Home Scandal and Gossip White Law student files $2M racial discrimination lawsuit against black college

White Law student files $2M racial discrimination lawsuit against black college

Michael Newman Howard University lawsuit
Michael Newman Howard University lawsuit: Former white Law student alleges racial discrimination at historically black college. Pictured, Danielle Holley, dean of Howard University School of Law, Sept. 1, 2016.
Michael Newman Howard University lawsuit
Michael Newman Howard University lawsuit: Former white Law student alleges racial discrimination at historically black college. Pictured, Danielle Holley, dean of Howard University School of Law, Sept. 1, 2016.

Michael Newman former Howard University Law student files $2m racial discrimination against school alleging racial discrimination in which he became the most hated student as school denies allegations. 

What if he were a black student in a highly-predominate white school who was expelled under similar circumstances? 

A former ‘white student’ who attended a ‘historical black college’ is suing the institution’s law school for racial discrimination, alleging a ‘hostile education environment.’ A claim that the school has indicated it will ‘vigorously defend.’ 

Michael Newman, the plaintiff, attended Howard University School of Law starting in the fall semester of 2020 and remained there for just two years until he was expelled in September 2022. The former law student is seeking $2 million in monetary damages for ‘pain, suffering, emotional anguish and damage to his reputation.’

Frank Tramble, Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Howard University, said that while he could not comment ‘substantively’ due to pending litigation, the university ‘is prepared to vigorously defend itself in this lawsuit as the claims provide a one-sided and self-serving narrative of the events leading to the end of the student’s enrollment at the University.’ 

Howard University is a private, federally chartered historically black research university in Washington, D.C. It is classified among ‘R2: Doctoral Universities – High research activity’ and accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Most hated student

Tracing its history to 1867, Howard has been nonsectarian and open to people of all sexes and races. It offers undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees in more than 120 programs, more than any other historically black college or university (HBCU) in the nation.

Newman according to the lawsuit suffered ‘depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts” as a result of “public ostracism, vilification and humiliation’. At one point, Global Head of Diversity Recruiting Reggie McGahee allegedly told Newman he had become the most hated student McGahee had seen during his tenure at the university, according to the suit.

When Newman raised concerns over his treatment to school administrators, the law school’s dean allegedly denied that Caucasian students at Howard Law, and Newman in particular, faced racial discrimination to any degree. 

Following discussions of Newman’s purported racial insensitivity, students learned of a tweet from Newman’s private Twitter account that included a picture of a slave baring his badly scarred back with the caption, ‘But we don’t know what he did before the picture was taken,’ according to the lawsuit.

Newman claimed the tweet was mocking commentators who ‘attempt to explain away videos of police brutality by claiming the victim must have committed wrongdoing before the video started.’ He alleged that students responded with references to his race, gender, sexual preference, age and personal appearance. 

According to the suit, matters devolved when the university shifted to remote learning at the start of the pandemic, meaning students communicated through purely online forums and through GroupMe chats.

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.’

Mayo King

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 also described feeling ‘utterly disenfranchised’ at the school and compared himself to a black student at a primarily white university. The student response was again largely negative, with some calling his comment ‘offensive,’ he claimed.

Newman repeatedly apologized for offending anyone, stressing he was seeking to ‘learn, not just law, but to learn the thoughts and experiences of people of color,’ the lawsuit stated.

Newman alleges going on to face more hostility, with many students starting to refer to him as ‘mayo king’ (a perceived reference to his race) and ‘white panther,’ with students claiming that ‘controversies’ that they blamed on Newman had caused ‘severe stress’ and ‘distracted them from their studies.’

Newman tried to remedy the situation by sending out a four-part letter explaining his views, only for the effort to be labelled a ‘manifesto,’ with one student accusing him of ‘manipulating [classmates’] emotions … as a social experiment,’ the lawsuit stated. The letters allegedly resulted in Newman’s removal from a second class-wide group chat.

School of Law Dean Danielle Holley later secretly recorded a Zoom meeting she called with Newman and McGahee, during which she suggested Newman transfer to another school, accusing him of racially harassing classmates, according to the allegations.

Fair hearing? 

During a digital town hall attended by 300 participants to discuss controversies surrounding Newman, Holley allegedly characterized Newman’s letters as ‘disturbing in every sense of the word,’ according to the suit. She allegedly blocked him from using several functions to try and speak up in his defense, even disabling the chat function and turning off his camera. 

Holley and Newman wound up filing simultaneous complaints, with Holley accusing Newman of ‘continual harassment of member [sic] of the Howard Law community, and disturbance of the learning environment at the School of Law.’ At the same time, Newman claimed Holley had perpetuated ‘threats,’ ‘discrimination’ and a ‘hostile academic environment.’

In a panel reviewing Holley’s complaint, the school determined that Newman was ‘responsible’ and ruled that he should be expelled. To his knowledge, Newman’s complaint was never adjudicated, the suit claimed.

Newman appealed the ruling, but a second review panel allegedly reached the same conclusion despite the revelation that Holley had supplied the first panel with evidence that Newman never saw, which he argued amounted to ‘secret evidence.’

It remained unclear why the student was forbidden from viewing the evidence against him leading to the school’s decision to expel Newman.

The attorneys representing Newman filed the suit in federal court. 

Newman’s lawyers will try to prove the school broke its contract with Newman, a student who attended on a scholarship, after a series of incidents and accusations led to multiple review panels and hearings that resulted in his expulsion, according to the lawsuit.