Howard University has become estranged from the idea of good press this past week.
Just days before a financial aid scandal unfolded on Wednesday, Blavity reported a number of students were organizing to demand the university's President Wayne A.I. Frederick resign from his position. In other words, issa lot. So we did our best to break down all that's unfurling at the university right now.
1. Really, issa mess:
In a statement released Wednesday, Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick said that an estimated $1 million in school scholarship and grant money was stolen by six former school employees. The announcement came after an anonymous post published to Medium claimed former student and employee at the school's office of financial aid Tyrone Hankerson Jr. was responsible for misappropriating university funds and using them to lead a life of luxury. The now-deleted post named Hankerson as one of the six people involved in the financial aid scandal.
The employees also took classes at the esteemed university."The audit revealed that the combination of University grants and tuition remission exceeded the total cost of attendance," according to the statement. "As a result, some individuals received inappropriate refunds.”
2. Howard's financial aid scandals go way back:
The mishandling of financial aid funds at Howard dates back to 2007. The Medium author notes Frederick initiated a review of the university's financial aid office in February 2015. He discovered the outrageous sums the six former employees received through an independent audit conducted in 2016. The audit also showed some employees receiving tuition remission from 2007 - 2016 also received university grants. Following the audit's completion in May 2017, officials were fired in September. The writer alleges that between 2013 and 2014, Associate Director of Financial Aid Brian Johnson received about $100,000 in need-based student aid in the form of grants.
3. Hankerson made little to no effort to hide the flex:
From 2014 - 2017, Hankerson, a law student, allegedly stole upwards of $430,000 in funds. According to the author of the Medium post, he “repeatedly awarded [himself] a $65,000 ‘University Need-Based Grant.’” His social media was essentially a catalog of extravagant clothing, lavish trips, expensive cars, designer bags and luxurious furs. Heavy reports that he also employed a videographer.
After discovering the posts, folks on Twitter showed him no mercy.
4. Hankerson allegedly used his status as a law student to hide his seemingly dirty deeds:
In the Medium piece, the writer iterated Hankerson used his status as a law student to cover up seemingly large sums of cash:
“In 2014, Hankerson was awarded another $22,683 scholarship, labeled as a Mock Trial Scholarship," the writer alleges. "Sources who have been involved with the mock trial, including past leadership, say the team has never awarded a scholarship of that amount and wouldn’t even have had the budget to accommodate a scholarship of that amount.”
In a recent statement, Hankerson proclaimed his innocence, saying that his student records were somehow stolen and shared. He has called for an investigation into how his financial files were released to the public which violates the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
5. If the allegations are true, Hankerson had hella nerve speaking out about the student-loan debt crisis a couple of years ago:
In an April 2015 article from BillMoyers.com, Hankerson, a then graduating senior, said that his work-study position in Howard’s Office of Financial Aid has given him insight about the struggles of those in need of financial aid:
“For many of my classmates, their families simply do not have the financial resources to pay for college…What I have witnessed in my role are determined students who try their hardest to find a way through," he said.
"They search high and low for scholarships, they take classes over the summer at cheaper rates so they can graduate on time, they take semesters off, and they come back, and sometimes, when all has failed them, they are left with no option but to give up," he continued.
6. Howard University may have been warned about something like this happening:
University trustee Renee Higginbottom-Brooks penned a letter calling for a reorganization of the school financial aid office in 2013, two years prior to Frederick's proactive review. “Howard will not be here in three years if we don’t make some crucial decisions now,” she wrote. At the time, she said the university's lack of strong leadership would be its downfall.
In April of 2013, she called for “a vote of no confidence in both the Chairman of the Board and the president.” Frederick took office as president in October on an interim basis and became the 17th president in 2014.
7. Students have smelled something fishy for some time:
Twitter user @simplyyLee accused the university of also taking back balances. In a long thread, she detailed how her mother would pay off outstanding balances and out of nowhere, the balance would reappear as if she made no payments at all. There have been reports stating that only student scholarships and grants from the school were taken from. That excludes federal aid but other sources of student monies could have been tampered with.
This Howard University tea is hot 😓 My poor mother, breaking her back to pay all my "back balances" every semester fighting to register me into classes. Whole time y'all stealing money.. I'm disgusted.— M. (@SimplyyLee) March 28, 2018
Blavity has reached out to Howard for further comment. A statement from spokesperson Crystal Brown read:
"Howard University takes seriously its responsibility to protect the privacy of our students and student records. Our institution is governed by, and strictly adheres to, the guidelines established under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Any employee responsible for violating FERPA would be severely disciplined, and very possibly terminated. There has been no authorized disclosure by the University of any information related to Mr. Hankerson, nonetheless we are concerned about this situation. We are taking a close look to see if we can determine the source of information published about him. In accordance with FERPA, we are not making any comments about the protected information of Mr. Hankerson or any other Howard University student."