The Chicago Tribune is reporting that administrators at Chicago State University purchased two copy machines worth $41,000 apiece for $250,000 from a company owned by the university employee charged with getting price quotes for the purchase of the machines. The machines were purchased for a grant-funded textbook project in Ghana.
Michael Vernon Warren, the university employee who made arrangements for the school's purchase of the machines, admitted that he did not disclose the fact that he was the owner of the company selling the machines. Warren enlisted a friend to act as his agent at the contract signing.
Defending his actions in a way that gives chutzpah a worse name than it already has, Warren explained:
"I was following what I perceived to be directions and directives coming from the university to do the research, to get someone to do the deal and when I did that, it was close to home. Meaning, I trusted me."
The Tribune reports that Warren refused to disclose how much money he made on the deal, stating "my margin is confidential for the moment."
Illinois universities have been plagued by scandal recently. Earlier this year, it was discovered that the president of Chicago State, Elnora Daniels, used university funds to purchase alcohol, family trips and personal entertainment without offering receipts or explanations for numerous expenditures unrelated to university business. After an investigation uncovered Daniel's misuse of a university credit card to pay for personal expenses, Daniel reimbursed the school approximately $8,600 although questions were raised about charges for far greater sums. Daniels offered a fascinating explanation for the misuse of her university credit card:
"Women do change purses ... They look for the card. It's not there so they pull out [another] card. ... That was two years ago and now I use my own personal card."
So let me get this straight; some of Daniels' purses contain university credit cards and some contain her personal cards. So, did Daniels charge university expenses on a personal card when she was carrying her personal card purse?
In the meantime, it was recently discovered that Southern Illinois University president and former Illinois State Senator Glenn Poshard had undeniably plagiarized large portions of both his master's thesis and his doctoral dissertation. Poshard justified his behavior saying that he was very busy with family matters and a run for the Illinois senate while he was in graduate school. He just wanted to finish his dissertation, he said. Poshard also claimed ignorance of the rules for citation -- a startlingly lame excuse for someone who feels entitled to hold the position of university president.
Despite his egregious academic misconduct, Poshard was allowed to keep his job as the university president having agreed to "fix" his dissertation. And it gets worse. Besides Poshard, a number of other high ranking university officials were also accused of plagiarism when the Poshard scandal broke.
An aside to the Poshard story: in 1998, Poshard ran for Illinois governor as a Democrat against Republican George Ryan who now resides in a federal penitentiary for crimes he committed when he served as Illinois secretary of state during the 1990s. George Ryan is the third Illinois governor to be jailed since the mid-1970s and some believe that US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald could be working diligently to find a new home for number four. (Seventy-six other individuals have also been convicted in connection with Ryan's criminal activity.)
And, this past September, Tom Dempsey, the director of the U of I Police Training Institute resigned after the disclosure that he was seeking employment with Blackwater security at the same time that he was handling contracts to provide Blackwater employees with training at the University.
Nothing about these stories surprises me after my experience working in the University of Illinois system for a brief time. The university is a playground for incompetent, self-serving careerists who don't give a damn about students, education or professional excellence. The conduct and motivations of many (if not most) of the university employees I've known make a mockery of the manifest liberal values they espouse.