Howard University Students Not Satisfied by Response to Protest

By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 10, 2009; B05

Student leaders said Wednesday that concessions made by Howard University in response to a protest last week were "a start" but that they planned to keep pushing for more on-campus housing, better access for students with disabilities and technology upgrades on campus, among other improvements.

Leaders of the Howard University Student Association organized a protest Friday that drew about 350 students and union workers. Although the students had a long list of demands, much of the focus last week was on delays in payments from the university's financial aid office.

In a letter and in an interview with the Hilltop, Howard's student newspaper, President Sidney A. Ribeau agreed to improve access to the financial aid office by extending its hours and moving it to a larger location until Sept. 25. Ribeau also said a recycling program would be instituted on campus by the end of the month.

But he said that some of the requests, such as 24-hour library access and widespread wireless high-speed Internet service, were not affordable at the moment.

"That's very alarming," said Jeanette Hordge, a spokeswoman for the student association. Given how much students pay in tuition, she said, "it's simply unacceptable."

Tuition, room, board and mandatory fees total $29,322 for new students this year.

Hordge also said that students were disappointed with what she characterized as a lack of specifics in Ribeau's response. "We don't want general answers, and we don't want things brushed under the carpet," she said.

Neither Ribeau's letter nor the newspaper interview addressed the concerns of workers who joined the protest. Members of SEIU Local 32BJ are concerned that the university might hire a cleaning services contractor whose wages would undercut the union contract.

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