Outrage and Disappointment Follow Allegations of Theft of Financial Aid Funds at Howard

Kai Sinclair, Howard University News Service

Howard University was thrown into turmoil following Tuesday's allegations- Photo by Kai Sinclair

WASHINGTON–Outrage and disappointment from Howard University students and alumni followed President Wayne Frederick’s confirmation on Wednesday that school employees allegedly misappropriated over $1 million in school funds meant for financial aid.

Though Frederick was alerted of possible inappropriate use of funds in Dec. 2016 and investigation of the matter was concluded in Sep. 2017, he did not make an announcement to the Howard community until Wednesday afternoon, after it was revealed by whistleblowers.

The investigation found that from 2007 to 2016, university grants were given to some university employees who also received tuition remission. The audit revealed that the combination of university grants and tuition remission exceeded the total cost of attendance,” Frederick said in an email sent to the Howard University community on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, an anonymous post to the blogging website Medium, which has since been deleted, accused former employees of Howard’s Office of Financial Aid of embezzling money. Complete with screenshots of former employees’ student accounts, the article claimed Frederick and administrators had been aware of the situation since 2017.

Students took to Twitter to express their disgust

Since the revelation, current students have expressed concern about the university’s current financial situation and Frederick’s handling of the situation.

“I feel like he did a huge disservice to us, the students, by trying to cover up for these people,” Ashli Stephens, a Howard senior, said. “It’s all just to protect administration, and to me, that speaks volumes. It says that you’re all about protecting yourself and the admin, and you’re not for the students at all.”

Several alumni and students are also expressing disappointment that they did not hear about the incident of employee misconduct from the university first.

“I think it was extremely, extremely distasteful for the president to not say anything until it became public, and I guess I can understand that. But I think it would’ve been received better if he’d come forward and shared that information and we could’ve worked with it together as a family,” Sydney Wilson, a 2016 alumna of Howard’s School of Social Work, said.

Students took to Twitter on Tuesday evening to voice their concerns on the matter and calling for Frederick to resign with the hashtag #FrederickMustResign. By Wednesday evening, both Howard and Tyrone (referring to Tyrone Hankerson, Jr., a student-employee in the financial aid office accused of benefiting from the ill-used funds) were trending on Twitter and multiple mainstream news outlets were covering the news.

Following accusations made against him, Hankerson deleted all of his social media accounts and insisted that he is innocent via a statement released by his attorney.

“Please know that I have done nothing illegal or wrong.  When the truth comes out, it will be confirmed that I followed all the rules and protocol with the approval of the, then, financial aid officers in any grants, scholarships or awards given to me as a student who attended class all year and traveled abroad,” Hankerson said in the statement.

While many students agree that the situation is alarming, not all agree with their peers who expressed negative feelings towards the university and Hankerson on social media.

“I disagree with blasting it on Twitter and it being so out in the open, just because Howard has a reputation we need to uphold. However, it’s understood why they did that,” Kayla Calloway, a junior at Howard said.

Howard University Student Association members met with Frederick late in the day on Wednesday, then took to Twitter to share some of the information with concerned students.

“The University has conducted audits and are in the process of identifying if federal funds were misappropriated in addition to university funds,” the student government group tweeted.

Some students now fear that their voices will only be heard by the university after it gains negative attention from the media.  

“It’s a shame that my, once prestigious, university has to be bashed all over the internet for change to occur,” Stephens said.