Clark Atlanta student: I love my university, but we deserve better treatment

Spelman College students Rimothy Miracle Bennett, 19, a junior, and Jahni Lane-Foster, 18, a freshman, help at a table to collect complaints about student housing conditions and other issues at Atlanta's historically Black colleges. The complaints included mold and mildew in rooms and washers and dryers that don't work. (Eric Stirgus/eric.stirgus@ajc.com)
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Spelman College students Rimothy Miracle Bennett, 19, a junior, and Jahni Lane-Foster, 18, a freshman, help at a table to collect complaints about student housing conditions and other issues at Atlanta's historically Black colleges. The complaints included mold and mildew in rooms and washers and dryers that don't work. (Eric Stirgus/eric.stirgus@ajc.com)

Atlanta University Center students sleeping in tents to protest housing conditions

Some students from Atlanta’s historically Black colleges and universities have slept in tents this week on areas near the busy Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library to publicize their complaints about housing conditions on their campuses.

They began this action to show solidarity with Howard University students who are protesting housing conditions at the HBCU in Washington, D.C.

As the AJC’s Eric Stirgus reported this week:

Howard University students say rats and mold are just some of the issues they're forced to live with there. The Atlanta students complained about washing machines and other equipment not working in their dorms.

Clark Atlanta University had to put nearly 500 students in temporary housing before the semester started because of renovation delays to some of its student housing. Atlanta University Center students pay up to $7,000 a semester for student housing, but a larger percentage of those students borrow money to pay tuition and other fees.

In a guest column, Clark Atlanta University senior Ariyana Griffin shares her perspective on the protest. At Clark Atlanta, Griffin serves as editor-in-chief for the Panther newspaper. Majoring in mass media arts with a concentration in journalism and a minor in sociology, Griffin is originally from Inglewood, Calif.

By Ariyana Griffin

Students from Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College and Morris Brown College have been advocating for better housing conditions and all around a better quality of life on campus.

Going to an HBCU in the Atlanta University Center has been one of the best experiences in my life, but I often get frustrated when I think about how we are treated in the AUC. HBCUs are on the world’s stage right now, getting unprecedented media attention and collecting large donations. Simultaneously, HBCU students can be found experiencing a lack of equality and equity.

Clark Atlanta University is on Atlanta Student Movement Boulevard, named after the original Atlanta Student Movement in February,1960. AUC students then fought for change and a better standard of living while in college, just like we are now.

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Clark Atlanta student Ariyana Griffin

Clark Atlanta student Ariyana Griffin
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Clark Atlanta student Ariyana Griffin

Decades later, students shouldn’t have to fight for mold to be removed from rooms, for Title IX to be taken seriously, for better internet and overall, a good quality of life in a place they are supposed to be calling home.

We migrate from all over the world to come to these learning institutions just to be silenced and not given adequate treatment.

We are not asking for too much. Honestly, we should not have to ask at all. As tuition increases, the student services seem to decrease. These demands are not for luxuries, they should be at the very least, the standard.

The stories that I have heard from students are not normal college experience stories, in some cases they are horror stories. Instead of thriving, students are homeless, withdrawing from classes, missing meals, missing classes due to no transportation from off-campus housing and more.

We come to HBCUs for a student experience that connects us with our culture and prepares us academically to make our mark on the world. It’s nearly impossible to do that when we are tired from fighting to be heard and respected; drained from crying out to receive what our schools promised and left broken like those promises.

Many of our families sacrificed time and money so we could live out our HBCU dreams. I hope generations after us do not have to experience the AUC the way we have. The AUC produces amazing and talented students who truly make a difference in the world we live in. We deserve to be safe, healthy and comfortable while doing so.

My peers and I stand in solidarity with Howard University but also with every institution in the AUC. We have vowed not to leave until each demand is met at each institution. We are standing united.

To protest these injustices, students are now sleeping in front of Rush Memorial Congregational Church in tents. Enduring the cold, night weather, we are committed to making conditions better for current and future students. I think the AUC standing united provides such a catalyst for change because we are divided time after time.

By showing that we are family and are not moving until the rest of our AUC family is taken care of, is such a big statement. One that calls for true change and accountability from HBCU administration and cannot be ignored.

I love my university and the entire AUC, but we deserve to be treated better. The things we are calling for are those that should be provided by our campuses without question. I am so proud of my peers, my family, for standing strong and demanding change.

We are strong. We are united. We are resilient. We are worthy.

The author of this guest column, Ariyana Griffin, is a senior at Clark Atlanta University.

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