As students at Howard University enter the second day of campuswide protests, the university’s board of trustees issued a statement moments before the immaculately dressed law student who has become a symbol of the administration’s mismanagement appeared with journalist Roland Martin and a very luxurious house plant to clear his name while everyone involved gulped down inordinate amounts of water from somebody’s grandmama’s good water glasses.
On Thursday, Howard University students, led by the campus organization HU Resist, took over the school’s Administration Building to protest a number of issues the students feel have either been ignored or been mishandled by the university’s administration. Apparently too young to know the song by AMG, the demonstrators chose Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” as their protest theme song.
The organization’s list of demands includes changes to the board of trustees, addressing rape culture on campus, as well as the resignation of Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick. While not addressing Frederick’s extravagant use of initials, HU Resist chose to focus on more substantial things.
Before staging the protest, Llewellyn Robinson, one of the leaders of HU Resist, spoke to The Root outlining concerns from the organization that focus on student empowerment. He referenced a list of demands presented to the university administration written by HU Resist students and others who attend Howard:
Robinson explained that the recently uncovered fraud allegations are only part of the perceived problems at the 151-year-old HBCU.
“One is transparency issues,” Robinson said in an exclusive interview with The Root. “The second is ... the way that Wayne Frederick has targeted student activists [and] attempted to silence them.”
The student organization is also concerned about Howard’s alleged mishandling of rape and sexual assault cases.
“It’s a predominant problem on any campus,” explained Robinson. “But Howard specifically has faced lawsuits over the past few years on how they’ve handled sexual assault cases—blaming victims, not providing support for victims.”
Six women have accused the university of botching investigations into sexual assaults on campus.
The protesters have occupied the school’s Administration Building and have stated that they will continue to demonstrate until Frederick resigns.
Meanwhile, Tyrone Hankerson Jr., the Howard University student implicated in the accusations of financial fraud at the university, joined host and journalist Martin to combat the fraud allegations raised by whistleblowers at Howard. Hankerson has become the focal point of social media scorn surrounding Howard’s admission that nearly a million dollars have disappeared from the school’s coffers.
In the interview, Hankerson said that he has become a target of HU Resist and other students who want Frederick ousted from the institution. He defended his social media posts highlighting his expensive clothes by explaining that he looks for discounts and knows a lot of people in the fashion industry. Plus, Hankerson explained, it’s a Howard thing. He’s supposed to be fresh as hell, just in case the feds are watching.
At no point did Hankerson explain why he thought it necessary to wear Prada to his biology lab.
Accompanied by his lawyer, James Walker, Hankerson gave a loose accounting for the $459,000 he is alleged to have received in grants, scholarships and financial aid. The third-year law student explained that he did work in Howard’s financial aid office as a student-worker but that his 4.0 GPA, going to school year-round and his travel abroad easily justify how he received the seemingly astronomical sum of money.
Hankerson told Martin that he was never contacted by Howard about any missing funds and stated that he would demand a letter from the university clearing his name before his May 12 graduation.
Although Martin mostly asked the right questions, many viewers were disappointed at Martin’s lack of ascot-related questions for the fashion icon, or his refusal to ask Hankerson if he was wearing a Gucci belt.
Just before Hankerson’s sit-down with Martin, the Howard University board of trustees released a statement addressing the demands of HU Resist.
“While I recognize this has been a difficult week for our entire community,” the letter, from Board Chairman Stacey J. Mobley begins, “my fellow board members and I fully support President Frederick’s continuous progress on the critical issues facing our campus community.”
The letter went on to reveal that Howard plans to release a full report on its financial investigation next Friday, April 6: “Our goal has always been to conduct a thorough investigation so that the findings can be shared with this community as well as with the proper authorities so that all appropriate action can be fully pursued.”
The statement explained that the board is focused on some of the demands from student protesters, including addressing sexual assault on campus. The board listed changes to its Title IX policy and more than 100 workshops as evidence of its dedication to changing the campus culture of sexual assault. It curiously added that sororities and fraternities have also held sexual assault and prevention campaigns.
According to Mobley, campus housing issues were inflamed by bad weather, but he promised that Howard would make every effort to ensure that students receive housing.
The letter concluded by noting that the board of trustees includes two student representatives—and asked the students to get the hell off his lawn.