Why Is Tyrone Hankerson The Lightning Rod For The Howard University Scandal?
No one has been charged in the embezzlement scandal at Howard University, but former employee-student Tyrone Hankerson Jr. has become the lightning rod of jokes on social media, thanks in part to his flashy lifestyle.
Meanwhile, anger is growing among students who feel they were bilked out of student loan money, and some are calling for the Howard University president to resign.
A Medium post that has since been removed, written under a pseudonym, mentioned Hankerson in connection with the scandal, in which university officials allegedly embezzled $1 million in financial aid money.
HU Resist, a student-run organization at the historically Black university, is calling for the resignation of university President Wayne A.I. Frederick. Students scheduled a sit-in Thursday to protest, publishing demands for the university, accusing its administrative staff of negligence, and demanding more transparency. Demands included ending “unsubstantiated tuition hikes” and “complete access to administrative salaries.”
The embezzlement went on for nearly a decade, Frederick confirmed Wednesday, according to Huffington Post. Six employees of the financial aid office have been fired. It is not clear if Hankerson was one of them.
Working as a student employee in the university’s financial aid office, Hankerson had access to university funds, student accounts, student aid, and spoke directly through emails about students seeking aid from outside scholarships.
Hankerson denies that he has done anything wrong.
In statement given to ABC News, Hankerson said:
“Please know that I have done nothing illegal or wrong,” Hankerson said. “When the truth comes out, it will be confirmed that I followed all 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 round and traveled abroad.”
A Howard University spokesperson told HuffPost, “We are taking a close look to see if we can determine the source of information published about (Hankerson).” Citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the spokesperson declined to make “any comments about the protected information of Mr. Hankerson or any other Howard University student.”
Social media platforms and news outlets are buzzing with the news.
Students from universities across the U.S. flooded social sites with opinions about the scandal and retweeted posts showing Hankerson’s lifestyle (depicted through photos) while attending Howard University. Many joked that students should have been well aware of the stealing due to his flashy ways, and even went as far as making fun of the entire situation.
Black Twitter wasted no time getting memes and jokes ready for the timeline.
"GoOgle anY pWI aNd you'LL FInd EmBeZzLemenT ChArGes"
Me – What does that have to do with Howard, an HBCU, stealing from their own BLACK students pic.twitter.com/Od9TDVqB6H
— Kia (@Lovelakexo) March 29, 2018
Tweets about students being cheated out of money, Hankerson laughing in the financial aid office while kids struggled to make ends meet for tuition and songs being remixed to fit his scheming ways took over Instagram and Twitter within hours.
But not everyone was a fan of the jokes and memes populating the Internet. Aside from this being a bizarre story that leaves most of us wondering how it was even all possible, there’s a deeper problem.
Students at the university were greatly affected by the scandal, and some even tweeted how angered they were to learn that the money they should have gotten as a help in their college journey was stolen and being used to fund a students lifestyle.
Hankerson is seen as depriving students of aid. In 2015, he claimed the university had used up its financial aid budget for the semester.
Making My Way Downtown
Your Fasfa Passed
& I Denied Itttt pic.twitter.com/XE00d6p8y9
— Born W/ The ❤️ Of A Husband (@Jah_Jah_Binks) March 28, 2018
Tyrone Hankerson in 2015 to student in need of financial assistance
“The University has utilized 100% of Financial Aid budget for the academic year.” “We encourage you to look for outside scholarships."
The same year he received $133,000.00 in aid.https://t.co/q0JtBCGhl7
— Buster Hyde USMC/Ret (@BusterUSMC) March 28, 2018
This not only brought on serious concerns from students at the university but also opened the door for students at other schools to speak on the situation. HBCUs are always in hot water due to countless opinions being made on whether they provide accurate education to students or not. Predominately white schools are known to attack students who attend these schools and this situation fueled the fire even more.
With college being a major expense, parents struggle each semester to pay their children’s balances that need to be cleared in order to start classes. This makes the scandal a lot more serious than most might take it.
Tuition at Howard University for the 2017-2018 school year is $12,061 per semester, not including room and board, according to NBC.
College dropout rates are linked to stress over finances, according to Salary.com. Each year, 2.8 million new students enroll in higher education. Just one in five students who enroll in an associate’s degree program graduate in three years, and two in five who enroll in a four-year plan graduate in six years.
As a parent, the main goal of sending your child off to college is them completing their four years with a degree. Who knows how many families have suffered because of the the embezzlement scandal?
This may be a joke on social media, but it’s a serious issue to many students and should be a concern of the entire HBCU community. The Howard University administration is clearly lacking and needs to step it up when it comes to making sure students are safe and secure in every aspect. Students should not fear their security at a school where they pay thousands of dollars to attend. If they can’t turn to the administration for guidance and financial advise, who can they trust?
Moguldom editor Dana Sanchez contributed to this report.