Howard Student Publishes Declaration of Frustration
03-23-2006, 12:47 PM
Howard Student Publishes Declaration of Frustration
I was sent this a few days ago by sophomore legal communication and political science major Courtney Phelps. I have to say I'm definitely glad to hear voices of any kind as I believe it's the start to any meaningful action. The power of the word is real.
The key thing I don't see in this is a statement of action. if we recall correctly, the Declaration of Independence (which this seems to be modeled after) has clear intentions of action, stated here in its last full paragraph:
"...These United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do..."
That is to say it was not a mere statement of frustration or list of grievances.
For those interested, I also found a link to an Essence article detailing the 1988 student takeover of the A building.
Well here's the Howard version. Dialogue is always healthy, so check it out and voice an opinion, at the very least, with the intention of improving it:
The Declaration of Student Frustration:
When in pursuit of a post secondary education, it may become necessary for the Students to inform the Administration and Governance of the Educational Institution to which they attend that they have a great number of grievances and frustrations with that Institution, they must declare why they are frustrated.
We hold these truths to be self evident that all tuition and fee paying Students of Howard University have certain inalienable rights as Students of the Institution, that but for them would not exist, that among these are respectful treatment, and acknowledgement, and action taken towards their concerns when brought to the Administration of the Institution.
That to secure these rights, Administrations are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, - That when Students feel as if the Administration instituted is in disposal of their concerns, and do not regard Students as adults and their issues important, it is the right of the Students to make their issues known thru any other desirable avenues.
History indeed will show that when Howard Students have serious concerns, they will find ways to be heard. The frustrations that Students have are serious and must be acknowledged.
All the achievements, accomplishments, and successes of the Institution to date - while we applaud, congratulate, and have celebrated such, in no way, shape or form diminishes or eradicates our concerns and issues. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world:
for the constant lose and mishandling of paperwork in Administrative offices of the Institution that provide Student services
for placing holds on student accounts, without adequate time to pay the fees associated with such holds
for lack of accommodations for commuting students attending classes during the course of the academic day, when such accommodations existed in the past
for lack of a student center with sufficient space to house student organizations, student activities, student government organizations, etc.
for over paid administrators and underpaid faculty members
for gross instances of failure to communicate and miscommunication between Students and Administration of the Institution on all levels
for lack of access to advisors during the course of matriculation, except until senior year
for a consistently malfunctioning Blackboard system, thus preventing Students access to coursework, instruction, and supplemental materials essential to the successful completion of classes
for inadequate research facilities for both students and faculty, at large
for the lack of direct input into classroom curriculum
for under-sized and over-crowded classrooms
for numerous flooding in residence halls, caused in some cases by no fault of students
for mold and allergens in residence halls that endanger students’ health
for 3,000 beds to accommodate 11,000 Students, thus the inability to guarantee housing to students beyond freshman year
for visitation policies and restrictions that do not regard the maturity of students, by and large
for furniture that has outlived its lifespan in residence halls, classrooms, practice rooms, computer labs and libraries, etc.
for inoperable elevators across campus (and especially in residence halls), thus restricting access to students with disabilities and preventing the smooth transition of moving in and out of the residence halls
for causing Students to go weeks without the basic amenities for the sanitary use of restrooms across the campus (i.e. lack of soap, paper towels, etc.)
for non-working smoke detectors in residence halls and other campus facilities
for fire alarm systems that do not connect to the local fire department and potentially endanger the lives of Students
for lack of sufficient numbers of campus police officers, no real feeling of safety, or security on the campus
for inoperative and outdated security equipment across campus (blue light system, cameras, security access doors, etc.)
for the antiquated equipment in media centers across the campus
for imposing technology fees, without providing adequate technology and or support for such
for broken computers, printers and other electronic equipment in classrooms and learning facilities that require them
for smart rooms that lack the essential and working equipment to be consider such
for broken desks, chairs, and seats in classroom and auditoriums across the campus
for inconvenient and unaccommodating operation hours in cafeterias on the main campus that do not regard Student’s varying and lengthy study schedules
for unsanitary dining facilities, and workers who disregard sanitation guidelines
for failing to financially support and advocate for the African American educational elite from low-income backgrounds that attend the Institution in the same manner that majority institutions with whom the Institution competes do
for bureaucratic processes that prevent satisfactory Student services
and for all other issues which have not been declared or brought forth at publication of this Declaration.
In every stage of these issues We have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated and unfulfilled promises. An Administration, whose character is thus marked by every act ignoring its Students is unfit to govern the future leaders of America and the Global Community.
Nor have We been regarded in attention from administrative offices. We have met with them from time to time of attempts by Students to seek resolution of such problems. We have reminded them of the circumstances that We face as Students, of our standing as responsible adults, and essentially costumers of the University, to no avail, which after constant attempts would inevitably dispose of the willingness by Students to continue such communications in the same manner.
We, therefore, the Students of Howard University, Assembled by a common bond of concern, appealing to the Administration and Governance of this Educational Institution, with the integrity of our intentions, do, in the true spirit of Howard, and by Authority vested in us as Students, solemnly publish and declare our frustration with the handling of our grievances, critiques, and issues regarding our treatment as Students and costumers, our facilities and quality of education.
04-09-2006, 12:17 PM
Howard Takeover 88'
Here's the full article just in case the link dissapears one day...
By: Retha Powers
Last winter I participated in what became the most significant student
demonstration on a Black college campus in two decades: the three-day
takeover of the administration building at Howard University.
The board of trustees of Howard, a school known as "the mecca of Black
intellect," had appointed Lee Atwater a new trustee. Atwater, the
Republican National Committee chairman, is a conservative who ran the
party's 1988 presidential campaign, which so many of us perceived as
racist. I was outraged by the administration's attempt to secure "new
money" through a Bush favorite, but I never expected my fellow
students to actively oppose the appointment.
We decided to disrupt a ceremony marking Howard's one-hundred-and
twenty-second anniversary, at which Bill Cosby was scheduled to speak,
"This is our convocation," remarked student leader April Silver. And
it was. Two thousand of us stormed the auditorium, making sure that
neither Bill Cosby nor Howard president James E. Cheek spoke that
President Cheek and other university officials met with student
leaders the following day to discuss our demands. These were for a
more Afrocentric curriculum, academic credit for community service,
increased efficiency in the financial-aid process, guaranteed
improvement of student housing, improved campus security, elimination
of a proposed 15-percent tuition increase and the immediate removal of
Lee Atwater from the board of trustees. The administration acquiesced
to all but the last demand, so students resolved to meet the following
Monday and take over the administration building.
I arrived on campus that Monday uneasy about whether enough students
would have maintained their anger over the weekend. But the usually
complacent student body set aside its apathy and marched to the
administration building. Within minutes we secured the doors with
cables and used desks as barricades. University employees were
escorted outside, and we made it clear that we would occupy the
building until all of our demands were met. We formed committees to
handle first aid, security and food.
That night we learned that President Cheek had placed an injunction
against us that could lead to the arrest and/or expulsion of students
who failed to vacate the building. Although many left, I put aside my
fears and tried to get some sleep on the cold floor. Our student
security force did not sleep.
We were supportive of one another. For the first time since I had come
to Howard, I witnessed Greeks and non-Greeks, light-skinned and
dark-skinned folks casting aside the usual campus politics. We were
further encouraged by the appearances of poet and professor Sonia
Sanchez and the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, by telegrams of support from
all over the country and by the local support we were getting.
The next day, university operations, including classes, were shut down
due to "snow." By mid-afternoon, the police and campus security,
equipped with gas masks and battering rams, began surrounding the
building. They seemed anxious to use their riot gear--one officer
pointed his gun at a sister guarding an entrance and told her,
When Howard security broke through the glass doors of the main
entrance with billy clubs, those of us on the first floor lay flat
against the floor and prayed. But before they reached the second door
they stopped abruptly. Mayor Marion Barry had ordered the police to
That evening Lee Atwater resigned from the board of trustees. But his
resignation only strengthened our resolve to remain in the building
until the university presented us with a written response to all our
demands. This was accomplished after the university's attorney met
with 12 student leaders, a team of lawyers, Mayor Barry and the
Reverend Jesse Jackson until almost 4 A.M.
Several weeks later it was reported that President Cheek had resigned
with a full-salary pension of $179,375. The board stated that it would
increase tuition by 8 percent, directly rejecting one of our demands.
However, it voted not to increase housing costs and promised to seek
$61 million for dormitory renovations and also to improve
We came as far as we did because of a recognition of collective power,
followed by the assumption of the responsibility to use that
collective power to effect change. It is imperative that we continue
to draw on the courage and discipline that made our protest succeed.
Retha Powers is a Howard University junior and a freelance writer.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Essence Communications, Inc
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