Hampton, get your house in order
After a town hall meeting last week, students hope administrators keep promises to help fix problems
“No, no, no, I’m talking now, young lady! I am talking!” shouted William R. Harvey, president of Hampton University.
The university president interrupted a student who demanded answers on how the administration plans to better handle sexual assault cases on campus during a Student Government Association town hall on Tuesday. She said she was a survivor of assault on Hampton’s campus.
Students came to voice their concerns about their issues at the university, including cleanliness, campus safety and a healthy environment after mold was found in some dorm rooms and in the cafeteria.
“First of all, this is not a grievance session,” Doretha J. Spells, treasurer and vice president for business affairs, said in response to a student who stated her grievance regarding the cleanliness of the cafeteria food. Spells did inform students about a $20 million renovation plan that has been underway for the past two years to deal with a mold problem.
It wasn’t just about how the university handles sexual assault complaints. The issues are many, so much so that Hampton’s administration sent out a second press release Thursday night stating how officials are addressing problems with food services and facilities. Now students have to wait to see whether the administration will come through or just made these statements to keep students quiet.
Complaints like these are the reason #HUTownHall was trending on Twitter for nearly a week. In less than 48 hours, the issues brought up at Tuesday night’s town hall meeting have gotten the attention of Hampton alumni, parents, other historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and the local media. Hampton sent out its first press release Wednesday stating that administrators take these issues “very seriously” and listed how some issues, such as reports of sexual assault and harassment, are handled. On Thursday, Harvey called a meeting of student leaders and members of his administration to discuss some of the issues that surfaced at the meeting.
The administration has not responded to a request for comment.
Other universities around the country are facing scrutiny and confrontations with students over allegedly failing to address serious issues on their campuses. Student members of the Atlanta University Center (AUC), comprising Spelman College, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, started a campaign called #WeKnowWhatYouDid alleging the Spelman and Morehouse administrations “protect rapists.” There was a shooting near the campus of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida, that resulted in the death of a student.
Morehouse alum, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said that riots are the language of the unheard. Student activism in the AUC has recently followed this principle. Check out this piece by student @_iAmRoyal #BlackHistoryMonth #WeKnowWhatYouDid https://t.co/Ic3nYKTrLC
— End Rape on Campus (@endrapeoncampus) February 23, 2018
Hampton alumni and other HBCU graduates took to Twitter speaking out in support of students:
To the students at Hampton University I am so sorry for what you all are going through. You guys are students there y’all voices deserve to be heard. 💯 My deepest apologies to the student who Came forward about being sexually assaulted 😓 #HUTownHall
— Chasmin McKeever (@chasmin_alyse) February 21, 2018
As a HU alum, reading the #HUTownHall hashtag has been embarrassing and heartbreaking. I’ve increased my donations to HU and will be reaching out to Dr. Inman to see how alumni can help. To the current students, hit me up anytime. I’m here to help however I can.
— Rashad (@RashadDrakeford) February 22, 2018
MAKE THIS GO VIRAL! A Hampton student and shooting victim is being dragged out of a town hall meeting for trying to tell his story to students on how Hampton administrators mistreated him in the hospital due to the fact that he wasn’t financially cleared YET #HUTownHall pic.twitter.com/mAZxlL2gET
— DoctorJones👩🏽⚕️👑 (@_LeakedTruths) February 22, 2018
“Keep Hampton business in house” Imagine you go out to eat and pay $40+ for the meal…but the food is horrible, the building is falling apart, and the service is a joke. You really think I’m not about to be on google review telling everybody? Son… I’m SNITCHING #HUTownHall pic.twitter.com/35el405WOP
— Nita LaShawn (@diaryofasavage) February 21, 2018
A lot of people are saying “transfer, get out while you can,” but honestly I don’t think I can leave this place before I know I’ve tried to stand up and make a change. Because no matter how upset this school makes me, I still take pride in being a Hamptonian. #HUTownHall
— JoElle 💜 (@lovejoosayy) February 21, 2018
As the town hall meeting ended, I felt myself getting a headache along with a stomachache. Could it be that my dream school is falling apart right before my very eyes? I feel like I’m living in an episode of The Quad, filled with nothing but drama. This isn’t what I signed up for.
I know that every institution has its problems, but this is showing less than the “Standard of Excellence,” considering that the cafeteria food has made me sick on numerous occasions and I have seen mold in all three of the dorm rooms I’ve lived in since my freshman year. These questions ran through my head: What about our future students? How will this be handled? Is this situation larger than all of us?
The fact that administrators stood in front of students and said they weren’t telling the truth made me sick to my stomach — literally. A change must come to end this cycle of unanswered complaints on HBCU campuses where we pay tens of thousands of dollars to attend. We need to make sure we’re not wasting our time and money.