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Howard President to Step Down Amid Campus Struggles

Howard University FinancesFacing financial struggles and accusations of mismanagement, the president of Howard University is stepping down at the end of the calendar year.

President Sidney Ribeau announced his retirement in a letter to the Howard community today. The letter highlights the successes his five-year tenure, from academic initiatives to the construction of new campus buildings.

Left unmentioned are Howard's recent troubles. Undergraduate enrollment dropped by more than 6 percent last academic year from the previous one as fewer accepted students chose to attend Howard, though it did rebound slightly this year. The university announced cuts of 75 staff positions due to tight finances. Its hospital's revenue is plummeting, and its heralded development project, the Howard Town Center, is stalled.

Ribeau wrote in a January internal staff memo obtained by Washington City Paper that Howard faced a “significant budget challenge” due to “a significant decrease in student enrollment in the fall semester, along with other revenue shortfalls and an anticipated reduction in Howard’s federal appropriation due to sequestration.”

The biggest public embarrassment for the university came from two letters this spring: one from Renee Higginbotham-Brooks, vice chairwoman of Howard’s board of trustees, who warned that Howard is “in genuine trouble” and “will not be here in three years if we don’t make some crucial decisions now,” and one from 13 Howard deans who complained that “fiscal mismanagement is doing irreparable harm to the University’s academic programs, institutional reputation, and future viability” and “placing the very survival of the university at risk.”

University officials have consistently denied that anything is amiss, but it's clear that Howard is not on the same footing it once was as one of the premier historically black colleges in the country. More changes are likely ahead for Howard; now we know that Ribeau won't be the one to spearhead them.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • howardalumni

    I recently finished a grad program at HU. Oh how I regret spending all that money at HU. What a mess. Many (not all) incompetent professors and support staff. Also broken windows and ceiling leaking for the two years I was there. Students in my program were put through with a grade no lower than a ''B'' no matter how little they did or what grades received on exams and papers. I would never recommend HU. It is a waste of your money (very expensive). Go to another area school. There are some great students at HU but they are not getting their moneys worth. Avoid this place. Lets pray that they get someone in who really cares about the future of HU and isn't there just for the money. And I hope CP will find out how much the current president at HU will ''make'' for stepping down. Look forward to more coverage from the always great CP. He should be ashamed. Terrible leader.

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  • Interesting

    If all you say is true why did you complete the program and continue to spend the money? What person goes on a blog and speaks negatively about the institution where they spent a lot of money to receive a degree, potentially devaluing that degree? Yesterday I posted my house for sale and I went on a blog anonymously to post about the water damage, mice and bad roof.

    Howard is in need of dynamic leadership in the long term, in the short term they need fiscally responsible proven leader with local ties and who can fundraise. Anthony Williams would be a great 'steward for' the school in the short run. He would immediately improve the school’s financial credibility. I am not sure he would take the position but I am doubtful Howard would reach out to him, too bad.

  • Mr.Remember

    @howardalumni, you are such a bully and a liar. Kick an institution while it is down, that's shows character. The irony about your college degree it will open doors for you in so many ways but hopefully that same door will hit you in the hindpotts.

  • Rob

    @"howardalumni"...I believe that you are a fraud in every sense of the word. I believe that your intent is solely to smear the reputation of a university that despite its recent problems will continue to produce some of the best young minds who will continue have a positive impact on the world today and into the future. Like an earlier poster remarked, "...why did you stay?" My question would be if you are indeed a HU student, why in the world did HU accept you?

  • Lynne

    howardalumni - A graduate of Howard's medical school is voted by his peers (other successful doctors practicing in the area) every year (at least 10) as one of the Top 100 Doctors in Washington, DC. What have you go to say about that? Loser.

  • jnf


  • Julie

    An outstanding successor would be Julius C. Coles, a current Morehouse adjunct professor, former Morehouse alumni, who had headed Howard's Ralph Bunche International Studies Center, was a career foreign service Executive Officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development; and was a former President and CEO of Africare, a non-profit that deals with addressing development and HIV/AIDs in Africa. Africare is a non-governmental entity overseeing a Twenty-million dollar annual budget. He is also on the board of a major national education non-profit.

    He has great energy and is held in the highest regard. He also is an outstanding fundraiser and administrator.

    As a Howard alumnae, I would welcome his consideration as someone highly capable of turning Howard around.

  • Julie

    Other potential candidates, aside from Julius C. Coles, that I hope will be considered include in random order:

    Collin Powell, Anthony Williams, Jonetta Coles, Michelle Obama, Michael C. Rogers, Robert C. Bob, John W. Hill, Condoleezza Rice. All are proven managers either inside or outside of academia.