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Scandals at USF show lack of accountability

USF is a lot like a big corporation.

President Judy Genshaft is CEO, and administrators can be compared to corporate leadership. The faculty and staff can be compared to middle management – they implement the programs and policies passed down from the leadership team. Given that students aren’t required to be here, they can be compared to stockholders. The degree itself is the share of stock. The time and money spent earning a degree is the stockholder’s investment.

By and large, investors in the USF “corporation” have done relatively well. USF is increasingly prestigious, degrees from USF are more and more valuable every year, and the amount of capital needed to gain a degree – or “share” – is quite modest. However, like several businesses in recent memory, USF has its share of scandals – and management’s responses to those scandals have been insufficient.

When confronted with these problems, the University acts as a corporation would – the parties directly responsible are fired and organizational culpability is denied. Unfortunately, this approach only goes so far with stockholders, especially when there have been three incidents of this sort in less than a year.

In January, the English Language Institute was tainted by a financial “mishap,” which ended up costing the University about $100,000. In April, “the former director of USF’s Florida Charter School Resource Center used a university purchasing card to buy more than $37,000 worth of airfare, rental cars and hotel stays, among other things,” according to a recent report in the Oracle.

Now the University is faced with another financial problem – Geoffrey Okogbaa, an engineering professor, is on paid leave after an audit showed he mismanaged $175,000 in grants, some of which were intended to help low-income students.

Hewlett-Packard had a recent problem as well, involving an overly aggressive and illegal effort to stop media leaks. HP’s stock sits at an almost 52-week low. Several executives of the company are likely to go to jail for “gross mismanagement, breaching fiduciary duty, wasting corporate assets and abusing control.”

Prosecuting malfeasance within an organization – especially in such a way that it does not recur – shows stockholder accountability. Well, students are USF’s stockholders. As these financial “mishaps” continue to occur, USF is demonstrating precisely why these problems persist: Student accountability is precisely what it lacks.