Hampton University Students Take to the Streets Over Campus Conditions

Students are protesting a number of issues, including the mishandling of sexual assault complaints, housing problems and safety concerns. We speak to HBCUDigest.com’s Jarrett Carter, Sr.

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Story Transcript

GERALD CAMPBELL: -In this letter that I have in my pocket. Everyone here who worked on it, contributed, and it’s going to go straight to our president. Period. We all came here, we all made the sacrifice, [inaudible]. Because everyone here pays for Hampton. Right? We’re not going to get a refund, right? Exactly. And they’re going to phrase this as we’re a bunch of rebel students causing a disruption, causing an inconvenience for all the other students. That’s not true.

EDDIE CONWAY: In the vein of student activists before them, Hampton University students took to the streets recently. Students are outraged about the conditions on campus and the sexual assault that they felt weren’t being addressed. Students took to social media and news outlets to gain verbal attention to the issues. Joining us today to discuss the Hampton protests is Jarrett Carter, Sr. Jarrett is CEO and founder of HBCUDigest.com, where you can find extensive coverage and commentary on all HBC U news from around the country. Jarrett, thanks for joining me.

JARRETT CARTER, SR: Thank you for having me.

EDDIE CONWAY: OK, what’s going on? Something’s been happening since February 21 down at Hampton. What is it?

JARRETT CARTER, SR: Yeah, there’s a number of student protests taking place on campus. Variety of issues that students are trying to get addressed. One is Title IX compliance issues. Another is quality of food service on campus and housing issues, certain deficiencies with mold and mildew and things like that in rooms. And the administration has been working to respond to a lot of the students concerns. They’ve had a number of public meetings. The students have also been vocal on social media on expressing their displeasure with some of the conditions, or the concerns, and their efforts to try to reach out to administration to work with them to solve them. So it’s a very unique issue for Hampton. There are a lot of HBCUs that confront these kind of things every year, but it’s very rare for Hampton as an institution and as a student body to be so out front publicly on these kinds of issues.

EDDIE CONWAY: Well, what is this Title IX, what does it encompass?

JARRETT CARTER, SR: Title IX is a federal statute that requires certain reporting and certain responsibilities that campuses have to students to prevent and process sexual assault complaints, discrimination complaints. And it’s a big issue in higher education at large, because a lot of campuses are being confronted with hard realities about how much they do or don’t do to assist students who say they’ve been the victim of a sexual assault or a victim of gender discrimination. At Hampton this is more on a student’s complaint about a false or mishandled incident of a sexual assault claim.

Now, this was something that wasn’t formally reported to the institution, that a number of outlets have reported that. But it speaks to a culture of specifically women not being willing to tolerate institutions or cultures that would, that would seek to stifle recording of sexual assault, sexual harassment, gender harassment or gender discrimination, and just making sure that the school is accountable. And that’s something that the school, on its part, has said, you know, we, we’ve always done a good job, we’re going to continue to try to make it better, for all students to feel welcome and safe on campus.

EDDIE CONWAY: Well, I understand part of that Title IX also involves orientation. I understand the students are saying they’re not being properly orientated to what might be consent or a violation of consent.

JARRETT CARTER, SR: Yeah, that’s something that that’s been a frequent complaint for a lot of HBC students and a lot of students, period, at college and universities, black or white.

And the truth of the matter is that the university can can dedicate resources in class and outside of class to letting students know the definition of consent, what rises to the level of a sexual assault, what other venues through which you can report it. What you expect when you do report it, and what is the responsibility of the school to make sure it’s processed and prosecuted to the fullest extent of campus student student governance laws, and also the laws of individual jurisdictions.

EDDIE CONWAY: I saw some pictures that look like there was mold that had been years old. Why is that happening?

JARRETT CARTER, SR: I mean, it is hard to dictate if, you know, if a picture is what it claims to be. A lot of times you can get pages off the Internet. But let’s assume that the pictures that were being published online were accurate and depicted what was currently going on in Hampton. It’s something that the students that, if they had reported it, then I’m sure the university is taking steps to to remediate and remove. It’s not something that is impossible to happen or something you could prohibit. Hampton, if you’ve ever been down there, is a school that’s surrounded by water on three sides. So there’s always going to be moisture in the air. There’s always going to be an issue with water potentially collecting in residence halls and classrooms.

But when you look at the reporting and some of the measures that Hampton has published to say, here is how we’re going to help and work with the students and respond to these things, they’re talking about, you know, the way that you can report mold. What, the steps that are taken to remediate it, and where students can be placed if more extensive work needs to be done.

EDDIE CONWAY: OK. I also noticed that there’s some, some of the complaints covered the food in which, the way it was prepared or served, or so on. What’s the situation with the food there?

JARRETT CARTER, SR: You know, when you’re when you’re serving hundreds and potentially thousands of students, sometimes there can be an issue with the food. That’s not, you know, neglect on the part of the staff, or it’s not intent on the part of the university to serve low-quality food. Sometimes that just happens in mass production. But again, Hampton has, you know, to its credit, assembled a task force of students, student government association, working with fraternities and sororities and other student organizations on campus to address, hey, how can we make the food better?

But at the end of the day what is most important to underscore is that Hampton students get a lot of credit because in their effort to get these things corrected, they’re doing it the right way. They’re not cussing out administrators and putting them on full blast, and saying I don’t want to go to Hampton, and nobody come here. They’re still taking a lot of pride in their institution. They’re still just saying, you know, let’s make the institution better. And on the other side the administration’s doing the same thing. They’re applauding these students for using their constitutional rights to get their concerns out there, taking the proper channels to speak with the president and vice presidents and associated managers in each of these divisions.

So I think it’s something that in short order is going to get fixed. But I would say that it is something that a lot of campuses, black and white, are going to have to be concerned about. In a lot of ways it’s a repeat of the civil rights movement. We had a lot of students that were going off campus to protest injustice in the streets. And once that work was done or seeming done, they came back to protest injustice that seemed to be taken place on campus.

So you know, the more things change the more they stay the same. And this appears to be a situation where Hampton just happens to be in the news this week for something that we’ve seen playing out over years.

EDDIE CONWAY: And I’m sure this is probably not something that the university administration can take care of, but I notice one of the complaints was that it seemed like the students were bored to death because there’s nothing to do on off class hours. Is that a concern there also?

JARRETT CARTER, SR: Yeah, I mean, all of these things are legitimate concerns, and all of these things are legitimately being addressed by the administration. But on the subject of student activities, you know, that’s one of those areas where the students have to take a lot of responsibility for the latitude they have in activities and in different programs and events. You can’t have a situation where you compromise campus security, where you compromise student safety, because you want to have fun. But I think that Hampton is the kind of atmosphere and the kind of university culture where the students and the administration have the same concept. We want Hampton to be the best the best it can be. So you know, after we run the course of emotion and really expressing our views, they’re going to work together and make sure all these things run the right way so not only that they can enjoy themselves there on campus today, but future Hamptonians will be able to enjoy the campus as well.

EDDIE CONWAY: So as the editor, in your opinion would you say that this stuff is being resolved and the students are satisfied with the direction in which the administration is addressing it?

JARRETT CARTER, SR: I think time will tell. Some students are satisfied that the administration is responding in kind. We’ve seen video of the town hall meeting. It’s spring break time for a lot of kids and a lot of campuses. I think you’re going to have to come back when when classes resume and see, you know, how fast or how quickly the students are receiving some of these changes. If they’re not happy they’re going to keep making noise about it, as well they should have the right to do so. But they also should give the administration every opportunity to address individual and collective concerns. So it can’t be a thing where one person has one issue, and that becomes emblematic of the whole campus. They have to have every opportunity to say how can we fix an individual issue, and how can we fix those issues that have affected a lot of people.

And like I said, I think Hampton is the kind of school that has the kind of academic rigor, the kind of culture, the kind of leadership that’s going to be able to get that done and be a model for other HBCs around the country.

EDDIE CONWAY: OK, Jarrett, thanks for joining me and giving us that update.

JARRETT CARTER, SR: Appreciate it. Honored to be on with you.

EDDIE CONWAY: OK. And thanks for joining the Real News.