A couple dozen students at Lincoln University, the nation's oldest degree-granting historically black college and university, skipped classes Wednesday morning and staged a sit-in to protest conditions on campus.
The group gathered in the Chester County school's Thurgood Marshall Living Learning Center around 10 a.m. and began collecting classmates' complaints and suggestions. Among the requests: better academic advising, more resources devoted to academic programs and athletics, better food quality, building renovations, and improved communication between students and administrators.
"We're all here because we love our school and we want the best Lincoln possible," said senior Jasmin Harrison. "We're trying to show unity and put some more pressure on [administrators] to get things done."
Harrison said she was prepared to miss six classes to participate in the sit-in, but the protest dispersed in the afternoon.
The demonstration marked the latest sign of dissatisfaction on the sprawling campus, north of Oxford. Earlier this month, Lincoln students launched an online petition calling for the removal of the chair of the board of trustees, Kimberly A. Lloyd, and asking members to address students' concerns.
Maureen Stokes, a university spokeswoman, said she respected students' right to voice their grievances, but that Wednesday's sit-in represented a small fraction of the 2,100 students who attend the 162-year-old university.
"That was a gathering of students," she said. "That was not a protest."
She said administrators have not previously heard some of those concerns from student leaders.
With an audience of about 70 by noon, several student speakers lamented what they said has been a breakdown in communication between students and administrators. They set out large sheets of paper for students to recommend improvements. Organizers said they plan to present the lists this week to university administrators.
Darriyante Johnson, a junior and former executive member of the university's Student Government Association, said he felt a responsibility as an upperclassman.
"This is me stepping up to my role as a Lincoln man and defending my university," he said.
Organizers provided students who boycotted classes with boilerplate language to use in letters to their professors explaining why they missed classes.
The suggested wording: "I am sick, not in the physical sense but rather as a student who currently has to deal with the incessant issues that plague our beloved Lincoln University."