Rolling Out

Bethune-Cookman student says campus living conditions threaten health

Noah McDonald is a freshman at Bethune-Cookman University
Bethune-Cookman student says campus living conditions threaten health
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com / James R. Martin

Bethune-Cookman University students have endured a tough week between unsafe housing conditions and Ed Reed being dismissed as the football head coach before even coaching a game.


The reason for Reed’s departure was his criticism of the living conditions at the university. Not only did the students stand up for Reed, but they also started a protest to fight for safer, more sanitary living conditions. Throughout the week, students posted pictures of rats in their dorms, water leaking on the floors, and mold in their dorms.


Eighteen-year-old Noah McDonald is a freshman at Bethune-Cookman and says that they’ve been living under these conditions since she arrived on campus. McDonald has been a part of the protests and has also helped with a list of demands that the students want from the university.

McDonald spoke with rolling out about her experience at Bethune-Cookman, and what people can do to support them.


Tell us about the protests that have been happening.

It started on Jan. 21. The students got up early to clean up the campus, and the entire weekend we picked up trash like Ed Reed was doing on Instagram Live. On Jan. 23, students gathered in front of Whitehall, which is our chapel in the middle of campus, and we marched from there shouting our chant, shouting that we want the board of trustees gone. We want to know what’s going on. Where’s our money going? Why are we living in these conditions? The next day, a group of students, me included, sat in Whitehall from [noon] to 1:30 in the morning, refusing to leave the building until President Drake came to address the student body.

Bethune-Cookman student says campus living conditions threaten health
Photo courtesy of Noah McDonald

The reason that the protest started is that President Lawrence Drake II got on the Roland Martin show the night before and said that he walks our campus every day, that there’s no mold in our rooms, and that students are not telling the full story. So we asked him to speak to us specifically. That night, we really saw how Bethune-Cookman staff feels about our protests, and they went to extremes of locking the bathrooms and telling us that if we left to go use the bathroom, we [would] not be allowed back into the building. They wouldn’t let us eat or bring any food back in. They wanted us to leave. That’s what their plan was, and we chose not to [leave].

What do the students want?

We want new leadership. We deserve new leadership because if the leadership we have now is not doing anything for us, then why are you in leadership? We want better living conditions. We shouldn’t have to pay as much [as] we pay now for tuition just to live. These conditions are unsafe, it’s making us sick, and it’s making students like me who have asthma sick when there’s mold in my air vent.

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