Massive Howard University sit-in enters eighth day amid financial aid scandal

WASHINGTON -- For more than a week, hundreds of students demanding reform amid a larger financial aid scandal have occupied the administration building at Howard University, marking the longest such occupation in the school's history.

Students first entered the building around 3:30 p.m. local time on Thursday, March 29. In the week that has passed, they've laid out nine demands ranging from the resignation of university president Wayne Frederick to the allocation of funds to fight food insecurity and gentrification in the area surrounding the school's Washington campus.

The students have held multiple negotiation sessions with university leadership, who they say have agreed to meet a demand for more on-campus student housing. Student organizer Alexis McKinney added that the two sides are working out plans for an "unprecedented program on mental health" and have also addressed tuition freezes.

"We've put real, tangible work toward cultivating the relationship between students and board of trustee members. We hope that there will be more involvement and more dialogue as a result of this negotiation process," McKinney told reporters.

Despite the progress, the group of students said on Wednesday that they're willing to occupy the building "until the completion of the negotiations process involving the board of trustees and the lawyers of both parties involved."

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Days after the university's president confirmed the "misappropriation" of financial aid funds, Howard University students have taken over the school's administration building in protest.

Over the past week, a "beautiful community...has organically arisen" among the protestors during the week-long occupation, #StudentPowerHU said on Twitter. Several Washington-area restaurants indicated on social media that they had donated food to the large group of students in the building.

The university's leadership has repeatedly expressed its support for the group's right to demonstrate, and more than 70 faculty members have signed a letter expressing solidarity with the students.

Similar sit-ins at the administration building occurred in 1968 and 1989, according to The Hilltop, the university's student newspaper. The 1968 sit-in lasted four days.

Last week, an anonymous whistleblower alleged that university employees misdirected nearly $1 million in financial aid grants. Frederick later confirmed that funds had been misappropriated, though he did not specify exactly how much money was involved.

Frederick said in a statement that the university had been actively investigating the issue for more than a year and that six employees had been terminated "for gross misconduct and neglect of duties."

Grants were given to employees who also received tuition remission, resulting in financial aid payments that "exceeded the total cost of attendance" for the employees, he added.

The whistleblower alleged that one student employee received more than $400,000 in grant money over four years, a claim that student's lawyer denied.
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