WASHINGTON, D.C. - Dozens of students marched to the administration building on Howard University's campus on Thursday, after many students feared they did not have on-campus housing for the fall semester.
"They’re homeless as of now for next semester," says Mikeala Taylor, a graduating senior.
Students say the housing system changed the day before people could register and many of them did not know.
Some posted their e-mails of concern to HU President Wayne Frederick on social media, as well as pictures of his alleged response.
One read, in part, "Your tone and tenor are inappropriate."
"It was a process that was almost random in its ability for some people to get through and others to not, and it was just a real complicated and convoluted mess," says HU freshman Omavi Minder.
Through a number of chants and speakers, some students said the online glitches were the last straw, citing the delayed start to the spring semester, back in January, due to heating issues across campus.
Students also brought up what they described as the gentrification of the area.
"We can’t even afford to live off campus in a nearby area," says Alexis Mckenney, a senior and member of "HU Resist," the group that organized the march. "At the end of the day that's all we want, we want our education and we want our HBCU that we fought to get to."
Vice President for Student Affairs, Kenneth Holmes, sent out a letter to students, saying this was the first year they used the StarRez system for housing reservations and unfortunately, they experienced unforeseen glitches.
"In order to serve you more promptly, that team is now servicing the remaining requests manually. This will expedite the process for remaining room assignments," he wrote.
He said for those who have not yet been notified of their housing assignment, they will hear from Res Life no later than Friday, March 30.
President Frederick also followed up with a letter, which read:
"Dear Howard University Community,
I’m writing today to address the housing issue that has caused stress and anxiety for several Howard students. Our goal is to ensure that students have the most supportive and enjoyable experience possible at Howard. My team and I fell short of this expectation yesterday.
Many students, along with faculty, staff and alumni, voiced concerns about a housing shortage next semester. I want to assure every member of our community that Howard does not have a housing shortage. We experienced system issues yesterday, which created problems with many room reservations, and in some cases students were inadvertently put on waiting lists. We understand the issue now and are committed to resolving it quickly. Every sophomore student that has applied for housing and paid their deposit to secure a room for next academic year will be accommodated. In addition, we have reserved spaces designated for upperclassman and graduate students. Those assignments are also being processed and will be completed by March 30. The Office of Residence Life has been working around the clock to address individual students and provide room assignments. Expediting the remaining room assignments is a priority for this team.
In our current inventory, we have approximately 5,000 beds. This capacity services all Howard students seeking on-campus housing. In recent years, we’ve only reached 89 percent total occupancy.
Our buildings renovation approach and commitment regarding on-campus housing is to provide quality accommodations for our students. The recent renovations of the cafeteria spaces in Blackburn is the latest example of our effort to upgrade student living and activity spaces. In direct response to student concerns, we have also completed phased renovations of our residence halls. The West Towers and College Hall North and South are physical proof of Howard University’s investment in our students’ housing needs. We won’t stop there. The long-term plan is to close the quad in Fall 2018 for a total renovation. Students will be fully engaged in this process, mirroring the forums conducted when renovating the West Towers. The East Towers renovation will be completed this May, and will be available for move-in this fall. By 2021, we would have completed modernization of all of our residence halls.
I want to thank, in advance, our faculty, staff, students and alumni for their incredible patience as we address these issues."