Howard University administration has “done everything in its power” to exclude students from a lecture on race and law enforcement with former FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday, a campus activist group has claimed.
Comey did a Q&A at the historically Black college, to the dismay of HU Resist, a campus activist group, BuzzFeed reported. Administrators ensured that students were “unable to challenge” Comey, who is an endowed chair, the group said in a statement.
“We find it both appalling and disrespectful that such a person is given a platform to discuss ‘law enforcement and race’ at our Historically Black University,” the activists wrote. “Our message is clear: James Comey is not welcome here.”
Students had previously protested Comey’s convocation speech at the school earlier this year after saying his FBI background made him “antithetical to the social justice movements championed by young black activists and Howard itself.”
Administrators carefully screened students for the event, the student activists said. Three dozen students RSVP’d for the lecture, but none have been approved to attend, explained a group representative.
The administration’s action allowed it “to effectively ban student activists from participating” from Comey’s lecture, which was the first of five public policy engagements. Comey addressed the rise of murders in the nation and diversifying the FBI at the lecture, The Washington Post reported.
Admittance for the lecture was done on a first-come, first-serve basis and questions were selected by the campus newspaper editor who led the Q&A, Howard University said in a statement to BuzzFeed before the event. Comey, who pledged to donate his $100,000 salary to a Howard scholarship for students in foster care, conducted a discussion with a Constitutional law class of nearly 50 students on Tuesday.
HU Resist, however, contended that pre-determined questions cut off chances for real dialogue. They planned to “carefully” curate their own questions to ask after his lecture.
The group, which has also opposed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, previously met with administrators about Comey, but said their concerns were “blatantly disregarded” in an ongoing dispute.
Comey “loves the enthusiasm of the young folks,” but “wishes they would understand what a conversation is,” he responded to the criticisms.