Homeless at Howard

After holding open the emergency door for his fellow Bison, one Howard University student was asked to move out of his college dorm.

Later found sitting outside on a bench with a suitcase, pillow, duffle bag and backpack, Jawanza Ingram had been evicted by the university and found himself without a home in the nation’s capital.

“I have no family in the area,” said the Florida native, “I’m homeless.”

Last Tuesday, Ingram, a sophomore marketing student, received a notice from Joseph Emanuel, the assistant dean of residence life, stating that his housing privileges had been revoked.

“You have been deemed ineligible for housing starting November 2015 through July 2016, due to your violation of the Bethune Annex emergency exit,” read the “Termination of Housing” notice.

According to the memo, Ingram was charged with violating four policies and regulations of the Howard University Student Code of Conduct. He was given until Nov. 5, at 5 p.m. to vacate his housing accommodation.

The 18-year-old is a Capstone scholar, and attends Howard on a full tuition and housing scholarship. He admits that his actions were wrong and that he violated his dorm’s security policy.

Ingram told The A&T Register that on Nov. 2, around 11:45 p.m., that he let a group of Howard students through the Bethune Annex emergency exit door for his suitemate’s birthday. After the celebration, the students left at 12:18 a.m. through the front entrance of the dorm and were not stopped by security guards.

The following day, he received the official notification that his housing privileges had been revoked for the rest of the academic school year.

On the same day, Ingram said his room was searched by campus police and was told he was under the suspicion of drug distribution, however nothing was found.

Ingram said he met with every administrator possible to apologize and plead his case while offering to rectify his actions.

He said he even cried in front of Dr. Constance Ellison, the Interim Vice President for Student Affairs.

By 5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 5th, Ingram had run out of time and the police arrived at his door, telling him it was time to leave.

On Nov. 6th, Ingram posted photos on Twitter of him carrying his belongings as he exited the dorm. In those tweets, he explains his eviction with the hashtag: #HomelessatHoward. Since his first post, a massive outcry of criticism has emerged against the University.

However, Ingram says this is not the first time that a student has opened the Annex emergency door to enter or leave the dorm building. He also said that he’s not first to be caught either.

“It happens almost every 5 minutes,” he said. “I’m definitely not the first student to do this.”

According to Ingram, “It is the first occurrence of them taking housing away solely for a student doing the infraction that I did.”

There is quite a bit at stake for the Howard sophomore, who cannot afford to pay for university housing. If he does not find a place to stay on campus in the spring, then he will have to stay home for the rest of the academic school year, he said.

“They suggested that I take a semester off,” said Ingram. However, leaving for a semester will cause him to lose his scholarship, as it requires him to be enrolled for eight consecutive semesters. “I legitimately would not be able to return to the university,” said Ingram.

Many Howard students and alumni believe that Ingram took to social media for revenge after his eviction, but he strongly disagrees.

“I’m not out for the vilification of Howard. I love Howard. I love the HBCU experience, and I love the Black experience,” he said. “Never am I here the make the university look bad.”

Ingram said that he thought that the hashtag would help to raise awareness to the “higher ups” at Howard, after several attempts to speak with school officials.

“I really wanted them to realize that [what] they did was morally and ethically incorrect.”

The #HomelessatHoward hashtag became a national trend. While Howard remained very quiet on the issue, the social media campaign gained the attention of notable figures such as activist Deray McKesson and Senior Editor of EBONY magazine Jamilah Lemieux. Even N.C.A&T alumnus, CEO and Founder of HBCU Pride Nation, Travis Jackson, moved to secure free off-campus housing for Ingram for the remainder of the school year.

On Friday, Nov. 8th, Howard University President, Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick released the following statement to the HU community regarding Ingram’s eviction:

“The recent incident involving a student asked to leave one of our residence halls, due to several University policy violations, has generated interest via news and social media, as well as criticism toward the University,” Frederick said.

“Based on the facts, I stand by the decision to remove the student from the residence hall. The student’s poor judgment at the residence hall was unfortunate, as are his decisions to engage in a social media campaign and to conduct interviews with news media.”

However, on Tuesday, Nov. 10th, HBCU Pride Nation tweeted its decision to rescind its offer of housing. In a statement posted to social media, HBCU Pride Nation said:

“Numerous failed attempts to reach student, made by both our prospective donor and HPN officials, coupled with the student’s disappointment that the proposed housing would be 10 miles from school (while accessible to convenient public transportation) lead us to believe that the student, no longer, shares in this focus… While the securing of housing was of an urgent priority for our organization and the donor, we feel that Jawanza’s focus has shifted, instead combating school policy,” said HBCU Pride Nation in a statement. “We simply do not want to stand in the middle of his fight.”

With home over 1,000 miles away for the HBCU student, Ingram said that his parents are not pleased with the university’s decision and are not in any capacity to help him.

According to Ingram, his father told him, “This isn’t right what they’re doing to you. You know what you’re doing. Do what you need to do for it,” and he is determined.

HU School of Law student, Dana McCann, holds a different perspective regarding Ingram’s situation. After reviewing news articles and facts presented by media coverage, she believes that the University was justified in its actions in evicting Ingram from his dorm.

The HU Law student says that while it puts the university in a tough spot, “The housing policies are set in place to, inter alia, ensure student safety. To provide students with this reassurance, the University must enforce its own policy to not allow non-residents in certain housing facilities during unauthorized times,” McCann said.

Ingram says his eviction is just one part of the problem, for he believes there is a greater problem with Howard’s administration.

“If I’m a problem with the media then what was #SilentShowtime in terms of musicians at our school not receiving the scholarships that they were promised,” Ingram said. “What about #TakeBackHU where our dorms don’t have hot water, dorms aren’t being cleaned, security are falling asleep at desks, [and] wifi is going down during registration period.”

McCann is quite familiar with Howard’s recent criticism via #TakeBackHU and does not think that Howard should get all the heat. “We cannot encourage the University to abide by deadlines, policies, and to address student concerns and then criticize them for doing just that,” she says.

However, Ingram is gladly accepting any criticism for his actions, and he believes that he is doing what is right. “The student body, who is currently with me, agrees with what I’m doing,” he said. “And they’re supporting me fully.”