Bradley investigation closing, hiring process revised

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After almost two months, the investigation into the hiring process for Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications Director Samuel Bradley is reaching a conclusion.

Thomas Gonzalez of the Tampa law firm Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing, P.A. was hired by USF’s General Counsel Gerard Solis to investigate Bradley’s employment. 

Bradley has been on paid administrative leave since March. He came into the spotlight after a report from his former employer, Texas Tech University, revealed several inappropriate- — and often sexual — relationships with at least four students during his employment there. 

Gonzalez is currently compiling the final report on the investigation, according to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Eric Eisenberg.

USF has yet to receive the report, but Eisenberg expects it in a few days.

“I expect to get it any day now, and I’m very, very anxious to see what’s in it,” he said.

The conclusion of the investigation comes alongside the release of a memo by Provost Ralph Wilcox to USF staff members indicating changes to the background check portion of the hiring process for employees at the university. 

Effective May 11, all new faculty hires will require a signed statement from the dean of the respective college “attesting to the completion of satisfactory, current reference checks … prior to final review and approval to extend a letter of offer,” Wilcox stated in the memo.

Eisenberg feels the change is related to the incident with Bradley, as a measure of insurance that something similar doesn’t happen again.

“Basically, what the Provost’s memo does is it makes sure that before we hire somebody here, we’re in direct conversation with their current or immediate past supervisor so we can be certain to ask questions about their employment status and 

their suitability to be working at USF,” he said.

Officials at USF claimed to have been unaware of the report upon hiring Bradley, which led to heavy scrutiny of the university’s hiring process by the community.

“(The hiring process) is always something you can tighten up and do a better job of and just make sure that if there’s anything to be discovered about somebody’s situation that you know about before you make such an important decision as hiring somebody,” Eisenberg said.

Eisenberg recalled a Tampa Bay Times editorial from March that called out USF on its hiring practices, which may have spurred changes to the process.

“Either Texas Tech failed to disclose what it knew about Samuel Bradley’s performance there, or USF failed to ask when it hired him,” the editorial said. “This is a colossal failure of due diligence, and it demands a thorough review to determine the cause of a systemic breakdown that put individual students and USF’s reputation at risk.”

Since then, Gonzalez has been investigating that very process, conducting interviews and reviewing relevant documents. 

The signed statements from the deans must include information about references, including their names and positions, the date they were contacted, and information about the USF employee who did the background check and the method used.

Wilcox also included a temporary alternative for those who may have reservations concerning the timely completion of all background checks.

The statement must include the phrase “this offer is contingent upon the completion of satisfactory reference checks,” as stated in the memo. The dean of each respective college is held responsible for following up and providing documentation.

These new responsibilities fall on the deans, but Eisenberg doesn’t consider it a huge addition and instead welcomes it.

“It adds a little bit more work, but frankly many universities already do something like this, and all it does is it just makes this a very clear expectation, which is fine,” he said. “I’d much rather take the five minutes to ask a question on the front end than have to deal with the potential of hiring the wrong person on the back end.”

Eisenberg does not want to speculate as to whether or not more changes are to come following the release of the investigation report, nor does he wish to make any predictions about Bradley’s fate.

Upon its release, Solis, Eisenberg and Wilcox will review the report and determine what steps need to be taken next.

“I honestly don’t know what (Gonzalez) is going to find and so I want to review that. Then if changes need to happen then they will, and we’ll take it from there,” he said.

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