Howard University is an HBCU located in Washington, D.C.
A White student has decided to sue Howard University, an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in Washington, D.C., saying that he endured racial discrimination while attending the university’s law school.
Michael Newman, the former student, who attended Howard’s law school in 2020 before getting expelled in 2022, said that he experienced “depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts” as a result of “public ostracism, vilification and humiliation.”
Claretta Bellamy of NBC News reported, “Plaintiff Michael Ray Newman, who attended the Howard University School of Law in fall 2020 after having received a $26,250 annual scholarship, was expelled about two years later in September. The lawsuit, which Newman’s attorneys filed Feb. 16 in Superior Court of the District of Columbia, says he suffered ‘emotional, mental and economic harm’ and seeks more than $2 million in damages.”
According to The New York Post, when Newman told school administrators about some of his experiences, the dean of the law school Danielle Holley said that White students, Newman in particular, did not experience racial discrimination at Howard to any significant degree.
After a discussion of Newman’s alleged racial insensitivity, a private Twitter post was discovered with a picture of a Black slave with a severely scarred back.
In a caption, Newman tweeted, “But we don’t know what he did before the picture was taken.”
That tweet, allegedly led to many of Newman’s classmates responding to him with comments about his race, gender, sexual preference, personal appearance and age.
Newman said his tweeting the image of the slave with his comments was an attempt to ridicule those who “attempt to explain away videos of police brutality by claiming the victim must have committed wrongdoing before the video started.”
The lawsuit specifically names Reggie McGahee, Howard University’s Global Head of Diversity and Recruiting, who Newman said told him that he was the most hated student he had seen during his time with the institution.
Although Frank Tramble, Howard’s vice-president and chief communications officer, did not speak in depth about the lawsuit, he did say that the university is prepared to fight the allegations.
Tramble called the lawsuit a “one-sided and self-serving narrative of the events leading to the end of the student’s enrollment at the University.”
The New York Post reported, “The trouble started when the university shifted to remote learning at the start of the pandemic, meaning students communicated through purely online forums and through GroupMe chats, Newman claimed in court papers.
“After a symposium featuring an African-American speaker in the run-up to the 2020 election, Newman said he posted on a professor’s forum page asking if further dialogue could be had on ‘whether: (1) Black voters didn’t question turning to government for solutions, and (2) reliably voting for the same party every election disincentivized both parties from responding to the needs of the Black communities.’
“Some students responded negatively to Newman’s post and reached out to school administrators prompting Newman’s removal from one of his group chats for the class, according to the allegations.”
Newman compared himself to an African-American student at a predominantly White institution (PWI), claiming that he felt “utterly disenfranchised.”
However, the comments of disenfranchisement did not go over well with his peers, with some calling the comments “offensive.”
Oxford Languages dictionary defines disenfranchised as to “deprive (s0meone) of the right to vote” and/or “deprive (someone) of a right or privilege.”
The former student said that he repeatedly apologized for the comments that many found offensive.
However, Newman said he wanted to “learn, not just law, but to learn the thoughts and experiences of people of color.”
Unfortunately, Newman said his comments led to name-calling including people referring to him as “mayo king,” and “White panther,” referencing his skin color.
However, many of classmates said that his comments had caused them “severe stress” in addition to the fact those comments “distracted them from their studies.”
Later, Newman tried to explain his comments in a four-page letter to his peers.
However, many classmates labeled the letter a “manifesto.”
One of Newman’s classmates said that the former law school student was “manipulating [classmates’] emotions…as a social experiment.”
Holley secretly recorded a Zoom conference call with Newman in which the dean suggested that Newman transfer to another law school.
During the call, she accused Newman of racially harassing his classmates at Howard.
The school conducted a digital town hall meeting to discuss Newman’s controversies in which 300 people took part.
During the town hall, Holley allegedly labeled Newman’s letters as “disturbing in every sense of the word.”
Newman alleged that Holley denied him the opportunity to speak at several events that he planned to participate in to speak in his own defense.
Subsequently, Holley and Newman both filed complaints.
Holley accused the former Howard student of “continual harassment of member (sic) of the Howard Law community, and disturbance of the learning environment of the School of Law.”
Newman’s complaint lists that Holley perpetuated “threats,” “discrimination,” in addition to a “hostile academic environment.”
A panel that reviewed the complaints determined Newman to blame, deciding that he should face expulsion.