Students at a predominantly black university in Washington, D.C., continued their sit-in at the school's administration building Saturday.
The sit-in at Howard University began after news that six university employees had been fired for "gross misconduct and neglect of duties." Students learned an investigation found financial aid funds for students in need had been misappropriated, and that the university had received results from the report in 2017.
Howard University President Wayne Frederick confirmed the mishandling of funds Wednesday in a statement: "The investigation found that from 2007 to 2016, university grants were given to some university employees who also received tuition remission. The audit revealed that the combination of university grants and tuition remission exceeded the total cost of attendance. As a result, some individuals received inappropriate refunds."
"While this has been a very difficult and disappointing situation, I know our campus community deserves better and I am committed to ensuring" each campus office operates with integrity, his statement said.
University officials did not say how much money was involved.
Students said they were angered by news of the financial aid scandal. It was "the straw that broke the camel's back," freshman Maya McCollum, 19, one of the protest organizers, told The New York Times on Friday.
Some students told local media they knew of students who had to leave the university because they lacked the funds for tuition.
HU Resist is the student group leading the protest at the administration building, which includes the financial aid office. Several hundred students have occupied the building since Thursday.
Students are making nine demands of Howard University, including the resignation of Frederick, a freeze on tuition, guaranteed housing for first- and second-year students, more transparency regarding tuition increases and administration salaries, and the disarmament of campus police.
Frederick released a statement Friday, addressing the students' demands. "Howard University has birthed generations of student activists and we will always continue in that spirit," he said. "Your concerns are valid. We are listening. We are committed to jointly making changes to move Howard forward."
HU Resist and members of the school's board of trustees met on Saturday, according to The Washington Post.
Leaders from both sides spoke to reporters Saturday afternoon. Student leader Juan Demetrixx told the Post there was "a great deal of respect going on both sides. ... So we're hoping that in the next coming days we are able to get these demands met."
Trustee Rock Newman told the newspaper the board was "impressed with the way that the students have handled the negotiations."
Additional negotiations were set for Sunday night, the paper reported.