14 students recall tumultuous days in brief, calm ceremony Morgan students see progress one year after sit-in.

March 07, 1991|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Evening Sun Staff

A year ago today, about 1,200 Morgan State University students began the second day of a sit-in demonstration in Truth Hall, the administration building. They demanded better living conditions in dormitories, improved security and financial parity with other state-funded universities.

At 3 p.m. yesterday on the steps of the administration building, 14 students recalled the tumultuous period when they disrupted university operations for a week.

Antoine Hill, chairman of Morgan's student task force, said the sit-in should not be forgotten.

"It needs to be carried on and everyone needs to know that the work we started over a year ago is still going on," Hill said.

"Progress has been made," he said. "When you look behind Argonne [Drive] and see Blount Hall -- a 600-bed dormitory -- going high in the sky."

Hill said the sounds of construction can be heard all over the campus. "We're . . . glad that we had our protest," he said.

At times during the brief commemoration ceremony, students chanted "Students united never will be divided" and "Get up, stand up for your rights. Don't give up the fight. Don't believe the hype."

The students said some of their grievances had been met. They are continuing to meet with administrators to address the remaining problems, they said.

For example, the Clarence W. Blount Dormitory, named for the city's state senator who has long championed education and Morgan, and two other dorms are scheduled to open in the fall. Two more dorms are to open in the fall of 1992.

Hill said one dormitory with fire-code violations was closed as a result of the protest. It is now being renovated, but Hill said renovations would not have taken place without the sit-in.

Students had complained that some dormitories were unsafe and unhealthy because they were rodent-infested and had exposed wiring, asbestos and peeling paint.

Other improvements the protesters took credit for included a new science center and the hiring of a new campus police chief and six officers.

The students said the protest also forced Morgan to make plans to renovate the campus dining hall and to hire more maintenance workers.

Last March 6, students took over Truth Hall and presented administrators with a list of demands. They sought $887,000 in state money for scholarships for gifted students and money to pay for 76 new faculty and staff positions. They also wanted the aging dorms renovated.

A week later, state and Morgan officials met with students, a move that ended the boycott.

"Those were six long days," said William Powell, 23, a senior and task force co-chairman.

During the sit-in, students slept in the administration building and ate food donated by local residents and restaurants.

Yesterday, the students expressed concern that some of their outstanding demands would not be met because of the recession.

"Somehow, we hope that operations we put into place to this point will not fall victim to the budgetary process in the State House," said Aaron Jordan, 25, task force spokesman.

Morgan is a predominantly black school with approximately 4,700 students. Supporters of Morgan have charged that for years, state government has given the bulk of the money for maintenance to the white institutions of higher learning, neglecting Morgan.

"We're looking for some equity," Hill said.

Because of the success of the sit-in, he said, "people know they cannot treat Morgan any kind of way."

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