‘Howard University is Not a Dog Park or Jogging Trail’: Students, Twitter Users Call Out Disrespectful Gentrifiers

The Yard, a historic cultural hub at Howard University in Washington, D.C., is being disrespected by neighborhood gentrifiers who are using it as a spot to walk their dogs or as an outdoor gym, students say.   

One of the main quads on the campus of Howard, a 152-year-old HBCU, The Yard is the site where students, including members of the historical fraternities and sororities, congregate. Traditional events, including Homecoming festivities, take place there.  

Sophomore Nkiru Emell can recall the first time she saw a local resident and his dog on The Yard. 

“I remember, actually, the first time I saw it. It was at the Sigma tree,” Emell told NBC Washington. “It was this guy with, like, a small dog and he just brought his dog up to the tree and that little dog started, you know, doing his business on the tree.”

A Fox 5 video clip shared on Twitter, where a local resident suggested that Howard should accommodate dog walking on campus or move, has gone viral with more than 2 million views.  

“The Yard is for the students and although everyone loves pets, I feel like it’s disrespectful to have the pets just running around, especially when there are several parks around here,” Malakhi Briggs tells the news channel.   

“If they come on ‘The Yard’ and they’re just walking through, I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, but I still feel like there are other ways to get around D.C. without having to cut through a college campus.”  

The journalist asked neighborhood resident Sean Grubbs-Robishaw his opinion.  

Howard University“So, they’re in part of D.C. so they have to work within D.C. If they don’t want to be within D.C. then they can move the campus,” Grubbs-Robishaw says. “I think we just need to work together and I don’t think it should be a he or there or here. It’s our community, and that’s how it should be.”  

His solution is to “move the campus” if students don’t want neighborhood dogs pooping on the grounds of their beloved school of which they pay tuition to attend?  

It’s just disrespectful for residents to feel entitled to use the university as they see fit, students say.  

“You know this is a university,” Briana Littlejohn, a graduating senior at Howard, told the DCist. “You know this is a historically Black university. And you feel so entitled that you’re just going to walk your dog there? I find it very disrespectful.”  

The surrounding neighborhoods—Shaw, Pleasant Plains, and LeDroit Park—have seen increasing numbers of wealthy, white residents in recent years, according to the DCist: 

“For many students, the fight to preserve their space on campus mirrors a larger fight against cultural—and physical—displacement in the neighborhood.”  

Students are using social media to take a stand: 

Grubbs-Robishaw’s defense of residents using the campus as a dog park also drew backlash on Twitter.  

“Let me tell you who’s NOT about to have a good season. Sean Grubbs-Robishaw. The man who thinks Howard University should double as a dog park. Who suggested, on air, that if his dogs can’t sh** on HU grounds, that the campus should move,” a Twitter user wrote.

Howard University has not yet announced its official stance on the issue.

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