Several hundred Howard University students were in the third day of a takeover of the main administration building Sunday. The spark for the protest was the announcement last week that the university had fired six employees for stealing money that should have gone to financial aid. Students said the firings illustrated a lack of attention to issues that are important to them, including the availability of aid, student services and the handling of complaints about sexual assault. Many students are calling for the ouster of President Wayne A. I. Frederick. In March, he angered many with his response to a student who sent him an email about problems she was having with housing. He complained about her "tone," and she posted the full exchange to Twitter, leading many to say she deserved more respect.
Frederick issued a statement Saturday saying that he was listening to the students' concerns and was committed to finding solutions to the problems they have raised. At the same time, he suggested in his statement that some student demands -- particularly related to tuition -- may not be realistic. "Howard would like its charges to be even lower, but the reality is that it is not possible for us to do so and still provide the high quality of education that is expected from our students," he wrote. "Howard must compete with other universities for faculty, and with other employers for other kinds of workers. The university must offer competitive wages and benefits in order to attract and retain good employees and educators. By law, the university is not free to reduce the salaries of tenured faculty at will, nor is the university free to reduce the salaries of the many Howard employees who are in collective bargaining agreements, at will. In addition, Howard must also cope with rising costs for employee health benefits, for energy and utilities, for supplies and equipment, and for technology." The board of the university issued a statement expressing support for Frederick.