Students from the University of the District of Columbia, fresh from their first day of classes after an 11-day protest, rallied downtown late yesterday afternoon to pressure the D.C. Council to change the makeup of the UDC Board of Trustees.
About 150 students arrived at the District Building just after 6 p.m. They marched across Freedom Plaza carrying a banner that said "Kiamsha" -- a Swahili word that means "that which wakes you up," the name students gave to their movement -- and chanting words from the popular song, "It's Time for a Change."
"We want to make our presence felt," said Mark Thompson, 23, one of the protest leaders. "It is urgent that we do so. We plan to fully participate in the legislative process."
The bill the students want the council to approve was introduced yesterday by council members Hilda H.M. Mason (Statehood-At Large) and William Lightfoot (I-At Large), both of whom played key roles in the negotiations between the Board of Trustees and the students who occupied an administration building. The measure would increase the size of the board from 15 members to 21. Of the six new positions, two would be elected by students and four would be appointed by the council.
The bill could be the first test of the strength of the student protesters, who ended their occupation of the Student Affairs Building on Saturday after getting trustees to agree to implement or study about 40 of the students' 45 demands.
The students had said the trustees were inadequate stewards of the institution and had demanded the resignations of 11 appointed trustees. Three of the appointed trustees resigned during the protest: Chairman Nira H. Long, lawyer Arthur M. Reynolds and the Rev. A. Knighton Stanley, whose resignation is effective March 31.
The university's 12,000 students returned in force to classes on the Van Ness campus yesterday for the first time since Sept. 26, when the protest started.
In all, most students had missed eight days of coursework during the occupation and boycott of classes. Miles Mark Fisher IV, interim president of the university, has extended the semester to make up for time lost during the protest, but some teachers insisted yesterday that students make up the almost two weeks of work in a week's time.
"Students are still pretty revved up," said a professor in the English Department. "There is still a lot of excitement, and it will take them about two weeks to get back to serious studying."
At noontime on Dennard Plaza, outside the building student protesters took over, dozens of students milled about, talking about the protest, plans for the rally downtown and about making up classwork.
"Kiamsha lives in the minds of those who experienced it," said Monique Lindsay, 21, a senior English major who took part in the protest. "I think the student body is united, even though not all of us took part in the movement."
Lisa Simmons, 21, a first-year student at UDC, said her instructors allotted a short time yesterday for discussion of the student uprising.
"Students who weren't inside the building asked how things went," Simmons said. "It seems that students are taking pride in the school now, asking more questions about what is going on. That is what we'll need to keep the momentum going."
Leela Kapai, an English professor, said her classes were filled yesterday. "Students were in good spirits," Kapai said. "Midterm exams had been scheduled for this week. But we've rescheduled them for next week."
Not everyone did. Mark Thompson's Swahali professor told him yesterday that the midterm exam in beginning Swahili would be given tomorrow as scheduled.
Repairs had been made or were in progress on the few spots in Building 38 that were damaged during the takeover. A glass door on the building's main entrance level, which splintered in a huge spider-web pattern on the first day of the protest, was covered with masking tape. A fire alarm snatched from the wall on the third level had been replaced. Several broken handles on fire doors had been fixed.