Howard University Accused Of Excluding Alumni From Board Of Trustees Seats

Frederick Douglass Memorial Hall

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Trouble continues to brew for Howard University.

Following a 34-day student protest over poor housing conditions on campus, the historically Black university is now facing a lawsuit from ten alumni who graduated between 1960 and 1994, according to The Washington Post. The lawsuit accuses the school of "illegally" excluding students, alumni, and faculty from its Board of Trustees, the governing body of the university.

The lawsuit was reportedly filed on Monday (December 13) in Washington D.C. Superior Court after one of the students' demands was not met. That condition was that alumni, faculty, and students could get affiliate seats at the Board's table.

Plaintiffs allege that Howard's Board violated its own bylaws through three actions: not filling vacant affiliate seats, removing them, and later eliminating the positions by amending the bylaws.

"Resultingly, Howard Alumni in their entirety, which includes plaintiffs, have been injured via their disenfranchisement at the highest level of the university’s governance," according to the suit.

Donald Temple, the group's attorney, says the alumni were left with "no recourse but to file this action in our local courts in order to get the board to follow its own rules." The alumni also plan on asking a judge to order the university's leaders to fill the vacant affiliate positions and "nullify votes cast without the body’s full membership" ; this may happen if the judge finds that Howard's Board did violate its own rules.

University spokesman Frank Tramble responded to the lawsuit, claiming board leaders have the authority to "modernize" the way the body operates. Chair Laurence C. Morse said the school consulted a firm and conducted over 40 interviews with members of the community to overhaul the Board's structure.

Reporters say the private university has a "long history of shared governance," where all members of the university, including students, faculty, and alumni, should have a say in how the school is run.

"Alumni have been represented on the school’s governing board since 1926, and students earned membership after the 1968 student-led protests that demanded greater transparency and accountability, according to the complaint," according to the Post.

You can read more about this legal battle here.

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