Connecticut State Senator Michael McLachlan is demanding an audit for the employee management of the University of Connecticut following several past incidents of money misuse, school/state policy violations and poor oversight by the university, according to an article from the Journal Inquirer.
McLachlan’s audit request was made after a recent incident involving professor Ram D. Gopal, the head of the School of Business Operations and Information Management.
“I am concerned that management and financial oversight problems are endemic to all of the facilities and organizations under the University of Connecticut umbrella,” McLachlan wrote in a letter to state auditors. “How many other instances of inadequate record-keeping and lax management practices have not been discovered? I believe the auditors of public accounts is the only office capable of shining a light on what is truly happening to taxpayer dollars and student tuition at the University of Connecticut.”
Gopal resigned from the university after an audit conducted by the school revealed that he and his administrative assistant, Melissa Burk violated multiple school policies and utilized school funding improperly.
Gopal and Burk cost the university over $100,000 by violating the travel policy and extending Burk’s compensatory time. The two have also caused the university to be mistakenly charged for their trips to Dublin, Los Angeles, South Korea and India.
According to an internal audit conducted by UConn, it was revealed that Burk’s compensatory time payments cost the university over $90,000, and her travel expenses added up to $17,222.
Despite an audit being conducted to unravel this information, UConn did not find out about the travel expenses of Gopal and Burk until an anonymous tip was given to the university in December 2017.
“This activity was only discovered because of a whistleblower complaint, not the university’s own systems of checks and balances,” McLachlan wrote to the auditors Monday, according to the Journal Inquirer.
Upon finalizing the findings from the audit in the spring, UConn followed the necessary process towards firing Gopal until he made a sudden resignation, university spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said in a statement made after Gopal’s departure.
“The university was in the process of terminating the employment of School of Business professor and department head Ram Gopal, but he resigned shortly before that process was completed,” Reitz said in a statement on Monday.
Reitz said UConn’s policies do not condone policy infringements or financial mishaps by employees, and it is the university's responsibility is to control and monitor them.
“UConn expects all of its employees to comply with university and state policies,” Reitz said. “When the university finds that any employee has failed to do so, it takes appropriate action.”
The Gopal case was not UConn’s first incident of mismanaging funds for employees. In the previous school year, medical school professor Dr. Pierluigi Bigazzi was murdered by his wife, Linda Kusoda-Bigazzi, and the university continued to pay over $50,000 of his salary after his death.
In this matter, UConn staff was at fault for not discovering Bigazzi’s death and for wrongly distributing UConn funds to his bank account.
Officials from the university stated that no member from the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine had seen Biggazi since a grading committee meeting in May 2017. Additionally, dozens of emails to Bigazzi, most of them from department head Melinda Sanders were left unopened and unread.
With these previous instances, some students agree with McLachlan that an audit is needed for UConn. Students’ money spent towards the university is being used improperly.
“I think there should be an investigation because money is being used in the wrong place,” Sowon Chung, a fifth semester communications student, said.
Some students think that UConn needs to have an inspection to clean the mess made during the past instances.
“The recent events make me feel as if UConn is definitely in need of an audit,” Tatyanna Molina, a first semester sociology student, said. “UConn needs to improve its management of the staff because their image is being ruined.”
Jude Infante is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.