The students of Howard University are demanding answers in the school’s newly uncovered embezzlement scandal involving misuse of financial aid funds.
Students of the historically black university staged a sit-in at the campus’ administration building on Thursday. They vowed to remain in the building until university President Wayne A.I. Frederick resigns, according to reporter Anna-Lysa Gayle at WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C.
The embezzlement went on for nearly a decade, Frederick confirmed Wednesday. Six employees of the financial aid office have been fired.
During the daylong protest on Thursday, students posted signs with their demands outside of the administration building, which included a demand for Frederick’s resignation. Students were still occupying the building by 10 p.m. local time.
At one point, the student protesters sang Rihanna’s hit single “Bitch Better Have My Money” ― a song that resonated with the students who felt betrayed after a whistleblower revealed that financial aid officials had misappropriated funds earmarked for low-income students.
Rihanna showed her support for the Howard student’s protest and retweeted a video of them singing her song.
HU Resist, a student-run organization, had actually scheduled the sit-in before news of the university’s embezzlement scandal broke. The organization published a list of demands for the university, accusing the its administrative staff of negligence and calling for more transparency.
The demands also included an end to “unsubstantiated tuition hikes,” “complete access to administrative salaries” and the resignation of Frederick as university president.
The organization doubled down on its sit-in protest after learning of the scandal, according to local news station DCW50.
An anonymous blogger on Tuesday published a now-suspended Medium post accusing university officials of misusing about $1 million in university funds. The blogger also claimed that Frederick had known about it since May 2017.
Frederick later confirmed that financial aid officials had indeed misappropriated funds for low-income students and he had known of the issue since December 2016. The university president didn’t disclose how much money was involved.
In a university press release, Frederick said he commissioned an outside auditor to investigate the misconduct, which led to a May 2017 report.
The auditor found that university grants were given to employees who also received tuition remission from 2007 to 2016, according to Frederick. The total payment amounts received by those employees exceeded the total cost of attendance.
The university fired six employees for gross misconduct and neglect of duties after an investigation into their actions was completed last September.
Many Howard students are angry that Frederick failed to let the students know that any sort of embezzlement was happening.
When asked why he waited to make news of the scandal public, Frederick told ABC 7 DC that he didn’t want to “compromise the investigation.”
“Any dollar that does not go to a student appropriately in need is something that I take great umbrage with,” he said.
As the protests continued into the night, students peacefully occupied several floors of the administration building. Some students provided food and water for the demonstrators in anticipation of staying in the building overnight.
“I believe that the people that serve us need to act with integrity, and we don’t see that happening,” one protester said in a video published by the Howard University Student Association.
“So until our demands are met, we’re going to stand here in the A building. And we’re going to fight. And we’re not going to give up until we get what we deserve.”