Schoolteachers Among Southern University’s
Grade-Buyers, Auditor’s Report Finds
By Scott Dyer
BATON ROUGE, La.
After a lengthy investigation, the Louisiana state legislative auditor has determined that at least 25 people illegally purchased grades and, in some cases, entire transcripts without paying tuition, enrolling or attending class at Southern University.
In a report released recently, legislative auditor Steve Theriot noted that more than half of the alleged grade-buyers were schoolteachers or prospective schoolteachers.
One person was found to have had 47 grades recorded for classes that were never attended, the report said.
Theriot’s report centered around former assistant registrar, Cleo Carroll, who allegedly sold grades during an eight-year period, a run that ended only when he was inadvertently caught by university auditors in 2003.
The university at one time suspected 541 students might be part of the grade-purchasing scandal because records showed that their grades had been changed or added under Carroll’s watch (see Black Issues, April 22, 2004).
But most of those students have been cleared. Credits have been revoked from 27 “students” as a result of the university’s own investigation and Southern University officials now expect about 10 of the suspects to lose their degrees.
A report compiled by campus auditors says that Carroll not only altered grades, but also allegedly sold fraudulent transcripts created with blank transcript paper and copy machines.
Carroll has been terminated and the registrar who oversaw him during much of the scandal has been reassigned. Copies of the university audit and the legislative auditor’s report have been turned over to the local district attorney to help bring charges against Carroll.
Southern University chancellor Dr. Edward Jackson said university auditors identified 541 suspects last spring, which included any student who received a grade change between 1995 and 2003 for which no documentation could be found. Almost 400 students were cleared after the auditors located additional records in storage, Jackson says.
“The documentation existed — it was simply not where it was supposed to be. The registrar’s office did not properly file and store records,” Jackson says, noting that changes have been made to correct the problem.
While the recovered records cleared some students, others cleared themselves by providing proof their grade changes were legitimate. Eleven other students voluntarily surrendered illegal grades, Jackson says.
In some of those cases, grades were changed from “F’s” to “A’s,” while in other cases, students were given credit for courses that they never actually took, Jackson says.
Both Theriot and Jackson declined at this point to identify any of the students who will lose grades or degrees because of the scandal.
But the identities of some of those caught up in the grade scandal are already beginning to surface in an ongoing criminal investigation.
In June, St. Landry Parish School Board member Quincy Richard Sr. pleaded guilty to one count of filing false public records in connection with the purchase of grades for his wife, who is a teacher.
Richard, who has served on the school board for eight years, and his wife, Cynthia, agreed to resign their positions and to pay a combined total of almost $6,000 in fines, court costs, restitution and fees for their part in the grade-buying scandal.
At her husband’s urging, Cynthia Richard gave a Southern University official $1,500 for a fake transcript that showed she had obtained a master’s degree, according to court records.
At its December meeting, the Southern University Board of Supervisors authorized Jackson to revoke the grades and degrees of those implicated in the scandal.
Southern University Board Chairman Johnny Anderson says he’s confident that enough procedural safeguards are now in place to prevent another grade-changing scandal in the future.
Jackson says corrected transcripts will be sent everywhere that the doctored transcripts were sent, including employers and other universities.
“By our actions we intend to send a very loud and clear message that Southern University will not tolerate any illegal or unethical behavior in any of its operations,” Jackson says.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com