Howard University students are, for a lack of better terms, incredibly pissed off after learning that six university employees embezzled money from financial aid. At the end of March, the public learned that over the past nine years, these employees have been “double dipping” into the financial aid funds to cover their own tuition and then some. These employees were receiving tuition benefits from the university to cover their classes, but were also giving themselves university grants. This is problematic for several reasons, but there is one that is causing students outrage: that money was intended for students. Since this news broke, several students have come out to say that they had to stop attending Howard, one of the most prestigious HBCUs in the country, because they weren’t receiving enough aid.
University President, Wayne Frederick, released a statement ensuring the public and HU students that “our campus deserves better”. Clearly, it does. Howard has also not released the exact dollar amount that was embezzled by these employees, but the said employees have been fired.
Students have been camped out in the Financial Aid Office for eight days, protesting and demanding that they receive lost funds. Social media posts have been viral, as students post their protest efforts with #StudentPowerHU. Additionally, several students are calling for the resignation of Frederick.
This crisis comes at an unfortunate time for Howard because so far 2018 has been a year of scandals and a negative public image. In early March, a sophomore student reached out the Frederick in regards to not being able to secure a housing spot, with a second chance being after the deadline. After a very professional and concerned email, the university president responded by telling her that her “tone and tenor are inappropriate”. The screenshots of the email thread took Twitter by storm, with many users publicly criticizing the lack of care for students displayed by Howard. “Social media crises focus more on reputational concerns” 22. This social media crisis brought negative attention to Howard and really caused outcry from alumni and previous students.
I would consider this situation to be a crisis, not a paracrisis. According to Coombs (2015), “As greater emphasis is placed on reputation, a greater emphasis must be placed on crisis management as a means of protecting reputational assets” (Coombs). Howard University is one of the most sought-after HBCUs in the nation. Once a university has stopped caring about its students, and their ability to afford an education, their credibility has the potential to be lost. We always say that it takes years to develop a positive reputation, and only seconds to ruin that. I believe this is an example of that. Howard University may face an uphill battle as they recover from this crisis.
Coombs, W. T. (2015). Ongoing crisis communication: Planning, managing, and responding. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Kiely, L., & Brocchetto, M. (2018, March 30). Howard University students demand answers in financial aid scandal. Retrieved April 06, 2018
Larimer, S., & Svrluga, S. (2018, March 08). After a worried Howard student emailed her president about housing, he replied about her ‘tone’. Retrieved April 06, 2018