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Moment of Clarity: 8 Protest Observations

Andrew Jones is a senior legal communications major.

Andrew Jones is a senior legal communications major.

One student started it: Kris Owens, an ‘average’ student who was fed up, started this whole brouhaha with a few text messages. It did not take planning, positions, money, time or effort. The only thing required to change Howard is for someone to do more than complain. HUSA should also be commended for stepping up, gaining control and leading the growing movement. A proud day for the student body indeed.

It was reactive: I question why this movement did not start until a regular student planned his own protest. The issues raised in the list of demands should have been raised by HUSA long ago. Are problems not important enough to merit action until popular opinion supports the action? Leadership is walking and having people follow you, not seeing a crowd of people walking and jumping in at the front of the crowd.

Can HUSA back it up: It isn’t tough to play on the emotions of frustrated students for the sake of a public demonstration. However, I am interested to see how HUSA will use the momentum from Friday’s protest to attack the issues in a more mature, conversational, and productive manner in the boardroom.

Will students follow up: I hate to be cynical, but only a fraction of the students that participated in the protest will care enough to attend any town hall meetings later in the year. At these sparsely-attended sessions, administrators address some of the concerns that were raised in a more collegiate environment. I would love to be proven wrong.

Who’s to blame: Let us not ask the right questions to the wrong people. President Ribeau has been receptive to student leadership since his arrival last fall, and has likely been frustrated by the same administrators that are to blame for our concerns. Also keep in mind that the faculty (i.e. professors) and staff are relatively underpaid, and have the same issues as students, so let us work with them as well.

Be careful what you ask for: According to former CFO Sidney Evans, Howard’s endowment lost a significant chunk of value in the market declines of the past few years. Asking for $14 million out of that depleted endowment to pay for the convenience of expanded wireless availability is institutionally immature.

Why waste demands: For the next protest, let’s try not to “demand” things that have already been delivered. For example, according to President Ribeau, a new freshman dorm is already the first item on the list of capital goals for the university.

It was effective: The protest worked! President Ribeau has agreed to meet with student leaders and The Hilltop, and public scrutiny on the university may prompt our Board members to act on our issues. My only question is; would those results have been possible without a protest? Absolutely. However, the protest was invaluable in demonstrating the ability of the student body to mobilize behind a cause.

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