Ecclesia College at center of political kickback controversy
- Board members at Ecclesia College have issued a statement of confidence in school president Oren Paris III, who was indicted last week along with a former Arkansas elected official and a consultant on charges of mail and bank fraud stemming over a two-year period.
- Paris is alleged to have made payments to the consultant, Randell Shelton, who took a portion of funds to pay out to former State Senator Jonathan Woods, who pushed a legislative appropriation to the college. Police say that the total payouts amounted to more than $260,000 between 2013 and 2015.
- Paris, whose parents founded the school, and whose family members still sit on its boards of governance and regents, has signaled no intent to leave the institution, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Politics and finance are common bedfellows when it comes to higher education administration. Money and political favor are at the core of board appointments, commencement speaker invitations, honorary degree awarding and many other academic functions which are now used to curry favor with people who swing votes and control purse strings.
Still there must be ways to establish clear communication between board members and presidents to ensure that they are not being politically pressured to break the law or to undermine the institutional mission. Additionally, putting tighter financial monitoring on large spending and foundation disbursements can help executives to get ahead of curious investments, purchases or donations.
- Inside Higher Ed The President's Indictment