Howard University students on Friday ended a sit-in at an administration building after negotiations ended in a settlement with the administration. The nine-day sit-in is the longest in the school's history, stemming from by the financial aid office.
In a statement, the Howard University Board of Trustees made a series of promises, including considering holding undergraduate tuition at current levels for the academic year 2019-20. It also said it will work with the Tuition Rates and Fees Committee, which has a student representative, for the academic year 2020-21.
The leading protest group, HU Resist, had been calling for Howard University President Wayne Frederick's resignation. But they tweeted Friday that they had soften their stance and wrote they want to "recenter our cause around the overall improvement of our institution instead of the elimination of one figure."
At a press conference on Friday, Frederick spoke alongside student leaders, reaffirming his commitment to addressing student concerns, CBS affiliate WUSA-9 reports. "This is a beginning of a process, not just of reconciliation and healing, but of how we move forward," he said.
The protests started after an anonymous Medium post was published last week that accused the financial aid office of stealing $1 million. The post, which has since been taken down, accused law studentin particular of embezzling more than $400,000.
In response to the post, Frederick said he became aware in Dec. 2016 of the alleged mismanagement between 2007 and 2016, and after an independent auditor investigated, six employees were fired in Sept. 2017. Further, Frederick pledged a series of reforms for the financial aid office, including a third-party review of who was using the financial aid module.
But that did little to quell the anger of students at Howard, especially since the university has implemented a policy of that forces students to have a zero balance to register for classes, or to pay one-third of their outstanding bill and be enrolled in a payment plan. The university has said it had $22 million in uncollected student tuition in 2017.
Friday's statement said tuition is of "utmost importance to the entire Howard community." But it did not mention the uncollected tuition policy, which has hit low-income students particularly hard at the historically black university. Friday's statement included support a student-led effort to establish a food pantry in the D.C. neighborhood the university is located in.
The school also said it will delay the housing deposit deadline to May 1. HU Resist had called for adequate housing for all students under 21, WUSA-9 reports.
Hankerson, meanwhile, told CBS News earlier this week that since the anonymous post was published, his life has "turned completely upside down." His attorney told WAMU on Friday that he plans to sue Howard for leaking his records. The university has refused to name the six employees who were fired, citing university protocol and federal law that prohibits releasing student records.
Hankerson says he has faced harassment and bullying since the Medium post was published. Photos of him wearing expensive clothes and on vacations quickly went viral.