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Roxbury President Resigns After Audit

Roxbury President Resigns After Audit
Shows Millions Mismanaged

The embattled president of Roxbury Community College, who had been accused by state auditors of mismanaging $3.5 million in financial aid, has resigned. But her downfall has apparently brought to light an even bigger financial mess than auditors had expected.
Two days after school President Grace C. Brown submitted her letter of resignation to the college’s Board of Trustees, a state audit released late last month showed that tuition bills go out two years late and the college still uses checkbooks instead of computers to track its $11 million budget.
“It’s an across-the-board management disaster,” says Stephen Tocco, chairman of the Board of Higher Education. The audit claims the school violated state laws by paying past-year bills with this year’s funds and failed to bid contracts competitively.
The school’s future was already in jeopardy before the audit earlier this month. Acting Gov. Jane Swift considered removing Brown after some of the financial irregularities became known in September, but her job was spared. If the school cannot adequately document use of government loans and need-based Pell grants, it could face penalties from the U.S. Department of Education, including the loss of $3.5 million in federal aid.
Brown, who makes $118,500 annually, has been president of the college for almost 10 years. Her five-year contract expires in June.
“The negative press, seven simultaneous audits and the lack of resources have disrupted the learning process for our students . . . my professional standards, high expectations and deep love for Roxbury Community College would not allow me to remain as president if I thought my absence might result in a new opportunity for this college to move toward its ultimate success,” Brown wrote in her resignation letter. Trustees have defended Brown, saying the college has been underfunded since its creation in 1973 and has been unable to modernize equipment and technology as quickly as other schools.
Brown also had the support of minority legislators in September when Swift considered removing her. State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, D-Boston, backed Brown, who is Black, and said race has played a role in scrutiny of the college.
College officials also say the audit is flawed. They note that some financial aid files alleged to be missing are not required by law to be filed.
A large loss of financial aid could force the school to close because the majority of its 2,400 students rely on federal aid. Responding to this possibility, students at the school stormed a student government meeting in October and demanded Brown’s resignation.
“She’s not taking care of our school,” Annette Estrada, 24, said of Brown. “I need financial aid to finish my spring semester. That’s a big concern.”
School officials say federal aid is not in jeopardy. “The money is secure,” school spokesman Art Shaw says. “I don’t see that as an issue at all.”
Students say they’re paying the price of mismanagement. They say the school’s computer lab, technology and physical plant are inadequate. They are also upset over what they regard as the inappropriate dismissal of an instructor earlier in the month when a part-time science professor Rasheed Khalid was suspended in the middle of teaching a class. 
————— From Wire Reports

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