EDITORIAL: USF must exert vigilance following Dragna debacle

Former University of South Florida Senior Associate Vice President of Student Affairs James Dragna filed a complaint Friday that stated he was fired because he is white.

Dragna sent a mass internal e-mail to about 80 people Oct. 3 alleging unethical and potentially illegal activities by the boss who fired him, Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall, who is black.

The e-mail outlined Dragna’s charges of Meningall’s misconduct, which including misallocating funds, bullying and verbally threatening employees, making derogatory comments about male employees and making racially and sexually biased hiring decisions.

Unfortunately for Dragna, two audits failed to uncover any illegal or explicitly unethical practices on Meningall’s part, so the chances of being able to prove racial discrimination are slim.

The question of timeliness also comes into play. If Dragna wanted to sue the University, he should have done so in the fall semester. Seven months later is a little too late, especially after two audits have been completed.

While Meningall’s views on race and whether they had anything to do with Dragna’s firing are unknown, other highly unprofessional tendencies have been well documented.

An audit performed by the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity revealed that some of Meningall’s hiring practices – which included employing long-time friends and former colleagues who were not adequately qualified for their positions – were not technically or explicitly wrong, but questionable and bad business decisions.

Though Dragna may be fighting a losing battle, the University has an obligation to ensure that all staff members in positions of authority are wielding their power in the most productive and ethical ways – particularly if an employee’s track record already has a few stains on it.

USF needs to follow up and make sure Meningall is making the changes recommended by President Judy Genshaft and auditors alike to transform the Office of Student Affairs from the arena of fear, apprehension and unprofessionalism it was determined to be into a healthy and efficient work environment.

Dragna’s concerns and discrimination charges may never be resolved, but the University can prevent similar situations from occurring by demonstrating vigilance and thoroughly evaluating individuals in positions of power.