It is the one word all administrators loathe to hear: audit. Specifically, Connecticut Senator Michael McLachlan has called for an audit of the University of Connecticut’s employee management. Given UConn’s scandalous track record as of late, this comes as no real surprise.
Recently, former UConn professor Ram D. Gopal wasted an estimated $100,000 on unapproved work and travel expenses. Not only this, but he was also involved in some ethically questionable conduct with the assistant with whom he travelled. This comes a year after Dr. Pierluigi Bigazzi, a professor in UConn’s medical school, received over $50,000 in salary payments after his murder.
The issue with these is not simply that they occurred. In truth, this is a mix of UConn’s very poor oversight of its employees and just bad timing. Audits are costly and exhausting, but these events give enough evidence that one is necessary in this situation.
In both cases, UConn showed little ability to keep track of its own professors. Gopal was only discovered to be spending this amount after an anonymous tip was given to the administration, and it’s not as if he was spending small amounts here and there. Full trips that should not have been authorized were somehow paid for by the university. And in the case of Dr. Bigazzi? It was over seven months before the situation was uncovered and resolved.
UConn has a huge network of faculty, staff, and students that it must manage. Among all the different departments, schools, and campuses, it is understandable that some situations can slip through the cracks. In a state of heightened budget restrictions, though, neither these timelines nor the amounts of money involved are acceptable. They would not be acceptable ever, but the financial stresses of the state and university are sure to intensify the issue.
A lot of money is given to the university from all sources. The government and private investors alike believe in the professors and students of UConn. Just looking at some of the jobs available, one can see that there is plenty of bloat in the system. To a certain extent, this is okay; it ensures that individuals and groups on campus have a bit of breathing room. It controls the environment of the university to some extent. When abuses and blunders like these are exposed, though, there are sure to be raised eyebrows among those paying. If UConn cannot commit to better oversight of its operations, maybe a tightened budget is in order.