevent any possible crime.

MPD has established a presence on the 4th Street corridor a few weeks ago and will continue to support this effort in the foreseeable future. We are grateful for their efforts.

DPS, with new funding support, will increase the security perimeter of the University, which will include additional personnel and patrols on the perimeter of the campus beyond our boundaries.

DPS maintains regular office hours, with an initiative called “Safety Conversations,” in each residence hall for students to make recommendations or have confidential conversations with officers. These hours are in addition to the weekly Campus Safety 101 Series we conduct in the College Hall South residence hall, which launched in September and will run through the conclusion of the semester. The Campus Safety 101 Series specifically emphasizes the roles of students and the University to promote safety in a metropolitan environment. We encourage all students to attend these sessions.

While we have dining and food options in Bethune Annex, we are continuing to work to allow students to access the cafeteria in Blackburn, which is currently closed, as soon as possible so we can increase students’ ability to access additional dining options.

We will continue to send updates to campus to ensure you are all informed and understand the actions you can take to ensure the wellbeing of yourselves and one another.

Excellence in Truth and Service,

Cynthia Evers, Ed.D.

Vice President for Student Affairs

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