Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana S’nisha Wilcox PR Research & Strategies, Florida A&M University March 27, 2012 (http://img3.findthebest.com/sites/default/files/419/media/images/Southern_.
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Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana S’nisha Wilcox PR Research & Strategies, Florida A&M University March 27, 2012 (http://img3.findthebest.com/sites/default/files/419/media/images/Southern_ University_Law_School_in_Baton_Rouge_Louisiana.jpeg)
The Event: “Grades-for-Cash” Scandal Southern University Internal Auditors discover a falsifying grade/diploma scandal, that had been operating since 1995, in March 2003. Initial News Report: Former assistant registrar, whose name was not included in the beginning of investigation and later identified as Cleo Carroll Jr., is suspected to be leader of grade and diploma scandal. Rumors spread: Former assistant registrar suspected to have student “runners” involved in scandal. 541 former and current students implicated in illegal grade change/false diploma scandal.
Backstory Former assistant registrar, Cleo Carroll Jr. worked at both Southern University locations in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, LA. Fraudulent degree is what leaked the scandal: student enrolled in one of Southern University’s graduate programs, but the academic dept. could not find record of them earning a degree at the university. Investigators found a trail of unauthorized grade changes under Carroll’s employee code and he was fired. Estimate of 2,500 transactions were made to make the grade changes.
Before, during and after Investigation Assistant Registrar fired due to illegal unauthorized grade changes. Internal auditor assigned to Chancellor’s office to monitor the Registrar office. Scandal leaked to local news in Louisiana by the end of March. March 31: Conference held with a panel to evaluate each alleged student’s case. By April 2004: Findings from audit reported to the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s office. March 2005: Auditor confirms that Carroll made grade changes for paid transactions. Dec. 19, 2005: Carroll pleads guilty to bribery charges and faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Media Highlights
At the trial…. In Dec. 2005: Carroll was accused of taking $7,700 from current and former students. 10 former students’ degrees were revoked. 27 students’ academic credits were revoked. Sentence hearing scheduled for late February/early March 2006. Louisiana Dept. of Education was notified in case false teaching certificates were awarded to any alleged students involved in case. (http://www.sus.edu/Images/Inte rior/su%20logo_web.jpg)
Robert Smith - bachelor's in elementary education in 1989 and a master's in counselor education in 1993. Tocquen Hill - bachelor's in agriculture and home economics, 1994. Shanda Franklin - bachelor's in business management, 1996. Gregory Thompson- bachelor's in electrical engineering, 1997. Donald Kelly - bachelor's in biology, 1999. Richard Dumas - bachelor's in political science, 1999. Chanda Rollins - bachelor's in speech pathology and audiology, 2000. Takiyah Peoples - bachelor's in therapeutic recreation and leisure, 2001. Kimberli Mason - bachelor's in accounting, 2003. Shawanda Leslie - bachelor's in computer science, 2003. 10 former students whose degrees were revoked from scandal
The Story Continues… In 2006: Cleo Carroll Jr. is sentenced five months in a halfway house and five months under house arrest. He is required to pay $3,000 fine, $100 special assessment fee, and placed on probation for five years. The former assistant registrar was given a lighter sentence for providing information about the five students he received approximately $7,700 for altering their grades.
What worked well? What didn’t work well? Keeping Carroll’s face out of print media. Getting the chancellor involved with the internal audit. Having the president and chancellor express their opinions on national media regarding the issues relevance to the university. Letting an ongoing scandal go unnoticed from 1995-2003 due to supposed “trust” amongst employees instead of following regulations. Not being able to handle every case accordingly, Carroll was only accused of five later cases dating back to 2001. PR Lessons Learned
What they did? What they didn’t do? Assigned the old registrar to a new position and brought in new registrar Brenda K. Williams. State-of-the-art monitor control systems were installed for Registrar’s office. Other staff changes were made. Southern A&M University did not make major strategic changes until 2011, when they began to crumble financially. Some school officials did not get involved (making statements) until after sentencing. Lessons for Southern A&M University