Howard University students demand change amid financial aid scandal

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/5/2018, 1:21 p.m.
Howard University students demand change amid financial aid scandal
Students participate in sit-in at Howard University Howard University News Service

Students at Howard University have been demonstrating for more than a week, with a list of demands and calling for the resignation of the historically Black university’s president after the revelation of a financial aid scandal.

Last week it was revealed that Howard University fired six employees from its financial aid department for misappropriation of funds totaling more than $1 million. The revelation was made on the social journalism website, Medium.com.

University President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick confirmed the report in a statement. He said he was alerted about the issues in December 2016 and that the investigation found that from 2007 to 2016 university grants were given to some university employees who also received tuition remission.

“From the moment I was alerted that there may have been a misappropriation of funds, I have taken this situation extremely seriously,” Frederick said. “I immediately informed the board of trustees, and together we moved swiftly to begin an internal investigation.”

Money stolen was not from the federal government or donors and was supposed to be used for grants for students.

Reports indicate that one former employee at the center of the scandal is Tyrone Hankerson Jr. who pocketed $429,000. Hankerson was a law school student just a couple of months shy of graduating. He used the money on trips, fur coats and even his own media team. Hankerson was active on social media showcasing his lavish lifestyle.

Since news broke about the financial aid scandal, current Howard University students on the campus have been protesting the administration with several demands, most notably that Frederick should step down.

Among the other demands are better housing for students under age 21, access to administrative salaries and freezing tuition costs and undergoing a transparent recalculation process.

More than 100 Students have been reportedly staying at Howard’s administration building and have been in negotiations with school officials over the demands. One demand the administration has agreed to is extending the deadline for the $200 deposit for student housing.

“The entire purpose of this sit-in is to make sure that we do not leave this space until our needs are met, and the things that we require and want to see happen, happen,” 18-year-old freshman Rozlyn Wingate said.

Student, Eric Powell, 21, is a junior at Howard, and has also been participating in the sit-in and said the school must stay true to its mission.

“Howard as an institution purports to stand for ‘truth and service,’ and stands for Black people, simply because it’s a historically Black university,” Powell said. “But if it’s running in the same way or in a similar fashion to how white institutions run or as a representation of this system in this country, we need to make sure that we either reform it or completely dismantle it and build it from the bottom up.”

In reaction to the situation, Howard University alumni said they support Frederick and want him to stay. In a statement, president of Howard’s alumni association, Nadia N. Pinto, said the school has advanced on many levels since Frederick became president.

“We recognize that the behaviors of a corrupt conglomerate cannot destroy the legacy and future of our great alma mater,” she said. “I stand with those of you who encourage that legal action is taken against all parties involved. President Frederick and the board will continue to create necessary controls to prevent fraudulent behavior.”