WASHINGTON - A Howard University student accused of improperly accepting too much financial aid is speaking out publicly for the first time as Howard University students continue their second day of protesting inside the administration building demanding changes from the university's administration, including the call for President Wayne A.I. Frederick and the members of the Board of Trustees to step down.
An anonymous student who used to work in the financial aid office at Howard alleged that Tyrone Hankerson Jr. embezzled funds, and the story went viral after social media posts of Hankerson appeared to show him living a lavish lifestyle.
Hankerson and his attorney spoke to journalist Roland Martin about the allegations on Friday, which the student has denied. He said he worked as a student worker and as an assistant in the financial aid office from 2011 to 2015 while he was an undergraduate student at Howard. Hankerson is set to graduate from law school in May.
"I have not embezzled any money ever and I have not taken or embezzled $429,000 from Howard University," said Hankerson.
He said he has received over $200,000 in grants, financial aid and pay from his employment at the university while he was an undergraduate student.
"I was a student year-round," said Hankerson. "So I went to school for the fall semester, the spring semester and I also went during the summers and study abroad. So there are details that are out there that are inaccurate contextually, which are painting a picture that is inaccurate. Furthermore, I think that it is important to know the money that was awarded to me was through the discretion of university officials who had the authority to make those decisions."
The student protests have been sparked after President Frederick said on Wednesday that an internal audit found the misappropriation of university-provided financial aid funding from 2007 to 2016. Six employees were fired from the university for gross misconduct and neglect of duties as a result of the investigation. Hankerson is not one of the six fired employees.
"What this story I think was intended to be about Dr. Frederick and somehow I am being used now as a means to get Dr. Frederick out of his current position," Hankerson said. "I think that in my opinion, the university prior to Dr. Frederick becoming president was stagnant in where we were in terms of facilities and things like that, and Dr. Frederick has been trying to move the university forward. In doing that, there have been some bumps along the way, which generally speaking inconvenienced students. I think the students are upset and tired, and rightfully so in some regards."