A group of Howard University students yesterday asked the D.C. Superior Court to stop the university from administering a comprehensive examination for graduation students scheduled for Dec. 7.
The students contended in court papers that they never agreed to take such an examination as a condition of graduation when they originally enrolled in the university.
A university spokesman said yesterday that Howard officials agreed in 1976 to require a passing grade on comprehensive examinations for students graduating from the School of Liberal Arts. More than 400 students received those degrees last year.
According to the spokesman, the graduating class of 1980 would be the first required to take those examinations in each member's major field of study.
The students contend that degree requirements published in various school bulletins, forms and catalogs did not state that students would have to pass a comprehensive exam in order to obtain a degree from the liberal arts school. The students also contend that no such requirement was listed in bulletins submitted to students who entered the university as recently as this current academic year.
In court papers, the students allege that the university breached its contract with the students based on the graduation requirements set out in the bulletins. Moreover, the students contend that they have had inadequate opportunity to prepare for the tests.
The court action was filed by Kali Hill, president of the Howard University Student Association; Belinda Johnson, coordinator of the Undergraduate Student Assembly; Andre Owens, president of the Liberal Arts Student Council, and Kervin Simms, a senior who expects to graduate this year.
The suit names Howard University president Dr. James Cheek and Dr. Geraldine Pittman Woods, chairman of the board of trustees, as defendants.
Alan Hermesch, an information officer at Howard, said the university would not comment on a matter pending before the court.
The students contend that the bulletins they received required a total of 124 course credits and an academic average of 2.0 out of 4.0 for graduation from the liberal arts school. Honors would be awarded to students who earned a grade point average of 3.2 or better, the students said in court papers.
Based on those representations, the Students argue, they agreed to enroll in Howard and pay tuition. Now, they say, the university has decided to require a passing grade on the comprehensive exam as a qualification for graduation and a grade of B or better on the exam for those students who would graduate with honors.
A hearing on the student's request that the court cancel the examination is scheduled for Dec. 4, Manuel R. Geraldo, an attorney for the students, said.