A white student is suing historically Black Howard University for racial discrimination after classmates called him 'mayo King'

A young man reads on the Howard University campus July 6, 2021, in Washington.
A young man (not involved in the lawsuit) reads on the Howard University campus July 6, 2021, in Washington.Jacquelyn Martin/AP
  • A white student is suing Howard University's law school for $8 million, alleging race discrimination.

  • Michael Newman frequently made provocative statements that offended his classmates, per his lawsuit.

  • Newman's peers removed him from various group chats, which he said they did out of "racial animus."

A white man has filed an $8.4 million lawsuit against Howard University School of Law, a historically Black university, alleging racial discrimination and a slew of other claims after he was expelled.

Representing himself in his 11-count lawsuit, Michael Newman, who enrolled in the fall of 2020 on a scholarship, argued that he faced "discrimination on a scale none of my classmates likely ever experienced" after he made comments about the Black community that his classmates found offensive.

An attorney for Howard University and multiple administrators did not respond to Insider's requests for comment.

Newman's suit is 70 pages, accuses the university of 11 different claims, and is written in the third-person since he's serving as his own lawyer. It's a long, meandering account of Newman's two years at the school, and often reveals the viscerally negative reactions and condemnations his peers and administrators had to his provocative, race-based declarations.

Multiple times throughout the suit, Newman says other students characterized his comments as racist, insensitive, sexist, and offensive.

In a court filing from mid-February, an attorney for Howard University requested an extension to answer Newman's lawsuit because they "need additional time to consider the 11 claims and 168 paragraphs across 50 pages of allegations."

A spokesperson for Howard University said in a statement shared with Insider that Newman's allegations were "one-sided and self-serving."

"While the University declines to comment on pending litigation substantively, 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," the statement said.

Newman said he faced 'vilification' from peers after questioning their experiences with racism

According to Newman's lawsuit, the tensions started when he stated in a class GroupMe: "Where I part with the black community is where they believe government solves problems, I only see it causing problems."

He added that he wanted to discuss further 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 black communities," according to the lawsuit.

Newman said in the suit that some students "engaged with him" on his comments while others "reacted with acrimony."

He said he was then removed from the student-run GroupMe chat.

Around the same time, Newman said he made a comment in a class Zoom chat comparing "himself as a Caucasian student at Howard Law to an African-American student at a primarily-white university," Newman wrote in his lawsuit.

After a phone conversation with an administrator — who "attempted to persuade Newman of the insensitivity if not outright offensiveness of his comments," per his suit — Newman said he stopped offering his opinions in online classes after his peers "remained hostile" toward him.

"A combination of public ostracism, vilification, and humiliation caused Newman to suffer depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts," Newman wrote in his lawsuit.

Newman said in the suit that he shared a series of letters with his peers wherein he "called into question some classmates' claims of past race-based harassment at other universities." He also shared a link to "Uncle Tom", a documentary by right-wing commentator Larry Elder.

Students on the receiving end of Newman's letter called it a "manifesto" and said he exhibited "objectively racist, sexist, and overall problematic behavior," according to Newman's lawsuit.

He was removed from a class-wide GroupMe conversation after his peers discovered a tweet of Newman's in which he posted a historic photo of a whipped slave with the comment: "But we don't know what he did before the picture was taken!" Newman said his "point was ironic," but his tweet was not well-received by his peers or Howard administrators, according to the lawsuit.

Newman said administrators told him he was 'wasting university resources' with his complaints

Newman also wrote to Howard University President Wayne Frederick asking for help "to address racial discrimination" and seeking "reassurance that my status as a Caucasian student is equal to that of my African-American colleagues," according to his lawsuit.

In the email, according to the lawsuit, Newman attached an exchange from the GroupMe chat wherein a "classmate had ridiculed him, dubbed him 'Mayo king,' and posted an image of a jar of mayonnaise (a pejorative epithet for Caucasians)."

Howard administrators denied that "mayonnaise was an epithet or that Newman was a victim of racial discrimination," according to the lawsuit, and said his "race discrimination concerns were wasting university resources."

Newman said they suggested he transfer to a different school as it appeared "Howard Law was a poor choice."

Tensions between Newman and other students also flared in a virtual town hall, and Newman said he was kicked out of another student group chat after questioning what he called "Howard's lack of inclusivity."

Newman lost his academic scholarship and was expelled after emailing the entire law school student body

Around the same time, administrators informed Newman that his academic performance placed him near the bottom of his class, jeopardizing his academic scholarship.

In August 2021, Newman was told his academic scholarship had been revoked, which he contested to administrators saying that his poor performance "resulted directly from mental anguish caused by a hostile educational environment arising from racial discrimination which administrators knowingly allowed."

Dean Danielle Holley, a defendant in the lawsuit, replied that Newman was not a victim of racial discrimination, according to the lawsuit. Another administrator, who wasn't named as a defendant, said "all Newman's difficulties with classmates sprang from the fact that Newman said offensive things," according to his lawsuit.

After Newman repeatedly emailed the entire law school student body using the school listserv after being reprimanded by the administration for doing so, Holley informed him that his Howard email was suspended and he would face code of conduct charges, according to the lawsuit.

Holley filed a formal complaint against Newman, who then filed a formal complaint against Holley; Newman was found responsible in the investigation against him, and appealed the decision, per his lawsuit.

Comparing his situation to students protesting during the Civil Rights Movement, Newman questioned whether the university sanctioning "a Caucasian student but not a black student for substantially the same conduct" would be a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which protects against racial discrimination.

Ultimately, Newman lost his appeal, after which the student affairs vice president, who is also named as a defendant in the suit, said Newman hadn't "shown contrition" throughout the process.

He was expelled in September 2022.

Newman is not the first white person to sue Howard claiming racial discrimination. In 2002, Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who infamously Black-fished the NAACP, sued Howard claiming she was denied a teaching position due to her race and gender. The suit was dismissed in a summary judgment that was upheld by an appeals court.

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