- Bethune-Cookman University Interim President Hubert Grimes has filed a lawsuit against former president Edison Jackson, former Vice President for Institutional Advancement Hakim Lucas and other officials for moving forward with a construction deal for a new dormitory despite knowledge that the deal could "cripple" the university, according to a letter Grimes wrote to stakeholders.
- Alumni have called for the resignation of 12 trustees, who approved a construction deal with Quantum that was vastly different than the one presented to the initial screening committee. The board recognized the second proposal as being vastly different and significantly less favorable to the institution, but decided to move ahead anyway. Grimes believes, and the lawsuit alleges, that "officials received improper inducements to ensure that the deal would be approved."
- The deal ultimately cost the university $85 million, though the actual cost of construction was $59.2 million; if the contract had been carried out to maturation, the final price tag to the university would have been "a staggering $306 million," according to Grimes.
As state and local officials crack down on spending at universities and move to specifically allocate funds given to be used for academic purposes only, it is increasingly important for college and university officials to carefully review every contract and every proposal and ensure there's no foul play at hand. This is as true for officials at private institutions as it is for those at publics.
Bribery is, of course, another situation — and one that's punishable with prison, as one Houston Community College trustee recently learned. In a climate in which affordability is the theme of the day, and compensation for officials is increasingly under scrutiny, no institution can afford the appearance that it is putting individual advancement over the needs of the university, students and the community. While outright bribery may be an extreme example, any action by any member of the board or administration which appears against the best interest of students and taxpayers — whether it's overlooking repeated allegations of sexual assault to protect the institutional brand or getting kick backs from construction or other vendor contracts or even closing programs without full consultation — goes against the responsibility to protect the fiduciary interests of the institution, and could draw scrutiny from accreditors.