“Student power. Student Right.” “I got 99 problems and my tuition is one.” “Where does government funding go? We don’t know, we don’t know.” These slogans emerged as battle cries on Howard University’s campus Thursday afternoon as students and faculty members rallied on the yard to protest tuition hikes and administrative bonuses.
The small protest was held to publicize the recent 12 percent tuition increase and the significant bonuses awarded to three senior officers and one faculty member of the university in 2010. The bonuses totaled more than $1.1 million.
Administration officials were not present and did not formally comment on the protest or reply to student demands.
The Philosophy Club and the Political Education and Action Committee (P.E.A.C.) organized the rally. The P.E.A.C, a student-run club organized around a vision for a free and more equal society, is just one of many political action committees on Howard’s campus that coordinated to make the protest possible.
Prof. Richard Jones, who teaches philosophy and advises the Philosophy Club, said the protest was held strategically on World Philosophy Day, Nov. 15.
“What the celebration is about is justice. Part of the activism of philosophy, not just the academic part, has always been about the struggle for rights and justice for people of all kinds,” he said. “All this is an attempt to raise awareness among the students that there is a group of people on this campus who are aware of their problems and who want to speak to them.”
Jack Solano and Dahlia Lloyd, both philosophy majors, organized the protest with the help of Prof. Jones in just a week.
“We organized this protest with the goal of speaking out against administrative bonuses in the time of program cuts and tuition hikes. Our concept is that school should be for professors and students, not for administrators,” said Solano.
Zachary Alexander Jackson, a freshman and philosophy club member, raised an additional concern during the protest that caught many students’ attention.
“We want clean bathrooms,” he loudly shouted. It was a simple issue that nearly all the students could relate to – the lack of sufficient housekeeping in campus facilities.
The protestors passed around a petition demanding that university administrators meet with students and discuss grievances publicly and in an open dialogue.
As the protesters chanted and walked the yard, stopping in front of the Blackburn University Center and the administration building, other students joined in.The crowd eventually grew to about 20 people.The protest lasted for a little less than two hours and remained peaceful. There were police officers on duty patrolling the area.
“This is a first step, so we are not expecting tuition to change and we are not expecting administration to get fired, though that is the end goal,” Solano said. “What we are expecting is to start a movement and attract attention and bring people towards student unionizing.”
Sophomore Jasmine Stuwart, a member of P.E.A.C., said the protest stemmed from the idea to raise students’ awareness about the financial management of the university.
“Why not talk about problems that we’re facing everyday. We’re here for tuition hikes, housing, program cuts, getting better communication with professors. We’re here to let our voice be heard,” she said.
Sasha Hunte, a sophomore majoring in communications, wonders whether university administrators are even listening to students’ concerns.
“I feel powerless on this campus, especially when it comes to financial aid,” she said. “I definitely don’t believe my tuition money has been put to good use.”