Southern Mired in Grades-for-Money Scandal
CNN.com, Apr. 2
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (AP) — A worker in Southern University’s registrar’s office took money to change grades for 541 current and former students, the school’s chancellor said Thursday. The scandal probably will cost at least some students their degrees and could lead to criminal charges.
Both undergraduate and graduate students at the nation’s largest historically black university were implicated, and some paid to have as many as 20 grades changed, Chancellor Edward Jackson said. In the case that revealed the scandal, computer records showed a student receiving a degree she hadn’t earned, he said.
“I strongly suspect when we start revoking grades, we’ll start revoking degrees,” Jackson said.
The school’s report has been turned over to East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Doug Moreau, who said he intends to vigorously prosecute participants in the scandal.
Moreau said possible charges include filing false public records, forgery and bribery. He declined to provide details about the evidence, but said the university’s investigation involved more than 2,000 possible grade changes.
Jackson said the scandal dates to 1995, and that the altered records were traced to a single assistant registrar who received money from students in exchange. He declined to name the worker.
A number of students interviewed on campus Thursday said they were upset that fellow students had bought grades.
“To me, it shouldn’t be going on. You’ve got to earn your grade,” said Leonard Pete, a senior.
Some students, however, said the practice was widely known, though none said they had ever paid for a grade.
“Sophomore year, it (cost) like $75 a grade,” said Eddie Green, a senior.
Jackson said the yearlong investigation into the scandal began in March 2003, when a student enrolled in a Southern graduate program presented credentials showing she had earned a bachelor’s degree from that department.
The department had no record that the woman had ever graduated and alerted university auditors, who discovered that unauthorized entries had been made in a number of academic records.
To prevent similar abuses in the future, the 17,000-student university has new internal controls in place and has assigned an internal auditor to monitor the registrar’s office, Jackson said.
Jackson said Southern University has started contacting the 541 people who were implicated. Each person will have a chance for a hearing before a panel of administrators and faculty members.