DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER: Who’s To Blame?
Who’s To Blame?
In last issue’s Publisher Note, we wrote about the recent con by which Southern Oregon University was scammed of $1.9 million when someone or persons apparently requested funds wired to a bank account as partial payment for construction of the school’s new gym. In the column, we raised questions about the leadership from the university’s president, who is completing her first year at the campus.
We based those questions and assessments on talking with students who voiced their frustration that they felt as if they were not fully or completely informed about the “situation,” and also from talking with several faculty members who voiced a lack of faith with the new president.
Apparently, the editorial did not sit well with some members of the administration at SOU. A few days after the publication of the article, we received lengthy email from Joe Mosley, SOU’s
Director of Community and Media Relations, saying that we were wrong in our assessment, if not our facts (and our grammar).
In a separate and more formal letter to the editor, Mosely laid out a few of the guiding principles for the administration, in the context of this incident. He wrote:
“The ‘Profiles of Leadership’ column published in the Messenger’s most recent issue included some factual inaccuracies. I appreciate the opportunity to correct them.
- Southern Oregon University did not publicly disclose the crime when it was initially discovered to avoid compromising the initial phase of the FBI’s investigation and SOU’s own efforts to recover a portion of the diverted money.
- Transparency is a key value of the university, and has been a goal in this case from the onset. After the investigation’s initial phase, SOU leaders including the president made it a priority to meet with student leaders to personally address the issue and answer all questions they could at that time. After that meeting, other campus constituencies and the general public were informed of the incident.
- SOU is cooperating fully with the FBI investigation and is continuing to pursue its own inquiry into how and why this particular crime occurred. To date, about a third of the amount stolen in the computer fraud incident has been returned to SOU, and the university is working through multiple channels to recover or be reimbursed for the remainder.
- SOU’s tuition increase was necessitated by increasing costs and flat state funding, and was approved by the Board of Trustees before the fraud occurred. Tuition rates, academic and student support programs, and the positions of faculty and staff will be unaffected if the fraud case results in a loss of money.
The university will share more information about the case – and about our review – as facts emerge and the investigation develops.
Director of Community and Media Relations
Southern Oregon University
We do hope to continue to learn more about how and who perpetrated the scam against SOU. For example, Mosley says that one-third of the funds have been recovered. Does that mean the identity of the thieves is known? How were the funds recovered?
Moreover, to back up the claim that the scam was sophisticated (and, hence, the administration less at fault), we have been told that the FBI says there have been similar scams at 60 other universities. However, we still do not have an answer to the question: How many of those university administrations “fell” for the scam?
Ultimately, being able to pinpoint the fault or non-fault of the administration is not just an academic question. The answer to that question helps answer an important question about our current lifestyles, in that it helps show how vulnerable we all are—our institutions and individually—to cyber scams and attacks. And, that is a tricky question to answer: If the administration did blunder this incident, that means there should be concern about the leadership at SOU. However, if the university administration is completely blameless because the scam was sophisticated, that means the internet is a more dangerous and trustless place.
There seems to be no good answer to that question.