- Published Date:
Dear Howard University Community,
Howard University was recently alerted of a TikTok video documenting an unlawful break-in at Benjamin E. Mays Hall, the building that housed the Howard University School of Divinity from 1987 - 2015. We take this incident of trespassing very seriously and the Howard University Department of Public Safety (DPS) has already begun investigating the matter.
In the video, a group of individuals are observed rummaging through Mays Hall, running through the stacks of its library, flipping through books and files, and even deploying a fire extinguisher indoors. The creator of the TikTok admitted that the group had trouble entering the building, with its boarded windows and doors, but the group persisted and was able to force entry into the building through a mechanical room.
While DPS continues to investigate, we want to make it abundantly clear that the University condemns the unlawful entry of this group of misinformed individuals.
In 2015, the School of Divinity was relocated from Mays Hall on the University’s East Campus to its current home at the University’s West Campus, as the East Campus site was planned for redevelopment. At that time, all primary instructional content necessary for maintaining the school’s coursework and accreditation was transferred to the school’s new location. This included high-value collections of art, administrative files, and other archival materials. The remainder of the school’s possessions continued to be stored at Mays Hall due to limited capacity of the school’s new space.
In 2017, the University began working to redevelop the East Campus in accordance with the District of Columbia’s comprehensive plan. Most recently, the University began collaborating with the DC Preservation League to designate East Campus as a historic landmark district, enabling the University’s plan to revive the 23-acre site.
Despite the University’s efforts to remove historically relevant materials from the site in 2015, the actions of those who trespassed and broke into Mays Hall remind us how some are willing to violate the sacred boundaries of our beloved HBCU campuses and threaten to embolden others with similar actions. In light of this incident, Howard University’s Department of Public Safety will ramp up existing patrols of the site and the University will work to reassess the contents of the building and secure it from unlawful access. The University is taking the necessary steps to ensure the School of Divinity’s most precious archival materials are in safekeeping.
In Truth and Excellence,
Rev. Kenyatta Gilbert, Ph.D.
School of Divinity Dean