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The Transition: Howard’s Challenge

 As many of you know, Howard was not immune to the calamity of the economic recession. We have had to deal with rising healthcare costs to cover our faculty, staff, students, and administrators; rising costs in energy; and a gaping deficit that has come as a result of costs increasing more quickly than our resources. As a result, Howard raised the cost of tuition to a number more in line with our peers (even though they are still more costly than we are), we offered early retirement and voluntary separation packages to hundreds of our staff (rather than simply letting them go), we have cut operating budgets across the board, among other initiatives. To balance out the rise in tuition, hundreds of students were able to receive a need based grant to assist in covering the cost of tuition, and the university is more aggressively targeting funds from external sources such as the government, foundations, and corporate partners.  

These decisions were a part of our own recovery initiative to make certain that Howard University continues to be among the best universities in the world. However, there is still a long way to go. Howard University is not new to trials. We have survived reconstruction, the Great Depression, both world wars, and Jim Crow. This is another challenge; and as we have always done, with resiliency and grace we will meet this challenge as well.

The challenge for the university is that we all need to do it together; faculty, staff, students, administrators, trustees, and alumni. We need to come together, roll up our sleeves, ask the hard questions, and most importantly, come up with workable solutions that will not only revive our university, but bring us into the top 50 research institutions in the nation. Our greatest challenge is not asking what our university can do for us (even though that’s an important question), but asking what we can do for our university. We need to assist in development proposals, fundraise for Howard, recruit for Howard, help answer telephones in offices that do not have the manpower, assist new students in becoming acclimated to the institution and talking to the correct people, filing our documents on time, paying our bills on time, help tell the story of the rich legacy of Howard, achieve great things and further the Howard legacy, study hard and make Howard proud to count you as an alumnus of this great institution. I decided to come back to Howard, not to have fun, but to continue to make a change for this institution. Howard will survive, but in order for Howard to thrive she will need your help.

It was during the Great Depression that Howard, under the leadership of President Mordecai Wyatt Johnson transformed Howard into the institution that we know today. The Law school became accredited, we expanded, we received larger appropriations, and our students and alumni began to change the world as they knew it. What are we going to do during this crisis? It is not up to just President Ribeau and the members of the Board of Trustees, it is up to each and every one of us to meet the challenge of this economic recession. With the internet and new technologies, we have all of the resources that we need to make the changes that we wish to see. We are the most valuable resource that Howard University has, change WILL NOT come unless we bring it ourselves.

Victoria is a HU graduate student, who recently commences from Howard undergrad.

Victoria is a HU graduate student, who recently commences from Howard undergrad.

We are currently facing the greatest economic downturn that this country has seen in over half a century. Universities across the country are facing record deficits. Many of them are cutting hundreds of staff and faculty members without compensation, implementing dramatic tuition increases, cutting valuable programs, and some are even closing their doors. Over the past year, Howard has also had to make complex decisions; some less popular than others, in order to not only survive, but to thrive. As a member of Howard’s Board of Trustees last year, I had to make some serious decisions that I knew would affect some people that I have come to view as a part of my family. Decisions, that as a graduate student at Howard I have to cope with as well.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Monica Kirby permalink
    August 31, 2009 10:52 pm

    Hi Victoria

    That was a very moving article. Keep up the good work.

  2. Blackscholar permalink
    November 13, 2009 7:15 pm

    I’m still befuddled and astounded that the 13-member team from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) leaving Howard University with these glaring platitudes as if Howard University is operating (i.e., qualitatively and quantitatively within the purview of curriculum instruction, the Administration functionality, and not including the Moorland Spingarn Research Center, campus safety, etc…) analogous with the fluidity of water.

    Point one: the MSCHE should have physically inspected the overall functionality of the Undergraduate Library (UGL) and Founders Library and they would easily seen the barrage of violations from: a) dangling ceiling tiles, b) exposed electrical outlets, c) mildew and ants throughout the entire library especially in the lower level, d) the atrocious lighting throughout the library, or d) the excessive heat in the entire library respectively.

    Point two: the MSCHE should have been intellectually honest to issue an injunction to Howard University to make them immediately remodel the UGL to the same level as all of the other “Research Level I” libraries. If such a correction cannot be made in a timely fashion, then, it should immediately have the “Research Level” designation revoked.

    Point three: the lack of availability of course at the undergraduate and graduate level (i.e., core classes should be offered more than once a year). Point four: how can Howard University offer various graduate degrees and yet graduate students have difficulty passing comprehensive examinations because no “structured examination preparation” is almost nonexistent within Departments and even the Graduate School. Not including graduate students having difficulty in assembling thesis or dissertation committees due to the lack of availability and qualified professor’s (as according to the Graduate School).

    In close, until outside entities such as the MSCHE is willing to be intellectually honest with its overall evaluation of Howard University, the university will continue its indolence, status quo thought processes, gradualism, and immutable mentality.

  3. Blackscholar permalink
    November 13, 2009 9:57 pm

    When will Howard University undergraduate/graduate students stop issuing platitudes to the university when they know Howard University has been derelict in its “educational duties”(in a current context)in various capacities. Until Howard University students and alumni are willing to hold these “so-called” University Administrator’s accountable, their boorish behavior will continue.

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