If you want a flat-screen plasma TV, a digital camera and a trip to Africa for free, just get a doctoral degree and become a tenured professor at USF.

In October, it was revealed in the Oracle that Geoffrey Okogbaa, the former director of the University’s Institute on Black Life, was “under criminal investigation after a USF audit revealed he used grant money to purchase unnecessary equipment and other items, including a large plasma television and plane tickets for personal family trips.” At the time, auditors called Okogbaa “grossly negligent” and said he mismanaged more than $175,000 in grant money. Only five months later, it has become clear that he got away with it.

In a letter from Dwayne Smith, vice provost for Faculty and Development, it’s stated the University intends to “suspend (Okogbaa’s) employment without pay beginning April 9, 2007. At the end of (his) suspension, (he) will return to (his) position in the College of Engineering on a nine-month appointment.”

Included in the letter are three facts. The first states that Okogbaa’s mismanagement of University funds “(resulted) in unanticipated expenses totaling $104,902.” The second states that Okogbaa used University accounts for private benefit in the amount of $888. The third fact states that Okogbaa accepted $2,200 in travel compensation that had already been paid for by another source.

At least Okogbaa is being suspended from signing off on financial matters for five years, but the University has still lost more than $100,000 due to gross mismanagement. Despite the fact that Okogbaa will be expected to repay the $888 and $2,200, Okogbaa’s attorney, Steven G. Wenzel, confirmed no criminal charges will be brought against his client by the State Attorney’s office. However, that didn’t prevent Wenzel from complaining about Okogbaa’s “circumstances (being) leaked to the press and he and his family being publicly punished.” Along with a request that Okogbaa be able to maintain his medical benefits during his forced leave of absence, Wenzel also complained that the University “sought to criminally prosecute and incarcerate him. That was publicized as well.”

People tend to get bad publicity when they mismanage and misspend more than $100,000 of public money from a state institution. But when an individual gets away with it, the University and the state get bad publicity as well. While the formalities of tenure prevent the University from firing Okogbaa, there is no reason he shouldn’t be held responsible for the entirety of the money he cost the University. Tenure, after all, is supposed to be a protection of free speech – not a safeguard against proper punishment for gross negligence.