'This building is closed': Howard U students take over admin building amid financial aid scandal

WASHINGTON -- 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.

Earlier this week, an anonymous whistleblower alleged that university employees misdirected nearly $1 million in financial aid grants. Howard University President Wayne 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.

Students, though, are calling for further transparency and additional accountability after the years-long incident. Approximately 350 student demonstrators have been staging a sit-in at the administration building since Thursday morning, WJLA-TV reported, citing organizers.

"Right now the building is being secured by the students. Nobody who does not have a student ID can get in," student protestor Juan Demetrixx said. "All the administrators cannot get in. We have taken every floor: the fourth floor, which is the president's office, we have taken the third floor, the second floor, the first floor, the ground floor and the basement floor."

Demetrixx said that the students will continue to hold the building until university officials meet a list of nine demands released by student protestors. The demands include a tuition freeze, the disarming of the campus' security force, active work to fight rape culture on campus and allocation of funds to fight food insecurity and gentrification in the area surrounding the campus.

Frederick released a point-by-point response to the students' demands and pledged to meet with student leaders to resolve the lingering issues.

"Your concerns are valid. We are listening. We are committed to jointly making changes to move Howard forward," he said.