Despite its 136 years in the nation’s capital, a prime location for those who would attack the United States, Howard University has not yet devised a crisis contingency plan.
“The [terrorist] alert has made the university begin to form evacuation plans,” said Kenyatta Hobson, assistant community director of Howard’s Meridian Hill Hall dormitory for upperclassmen.
“They are scrambling to get something together (because) they realize there is really a threat.”
A recent university-wide e-mail from Howard President H. Patrick Swygert stated that “although no specific threat has been identified, we all need to make every effort to prevent an incident from happening and be prepared to resolve an incident should one occur.”
Any catastrophe in the area would likely affect the entire city. Most area schools, therefore, rely on the District of Columbia’s contingency plan to dictate their actions in the event of an accident.
For that reason, “Howard University officials remain in consistent communication with local government officials to ensure a cohesive, standard level of preparation and response,” Swygert said.
“The University has expedited the publication of the University Emergency Response Plan,” according to Swygert’s message.
“The plan has been distributed via e-mail to administrators, deans and directors … information briefings will be scheduled to [orient] students, faculty and staff on the plan and their responsibilities.”
Hobson said that dormitory directors and resident assistants are aware of plans for an emergency evacuation. However, there have been no drills for student residents.
“I would like to see the university develop a substantive plan of action in case something were to happen in this city,” said political science sophomore Ololade Fawole.
“If threats seem imminent, realistic and immediate, what will be their plan of action?
Unlike some college areas where residents embrace students and their institutions, members of Howard’s surrounding community seem to have contempt for students, who are often robbed, assaulted or injured.
“Why worry about terrorism when we can walk down Georgia Avenue and be shot?” Edwards added, referring to a recent incident, in which locals shot two Howard students.
“We have larger, more immediate security issues.”
Still, many students remain badly informed of what they should do in a catastrophic situation.
“While we are responsible for the livelihood of the residence hall, we still have to take our own lives into account,” Hobson said.
“We’ll try to accommodate as many students as we can, but everyone will not fit (into the dormitory’s fallout shelter in the basement) – at that point it will be every man for himself.”
Joi C. Ridley is a student at Howard University who is the managing editor of The District Chronicles.