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Frigid weather has forced Howard University to temporarily close its classrooms to students.

Howard University students are experiencing an unexpected extended holiday because of sporadic power outages and extensive damage to ruptured pipes caused by freezing temperatures in Washington, D.C.

The historic Black university has postponed undergraduate and graduate classes for more than a week. Classes were scheduled to begin Jan. 8 – after the Christmas holiday break – and now school officials say classes will resume on Jan. 16.

Workers are trying to connect a temporary boiler to Howard University Hospital but then, at some point, a permanent boiler would perhaps need to be installed to pump heat throughout the university.

More than 300 students in residence halls have no heat and school workers passed out blankets and hand warmers for the chilly students.

“The delay in starting classes is a result of significant damage to many buildings across campus caused by the record cold temperatures experienced in the region,” the university said in a statement. “Howard University learned Saturday evening that the damage from ruptured pipes and electrical outages will take several days to fix and require significant repair.”

“However, students with classes starting on January 16th who can delay their return to campus to coincide with the new start date should do so if it doesn’t cause any undue hardship for themselves or their family,” the university said.

The university said it plans a variety of activities for students, including games, pizza parties, and movies. Coffee, hot chocolate and tea service is also being served.

Hot chocolate can only go so far. Students need heat. And parents paying college tuition no doubt want classes to resume quickly.

The problem isn’t just the recent ruptured pipes, but years of engineering issues with antiquated buildings, some of them in vital need of repairs.

It’s a shame because Howard University – a storied and prestigious black institution — needs help.

In 2013, several former Howard University officials accused Howard University of financial mismanagement, which could slow the institution’s future plans to modernize its buildings and perhaps construct new ones.

In a letter obtained by The Washington Post, the deans said Howard’s external auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, had cited ‘grave concern about the quality of fiscal decision-making,’” according to The Washington Post.

And last year, Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund, which represents 37 HBCUs, said correctly that President Donald Trump’s promise to support historically black colleges was nothing more than reckless rhetoric. Trump callously proposed cuts to low-income students, many of whom attend historically black colleges.

“The administration and the Department of Education, in our estimation, just have not really taken any substantive actions to demonstrate their commitment,” Lomax said.

Lomax was right on point.

Last year, Trump met with Black college presidents at the White House and then called a hastily arranged photo-op with  college leaders in the Oval Office.

The event, which was organized by former White House aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman, was widely panned as a self-serving move by Trump who was only pretending to care about black colleges. (And black folks took Newman to task as well.)

And nearly a year later, what came out of the White House meeting about Black colleges? Absolutely nothing.

Unfortunately, Howard University has a myriad of problems to fix – some are recent, the result of a run of bad luck; and some are longstanding troubles that were self-inflicted.

But right now, the first priority for Howard University should be keeping students warm in the interim, pumping heat into buildings as soon as possible — and ushering students back into classrooms where they can learn without freezing.

For updates and info on Howard’s response to the crisis, click here. 

What do you think?

PHOTO: Howard University




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