The University of Connecticut’s graduate diversity officer resigned in February while she was being investigated for circumventing procedure to grant her husband a fellowship worth approximately $53,700, UConn’s spokeswoman confirmed on Tuesday.
Graduate diversity officer Charmane Thurmand gave her husband Martinus Evans, a graduate student, a 2016 – 2017 Giolas-Harriott Fellowship (GHF), which includes a tuition waiver, financial aid support and a graduate assistantship stipend totaling approximately $53,700, according to a letter from UConn CFO Scott Jordan to the state’s auditors and other documents provided by UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz.
Evans was not eligible for the scholarship, according to a report by Compliance Investigation Officer Bruce Gelston. This fellowship is reserved for doctoral students; Evans is a masters student.
Thurmand was an administrator for two diversity-focused fellowship programs, Gelston reported. Evans received the Multicultural Scholar Program, the lower-valued of the two, in 2012. He received its benefits for approximately 36 months and then began working on a grant at the University of Massachusetts.
While Evans was away from UConn, the Multicultural Scholar Program was renamed the Crandall-Cordero Fellowship, and the Outstanding Multicultural Scholar Program was renamed the Giolas-Harriott Fellowship.
Evans had been selected in 2012 for the lower-valued fellowship, but when he returned in 2016 Thurmand included him in the list for the higher-valued fellowship, Gelston reported. Additionally, Gelston writes that Evans would not even have been eligible upon his return for the fellowship he originally received.
Thurmand claimed that returning fellows were entitled to their benefits without going through the process again, Gelston reports. Gelston goes on to say that this is not written anywhere in university policy and that the 2011-2012 Graduate Catalog explicitly states that withdrawing from UConn terminates the fellowship.
Gelston quotes Thurmand as saying, “Once a Fellow, always a Fellow.”
Thurmand did not notify the selection committee for the scholarships or her supervisor that she was including her husband in a list of recipients, Gelston reported.
“I’m extremely dismayed,” Graduate Student Senate President Anthony Petalunas said. “Myself and plenty of other graduate students at UConn have worked with Charmane (Thurmand) on plenty of occasions and she’s always been extremely helpful. I was upset to hear the circumstances.”
Fellowships are extremely important to graduate students and only about a third of UConn’s graduate student population receives a tuition waver (as Evans did) for a graduate assistantship, Petalunas said.
Evans could not be reached for comment. Thurmand directed questions to her lawyer, Salvatore Bonanno, who could not be reached in time for publication.
“The University is taking steps to improve internal controls to prevent future irregularities, including but not limited to establishing the appropriate segregation of duties and increasing supervisory oversight of the Fellowship,” Jordan wrote. “In addition, (the Office of Audit, Compliance and Ethics) is conducting a follow up audit of the administration of the Fellowship program.”
UConn Police are investigating the case, spokeswoman Reitz said.
Christopher McDermott is the news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.