Expelled student back on campus, back on track
Roddrick Howell, who was expelled last year, and has returned with the help from his friends
Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 17:04
This May, when nearly 1,000 students graduate from N.C. Central, Roddrick Howell will not be among them.
However, if you had asked Howell last summer when he would graduate, his answer would have been May 2012.
But an unforeseen incident at the school library, followed by an interim suspension that would evolve into his expulsion from N.C. Central University, changed his graduation plans.
Before the start of fall semester last year, Howell suffered a manic episode in the Shepard Library, and fellow student Maya Brown was caught up in his attack.
While Howell said that he barely remembers what happened in the library, Brown claimed that Howell destroyed her phone and knocked her to the ground before help arrived.
Howell was admitted to the Williams Ward Psychiatric Unit at Duke University Medical Center, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, received treatment, and was released with a bill of good health from Duke as well as NCCU doctors.
Howell began to appeal his expulsion, and his classmates rallied behind him.
In the early weeks of the semester, a student-led protest was held following a day of organization, mainly through the social networking site Twitter.
Nigel Hood, a history junior, was one of many students who protested Howell’s interim suspension.
“I saw those people chanting, and I just wanted to stay and do my part,” Hood said.
Hood, who has been friends with Howell since first coming to NCCU, is still impressed with what happened during the student-led protest.
“We actually made people outside our community hear about it, and actually see the injustice of it,” Hood said.
“I think it really put pressure on the administration. As much as we like to complain about things, look at how easy that protest was – minimal organization, and it made a difference.”
Hood recounts the reason the protest was held in the first place — the belief that Howell’s hearings had been completed outside of his student rights, and that the University had failed to follow its own due process rules.
“If his suspension had been handled in the actual way it should have been handled, then I don’t think that he would have been suspended or expelled,” said Hood.
“It wouldn’t have been just brushed under the table; it would have been dealt with accordingly, especially since it was based on something that happened outside his control.
“If Central’s administration had done their job right, then I don’t think he would have been expelled at all.”
But when Howell learned that he would not be allowed to return to campus that semester — or until the fall of 2013, his college dreams screeched to a halt.
“I picked up and left and just went home,” recalled Howell. “I was exhausted. I had exhausted my resources, so I just left.”
Howell spent the next three months in Albemarle with his mother.
He spent his time creating a new plan for graduation that included going to Durham Technical Community College if need be.
But while Howell remained in Albemarle, NCCU students continued to rally support for him.
Eventually, Howell received a call from Gary Brown, director of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Brown had sent Howell his original letter of interim suspension.
Now he wanted to discuss Howell’s return to NCCU.
“He told me they were going to shorten my sentence and let me back in the spring. And I was like,
‘Well okay,’” Howell recalled.
But Howell says the two didn’t see completely eye-to- eye.
“He was arguing that . . . they think they know I did something to her [Maya Brown], but I kept telling him that wasn’t the point,” said Howell.
“I will pay for what I did to her, but my thing was, y’all didn’t follow your own protocol.”
According to Howell, the decision to readmit a student has a very specific protocol.
When asked about the terms under which an expelled student is readmitted to the University, Brown explained that the student has a lot of power in making his or her own remittance happen.
“The student normally is involved in the process of being readmitted to the University,” explained Brown.
“If the student is suspended and they then determine that they want to return, then we have in place a proactive step for them to contact our office so we can begin the process of allowing them to return to the University. The student really drives the issue.”
Brown explained that strict rules govern when expelled students can return, depending on what their letter of suspension says, and the reason they were suspended in the first place.
“In disciplinary issues,” said Brown, “there are conditions that must be fulfilled for the suspension to be lifted. That student will then be cleared to return to the University. “
Ultimately, Howell was allowed to return to NCCU and work complete his degree.
Howell said he spoke to two lawyers when he was building his case against the school. “They told me that the school should read their own code of conduct.”
Howell said he thinks NCCU should still be more thorough with each student case, and that the relationship between the administration and the student body should be more personal. He said a one-on-one approach with students is the reason he chose to come to a smaller school.
“Our campus is not so big that you don’t know people,” said Howell.
“You know everyone, you see these people, it’s not like we’re at a big school like UNC where everything is overpopulated.”