A job at Western might be a cush crib for some, but it’s become something of a horror show for the University’s top watchdog, now dead.
An article published Monday, Dec 28, in the Seattle Times details a “Culture of fear” at Western Washington University.
“The internal audit office at Western Washington University… has… become the epicenter of sudden firings, lawsuits and even a police escort from a board of trustees meeting in recent years.”
Western settled one fired auditor’s case for $216,000. His successor was fired after reporting fraud to federal investigators, and is now also suing Western. The last remaining auditor quit, refusing to work under a “culture of fear”. The position was filled by the assistant Vice President for business and financial affairs, which office is a primary subject of internal audits. I’m not an expert, but doesn’t seem to meet a very high standard of independence.
From links in the article, an email thread shows Trustee John Meyer cautioned against the “high stakes” of leaving the auditor’s office unprofessionally staffed. Richard Van Den Hul, Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs, replied with concern over the “…availability of… funds that would “support” new positions”, and “…encouraged creative thinking on how additional capacity could be garnered through interns, administrative support, etc.” One might wonder where they found funds for the positions that were fired and quit, or how interns might help.
This story spans multiple administrations and features - besides the subject turmoil - anonymous whistleblower complaints, ghost courses, financial aid fraud, and “…misuse of university resources and violations of federal requirements…” risking “…up to $2.5 million in federal fines…”. The author, Asia Fields, shares links to a lot of pertinent documents to back it all up. It makes for an interesting, if gruesome read.
In Bellingham, we sometimes don’t hear much about what’s going on in Bellingham, so it’s good to see a publisher in Seattle taking an interest!