Students at Howard University occupied the campus’s Johnson Administration Building in protest in 1968. They did so again in 1989. Those occupations lasted four and five days, respectively, and ended with varying degrees of success. Now, current Howard students are in day seven of an occupation of their own. It is the longest takeover of the building in the institution’s history.
The dynamics currently driving campus activism are coming to a head at the illustrious historically black university in the nation’s capital. And Howard's experience, and in particular the unprecedented length of the students’ protest—even though the university may never meet their demands—may be a harbinger for the sort of tenacious pushback on long-simmering issues that other college leaders might soon encounter.
In late March, a student organization “dedicated to the liberation of Howard University” called HU Resist released a list of nine demands, which ranged from reasonable to extreme. Some of the demands are broadly reflective of student grievances across the country: The protesters want the administration to do more to address campus sexual assault, provide more support for mental health care, and curb tuition hikes. Other demands were more Howard-specific, and a few of those were quite far-reaching: Students want the power to “directly propose new policies and revise existing policies”; ratify all hiring of administrators, trustees, and faculty; and most of all, they want the resignation of the university’s president, Wayne A.I. Frederick, whom they blame for many of the university’s issues and who, they argue, is too cozy with the Trump administration.