The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Howard University president faces ‘no confidence’ vote by faculty

Students’ lists of demands hang over the entrance of the Mordecai Wyatt Johnson Building at Howard University on March 30.
Students’ lists of demands hang over the entrance of the Mordecai Wyatt Johnson Building at Howard University on March 30. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)
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Full-time faculty members at Howard University are expected to begin voting Wednesday morning on a “no confidence” measure targeting embattled school President Wayne A.I. Frederick and other university leaders as hundreds of students continue their occupation of the administration building.

The voting, which is scheduled to remain open until Friday afternoon, was sparked by the school’s faculty leaders, who voted overwhelmingly Monday to express their lack of confidence in Frederick and other administrators. Results of the faculty-wide vote are expected later Friday.

The referendum, which is not binding, comes at a critical time for Howard’s leadership, with the takeover of the administration building stretching to nearly a week. Students have issued a long list of demands, including that Frederick step down. The students have also called for improved access to university housing, transparency on university finances, an overhaul of policies related to sexual assault and a greater voice in university decision-making.

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Students with HU Resist, the group that has led the protest and coordinated the occupation of the “A” Building, said Tuesday that they were optimistic, and negotiations with the university’s Board of Trustees have been productive. But a resolution to the standoff that began Thursday does not appear imminent.

“There are some things that are nonnegotiable to us and the Board of Trustees is not willing to move on,” said freshman Imani Bryant, one of the student leaders in HU Resist. “We’re hopeful they’ll be more receptive to our demands in the next couple of days.”

Bryant said the nonnegotiable demands included that Frederick step down, but that the decision on whether the protest will continue will be made democratically. “The students will decide whether to leave or stay, even if that is longer than we had ever anticipated staying,” she said.

Members of the Faculty Senate , which is the representative elected body of the faculty, voted overwhelmingly in their Monday meeting that they no longer had confidence in Frederick, Provost Anthony K. Wutoh, Chief Operating Officer Tashni-Ann Dubroy and members of the executive committee of the school’s Board of Trustees. The same faculty group delivered a vote of no confidence in Frederick a year ago, and Tuesday’s vote was an affirmation of last year’s decision, said a faculty member who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak on behalf of the council.

Faculty members have expressed dismay about building conditions, a loss of staff and what they view as a lack of a robust strategic plan to move the university forward. The revelation last week that the university had fired six employees who were allegedly involved in a financial-aid scam deepened the sense among some faculty members that the school’s leadership needs to change.

Richard L. Wright, who had led the Faculty Senate, resigned over the weekend, saying he had “lost the confidence, respect and trust of the majority of the engaged and activist members of the council.” Wright said Monday that his decision to resign was not related to the faculty group’s decision to hold a vote of no confidence in Frederick.

Stacey J. Mobley, the Board of Trustees’ chairman, said in a statement the board was “disappointed” to learn about the planned no confidence vote.

“My fellow board members and I charged President Frederick with transforming and systemically addressing the critical issues facing our university, many of which predate his tenure as president,” Mobley wrote. “He has made significant progress and we truly believe he is the right person to lead us forward.”

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Frederick received a letter of support from the university’s Council of Deans, which represents leaders of Howard’s schools and colleges. The group wrote that it is “confident that the plans, strategies, programs and activities of the university Board of Trustees and President Wayne A.I. Frederick are yielding positive results and are on a positive trajectory for a strong and positive future for our beloved institution.”

The school’s alumni association has also rejected calls for Frederick to step down. In a letter sent over the weekend, Nadia N. Pinto, its president, wrote that it was important to hear the concerns of students and meet their needs, but Frederick had been a capable and effective leader who deserved to remain in his job.