The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

After Howard protests, administration continues to respond to student concerns

Volunteers and university officials met with students on campus last week to help resolve problems. (Howard University Office of University Communications)

Last week, students and others caused protests about conditions at Howard University to go viral, complaining about issues both fundamental and mundane, everything from paralyzing financial aid problems to spotty WiFi to mold in dorm rooms.

[Students take to social media to protest]

[Students protest red tape, mice and mold at Howard]

The administration, led by Howard alumnus, surgeon and now university president, Wayne A. I. Frederick, responded quickly, setting up a help area staffed by volunteers and detailing to students their efforts to resolve the problems.

On Thursday evening, he announced the appointment of a “student ombudsman,” an alumnus who would report directly to the president, and work to resolve student concerns.

A university spokesman confirmed Friday that the chief operating officer, Tony Bansal, who was hired in January, is no longer employed by the university.

People had plenty of theories about the root of the problems, from missed real-estate opportunities around the fast-growing U Street neighborhoods nearby, to lack of alumni participation in fundraising, to ongoing financial drains.

One alumnus wrote that the student frustration had an obvious cause: “It is simply this: the tenacious, well-meaning efforts on the part of Howard University officials to hold on to the Howard University Hospital in an age when universities are getting out of the hospital business,” Abdur-Rahman Muhammad wrote. “University hospitals are not ‘businesses’ at all, but are financial sink holes that operate at astronomical deficits.”

“A lot of us are very worried,” Muhammad said in an interview. “This situation is not just a customer-service type of problem like the university is trying to spin it. The university is — it’s in decline.” He said Frederick noted in a recent letter responding to student concerns that the university had $750 million in deferred maintenance.

The administration sent a letter to the campus community Thursday describing improvements to the hospital, including restructuring work schedules to better meet patient needs, changing documentation, billing and collection to make the hospital more cost-effective and better for patients.

There was delight about WiFi restored and financial aid money released, and frustration about the continued lack of air-conditioning on hot days.

Read more:

Students take to social media to protest Howard University

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[Howard cuts more than 80 staff positions]

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