Friday, March 30, 2018

message from Maybelle Taylor Bennett: "Howard University Response to Students' Concerns" Parts 1 and 2

This message is in two parts -- Part 1 and Part 2.

From: Bennett, Maybelle T.
Sent: Friday, March 30, 2018 1:28 PM
Subject: Howard University Response to Students' Concerns Part I

Dear Neighbors:

You are now probably aware of the activities taking place on Howard’s campus.  We wanted to give you the benefit of receiving information from the Office of the President that may clarify the current status of events.  These circumstances are evolving, so our communications to you will be in multiple transmissions.  Please see the first message below.

Maybelle Taylor Bennett
Director
Howard University Community Association
Office of External Affairs
2400 Sixth Street, N.W. Room 323
Washington, D.C. 20059
Ph: (202) 806-2661
Fx: (202) 667-4340






  


Howard University
Office of the President





 

March 28, 2018

Dear Howard University Students,

Earlier today I released a statement regarding a review and investigation into the Office of Financial Aid which resulted in the termination of six staff members. Please know that we take malfeasance, fraud, and other forms of unethical behavior on campus seriously and address them swiftly.

I encourage anyone who witnesses these behaviors to call our compliance and ethics helpline (202) 238-2479.  Retaliation against any student or other member of our campus community for reporting wrongdoing will not be tolerated.

Hearing about the mishandling of funds at the University can be difficult to process. I can also understand how upsetting it is to feel that the University has not communicated with you regarding this incident. The goal established at the onset of this investigation was to conduct it in a confidential manner that ensured a thorough examination of the issues without jeopardizing the integrity of the findings. However, that does not mitigate the sense of mistrust that many students and members of our community feel right now. We understand that and we hear you.

My team is currently working with outside experts to assist us in exploring all options to recoup the funds. I feel strongly that any dollar that is taken away from a deserving student due to malfeasance or fraud is unacceptable. We will continue to take swift action against any individuals involved in this wrongdoing. By establishing significant new policies and procedures to strengthen Howard’s internal controls within the Office of Financial Aid, we are already addressing the problem.

We recently hired a Chief Compliance Officer, charged with advancing a culture of compliance and ethics at Howard and ensuring that the institution is complying with all regulatory requirements. This role demonstrates our commitment to upholding the highest ethical standards in our business operations.

While this incident represents an extreme case of malfeasance, any activity in which someone is not performing their job in the way in which we anticipate should be brought to our attention. Further, I want to make clear that students who also work at the University do so under the supervision of University employees, who are ultimately responsible for their activities.  Most Howard employees are responsible citizens and serve the University well, so I want to also acknowledge their efforts.  Any exceptions to this rule, however, will continue to be aggressively addressed.

This evening I had the opportunity to meet with student leaders to provide a briefing on the situation and answer additional questions from them. In that session, I heard their concerns firsthand. It was a productive session and I look forward to having more engagement with them on critical issues as we move the University forward.

The entire Howard leadership team and I are committed to continuing the hard work of implementing transformational change across our institution.  We unequivocally support Howard University’s core values, stand proudly by our principles, and are committed to ensuring that these principles will not be compromised.

I am confident that with your help, we can move Howard Forward and foster a culture that ensures a situation like this never again occurs on our campus.

Excellence in Truth and Service,

Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA
President


From: Bennett, Maybelle T.
Sent: Friday, March 30, 2018 1:50 PM
Subject:
Howard University Response to Students' Demands Part II

Dear Neighbors:

Below you will find a second transmission with the University’s response to student demands that was released today. This information comes from the Office of the President and is being sent to you in an effort to keep you informed of the current status of events.  Again, these circumstances are evolving, so additional communications may be forthcoming.  Please see the second message below.

Maybelle Taylor Bennett
Director
Howard University Community Association
Office of External Affairs
2400 Sixth Street, N.W. Room 323
Washington, D.C. 20059
Ph: (202) 806-2661
Fx: (202) 667-4340




Office of the President


   


This statement was sent in response to student demands.
March 30, 2018


Dear Howard University Students,

I want you to know that I hear you, and my team and I are committed to being responsive to your needs. Howard University has birthed generations of student activists and we will always continue in that spirit, for it is through raising the united voices of our students that Howard scholars have historically created a reverberating impact across the nation and the world.

I am listening to you, and I am challenging my team to make the changes you are expressing a dire need to see. In addition to that, I would like to further increase the engagement with a larger and broader portion of our student body.

Sexual Assault/Title IX

In the fall of last year, I sent a communication to the Howard Community re-committing our unequivocal support for a campus free of sexual assault and other forms of interpersonal violence. I promised to re-evaluate the University’s processes and procedures in response to complaints or allegations of discrimination, harassment, sexual assault and other forms of interpersonal violence, and to place greater emphasis on prevention.

The University has thoroughly assessed our Title IX policies and processes, gathered student, faculty and staff feedback, and unveiled a revised Interim Title IX Policy on Prohibited Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Violence and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence which improves the protections and the process based on current local and federal law.

The entire campus community (students, faculty, staff) has been invited to provide feedback on the Interim policy so that it is informed by all members of our community and supports our goal of creating an environment that is free from all forms of sexual and gender-based harassment and discrimination. The feedback period ends April 30, 2018. We will work together to finalize the policy once all feedback is collected and evaluated.

We do not promote or tolerate a rape culture.

Next month, we will be launching a sexual assault prevention and pledge campaign, in conjunction with students, geared toward raising awareness, provoking advocacy, and inspiring collective community action against sexual assault and other forms of interpersonal violence.

Counseling Services
The Office of University Counseling Services takes their role to address mental health concerns in the Howard University community very seriously. We have nine licensed psychologists, one clinical case manager, and one part-time psychiatrist. This exceeds the standard set by the International Association of Counseling Centers, which recommends one full-time clinical staff member for every 1,000-1,300 students.

We fully support emotional health issues as legitimate reasons for absence from classes and we work closely with the Office of Student Services to provide such accommodations when needed.

As the demand continues to rise, we will hire additional counselors to support student counseling services.

Howard University Police
Howard University’s Department of Public Safety is comprised of sworn police officers and vetted contractors via City Security. The department is operated and managed in accordance with public safety practices which are standard in higher education, and particularly those at institutions serving students and community members in a metropolitan environment.

In keeping with our university’s motto, Howard will always look for opportunities to work with our students, neighbors and stakeholders to ensure that our public safety operations reflect the highest standards of character, compassion, and integrity.

To this end, we look forward to substantive dialog with the student body about the formation of a public safety advisory committee, its duties and priorities, and how it can work with the university, law enforcement union, external agencies and the student body to ensure the continued safety of all of our community members.

Food Insecurity and Gentrification
Howard University has been committed to positive change since its founding. The neighborhood surrounding Main Campus was exclusively “whites-only” when Howard was established. That changed only when, in July 1888, Howard students tore down the fences that separated campus from the neighborhood at large. Howard has been committed to the Shaw-LeDroit community before it even had those names.

For every redevelopment project, this University administration has considered the neighborhoods in which we have long been a part.

In locations distant from Main Campus, we have returned dormitories to neighborhood housing. In every case, we have met – or exceeded – targets for affordable and workforce housing.

In locations near to Main Campus, we have entered development partnerships that have turned parking lots and abandoned buildings into commercial spaces that benefit both the University and our community, especially through affordable and workforce housing.

In our neighborhood, we are the largest employer. As a community, we spend more dollars here in Shaw-LeDroit than any other entity. We deliver more health care to our community than any other institution in our city. Howard Hospital is the only hospital in the District that provides Obstetrics and Gynecological services to the community. All other hospitals discontinued doing so.

The comments about food insecurity in our neighborhood are very thoughtful, and we respect the call to action they represent. We have been working with our clinical dietetics students to build a program to help support our neighbors with diabetes and other health challenges, but we realize there may be much more we can do. We would like to explore this issue with the HU community.

It is inevitable that neighborhoods change over time. But for 151 years, we have been committed to making it a better one for the people that live here. And we still do.

Grievance System
There are several existing avenues for students to present concerns regarding allegations of discrimination, sexist comments and behavior, and other conduct in violation of University policies and legal requirements. We invite the engagement and participation of students as we constantly seek to improve services and the educational environment for students and all members of the Howard University Community. Existing processes include:
  1. Title IX - Gender based discrimination or harassment is explicitly prohibited in our Title IX policy, and allegations are subject to investigation and review through the Title IX office. This includes any intentional or unintentional act that results in an individual being excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination or harassment under any academic, extracurricular, research, occupational training, or other education program or activity, based upon the individual's gender, gender identity, gender expression, non-conformance with gender stereotypes, or sexual orientation. The Title IX Coordinator is Ms. Candi Smiley, and she may be contacted at 202-806-2561.
  2. Additionally, within each School/College, the Dean maintains the ultimate responsibility to assure that faculty and administrators abide by University policies, including policies assuring the rights and protections of students. Concerns regarding faculty use of offensive language and/or behavior that may be discriminatory should be reported to the Dean of the School/College.
If the current grievance system is not working, we commit to reviewing the system and making necessary changes to ensure it functions as it should.

Tuition and Access to Salaries

Howard University recognizes that paying for college is a significant burden for students and families. That is why Howard has kept its prices lower than any other comparable institution, raises tuition only by the least amount necessary to keep the University solvent and able to function, and provides substantial levels of financial aid to help students and families pay their student charges.

Howard’s undergraduate tuition is 43% lower than the average for all nonprofit doctoral universities, according to the College Board, and 25% lower than the average for all four-year nonprofit American universities. Howard University tuition is $20,000 lower than other national universities with similar rankings in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. Howard tuition is also significantly less than peer HBCUs.

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. 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.

Howard is not a for-profit institution. It is non-profit. Every penny of revenue received by the University is spent to cover annual costs for labor, equipment, supplies, technology and facilities maintenance. As long as these costs go up, Howard must find a way to increase its annual revenues just enough to match the annual increase in costs.

Under mandatory policies that have been enacted by the Howard Board of Trustees, any contemplated changes in Tuition or other Student Charges must be brought before the University’s Tuition and Rate Advisory Committee (TRAC) before being voted on finally by the University’s Board of Trustees. TRAC Is chaired by the Provost and is comprised of the Deans and representatives of the Faculty Senate and the Student Association. Thanks to the TRAC process, any change in student charges that is proposed by the Administration must be explained and justified to the Deans and to representatives of the University’s faculty and students.

A Howard University student is also present, and attends, the Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) meetings, where the University budget is thoroughly discussed and reviewed.

Housing
The policy on our website states that students under 21 who are first- or second-year students are required to live on campus. This does not mean that those students automatically receive housing, however we prioritize their housing request. Students must complete the housing selection process and register for classes.

Although we would love to provide University housing to every student who may request it, our capacity and inventory does not permit us to do so. To ensure that we can house as many students as possible, they have to enroll in the housing process. All students who submitted room requests in the allotted time frame now have received housing assignments for the coming academic year. Housing assignments will be available for review on Friday, March 30, 2018.

Our residence halls meet the District of Columbia standards as set forth by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. As it relates to capacity, DCRA Chapter 14, Section 402.3 states “Each room used for sleeping by two (2) or more occupants shall be a habitable room containing at least fifty square feet (50 ft2) of habitable room area for each occupant.” The residence hall units with multiple occupants meet or exceed this standard.

I look forward to meeting with student leaders to hear your voices, and to our continued town hall meetings where my team and I get to answer questions from our campus community at large. Your concerns are valid. We are listening. We are committed to jointly making changes to move Howard Forward.


Excellence in Truth and Service,

Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA
President




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