Life hasn’t been easy for Howard University student Tyrone Hankerson Jr. since an anonymous Medium post published last week accused him of embezzling some $429,000.
According to CBS News, since then, “life has turned completely upside down” for Hankerson, even as Howard University students continue to protest over the alleged financial mismanagement. Six employees were fired for gross misconduct related to the case, and the renowned HBCU has referred the matter for criminal prosecution.
Hankerson, a third-year law student whose face quickly became the symbol for the scam, with photos of him wearing expensive clothes and taking expensive trips going viral, said that he has faced “bullying and harassment” in the past week.
“I’ve tried to manage by pulling myself away—I have a great support system of friends making sure I’m OK at the law school,” he told the network. “We’re just trying to get through it as best as possible. But the biggest thing is safety concerns because people are tweeting and posting while I’m in class. I would hate ... for somebody to target me and for anything to happen to any of my classmates or myself.”
Students have blasted the university for its lack of transparency in the management of the case. Howard University President Wayne Frederick acknowledged that he became aware in December 2016 of the mismanagement that allegedly occurred between 2007 and 2016 after an independent auditor investigated. Six people—whom the university has refused to identify, claiming that doing so would violate school policy and federal law—were fired as a result of that investigation. Hankerson has denied being one of them.
“There have been allegations that I have been terminated from the university, which are the furthest thing from the truth,” he said. “My employment with the university ended because I was ending my undergraduate career and I was about to go to law school.
“As many people know, when you’re in law school, the coursework is extremely rigorous and it’s extremely difficult to maintain employment while you’re working, and also our university prohibits it,” he added.
“Tyrone had no control over any decisions made. He was a student,” Hankerson’s lawyer, James Walker, added. “What’s more troubling to me is that Howard has not come out and apologized to this young man [for leaking his records].”
Walker is demanding that Howard come out and fully exonerate his client, to make it clear that he has done “nothing whatsoever as a criminal nature.”
In the meantime, students are demanding more transparency, with questions remaining about how the school knew about the alleged misconduct and why it took so long for the information to be made public.
The scandal and mismanagement had a brutal impact on low-income students in particular, given that school policy forces students who register for classes to have a zero balance or pay one-third of their outstanding bill and be enrolled in a payment plan.
Frederick, the university president, has since pledged a series of reforms for the financial aid office, including a third-party review of who was using the financial aid module.