Last month, we reported on the #BlackburnTakeover at Howard University, which came in the form of student-led sit-ins at the university’s Armour J. Blackburn University Center over the deplorable living conditions students say they have been subjected to at the well-known HBCU.
Well, those protests haven’t ended, but media coverage has been slow and stagnant. And for the university’s student newspaper, The Hilltop, which has done extensive reporting on the demonstrations and the lackluster responses from administrators, the reporting has been intentionally censored, according to the students who run the publication.
Revolt TV reported that staff writers for the newspaper claimed people who just don’t want the truth to come out about Howard University’s neglect and apparent indifference to the suffering of its students have been chucking roadblocks at their attempts to share objective updates on students’ protests over the way they’re being forced to live.
According to a statement the platform posted to social media on Tuesday, reporters were asked to take down their coverage of the second night of protests so “minor edits” could be made, and they were later instructed to send all reporting to the advisor before publishing anything. The statement said, “The Student Press Law Center guidelines refer to this as prior restraint, which is a form of censorship.”
Other issues cited in the statement include a claim that President Wayne A.I. Frederick denied a previously published statement he made off the record but failed to provide reporters with any kind of correction.
Also, reporters said that on October 26, Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Cynthia Evers oversaw a meeting between student leadership and administrators. It was reportedly a meeting Evers asked the Hilltop’s managing editor Jeresa Anderson and digital media editor, Jada Orr, to cover, but she explicitly demanded the newspaper’s editor in chief stay away from the meeting and its coverage.
All of this reportedly came after Evers, Coordinator of Housing Operations Walter Servance, and Director of Residence Life Shelton Higgins had all previously declined to make official statements regarding the protests at all.
But Despite the apparent reluctance of school administrators to engage in dialog over the school’s alleged administrative failings, staff writers for the Hilltop say the publication “is committed to delivering unbiased news with integrity.”
“Our reporters will not stop researching and writing stories that provide full coverage on all issues pertaining to Howard University,” the statement continued.
For weeks, more than 100 students have been camping in tents outside of the Blackburn Center in order to draw attention and demand accountability for conditions that allegedly include campus-wide WiFi shutdowns, students being left without running water and air conditioning for days, mildew in dorm showers, insects in the dorms and students being displaced constantly due to all of the above.
If that isn’t news that is worthy of honest and uncensored coverage, what is?
In a recent update President Wayne A.I. Frederick has released a statement on the #BlackburnTakeover that reads in part;
“On a daily basis, University leaders have been checking on our students in the Blackburn Center to ensure their health and safety. Their occupation of the building creates health and safety risks for both themselves and the wider University community, as external visitors have been occupying the space with them as well. There are also some students who occupy the Blackburn Center in the daytime and are sleeping in the residence halls at night. With this in mind, we offered COVID-19 testing earlier this week to the occupants and will continue to remain vigilant about the health and safety of our student population and the conditions in Blackburn.
There are many unintended consequences caused by the occupation of the Blackburn Center. The cafeteria has been closed, and as a result, our campus partner Sodexo has been forced to begin laying off some employees. People who work hard to serve our campus are hurting. Students have not been able to fully use their meal plans over the last three weeks and enjoy a space recently renovated for all our students. These issues should concern us all.
I maintain my willingness to sit down with the student occupants of the Blackburn Center as soon as the building is vacated. There are many elected official student leaders on campus who were not part of the weekly meetings I previously had with our HUSA president prior to the protest. I have listened to our students’ feedback and learned that the information we shared in those meetings may not have been disseminated to all our students. In direct response to this feedback, and as I have committed to, I am engaging with a broader group of student leaders to hear their concerns and to inform them of what our team is doing to address their concerns. Last week, I, along with other senior executives, also met with the Howard University Parent Advisory Council and spoke with nearly 900 parents. I will continue to listen and speak to the entire Howard University community.”
He will deliver an address on November 5.