Un-‘Favor’-able Times At Grambling
School’s sixth president tries to convince the board he can reverse calamitous financial problems
BATON ROUGE, La. — Dr. Steve A. Favors, the president of historically Black Grambling State University, is in the hot seat here over a scathing legislative audit.
In his review of the records for the fiscal years that ended in June 1998 and June 1999, Louisiana Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle found numerous accounting problems at the school, such as incomplete records, errors and omissions in cash receipts and a lack of bank reconciliations.
This comes at a time when university officials are preparing for the institution’s 10-year accreditation review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, with a decision due by December. School officials have not said how or whether this latest calamity will affect the outcome of the review, but outsiders are concerned that the audit could thwart that proceeding.
In the meantime, a special committee of the University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors expects to meet every two weeks or so in order to oversee developments at Grambling.
For his part, Favors says many of the school’s problems stem from snafus that arose when Grambling switched computer accounting systems. In all, four months of financial records were lost.
Favors also says he’s moving to hire an outside accounting firm to try and recreate records from July 1 through October 25, 1998, adding that he’s hiring additional staff in the accounting department, where there are five vacancies.
But Kyle’s audit also includes other claims, such as the alleged awarding of scholarships to students not enrolled in the university. Favors denies that any scholarships were ever actually awarded to any nonstudents. While the scholarships were simply noted in the students’ files, the money was never actually released until they enrolled at Grambling, the president said in his official response to his governing board, the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana system.
Favors, who claims there were several similar misunderstandings in the audit, acknowledges that the school has financial recording-keeping problems. He blames most of those problems on the resignations of five senior staff members in the past fiscal year.
But Kyle says Grambling’s books were in such disarray that his staff couldn’t audit them, and that the audits turned up other problems, too.
Kyle says he discovered that Grambling officials had failed to disclose to a bankruptcy court that it was holding $111,790 in funds for the Grambling State University Foundation.
Although the foundation owed the school more than $300,000 at the time of the bankruptcy, federal law makes it illegal to take any property that belongs to the estate of a debtor in bankruptcy.
“There were checks that were made to the foundation that the school was holding at the time of the bankruptcy, and Favors took those and had them remade to the university, and we felt that they should have been part of the bankruptcy,” Kyle says, adding he’s already turned that information over to the bankruptcy court.
Documents in the university’s report to the board say each check was returned “after several unsuccessful attempts to obtain financial reports from the Grambling State University Foundation.”
On June 12, the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System met for four hours to consider Favors’ response to the audit. During that meeting, Board Chairman Andre Coudrain said that he considers Favors responsible for any problems at Grambling.
“Dr. Favors, when you accepted the appointment of this board as president, you accepted the responsibility for resolution of these matters, even those that predated your tenure, as well as those that have surfaced,” Coudrain says. “Very simply, as president, you are the person ultimately responsible for the conduct of all affairs at Grambling State University.”
Favors said the audit “raised our consciousness and awareness of everything that was broken and not working at the university.”
Favors came to Grambling State two years ago from Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he served as vice president of student affairs for eight years. He also served stints in administration at the University of New Orleans, Dillard University in New Orleans and Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, and he was an assistant professor of education at Prairie View A&M in Texas.
His roots are in the Deep South. He grew up picking cucumbers in Texarkana, Texas, in a poor family of 12 children. When he was hired at Grambling, Favors told the board stories about how he started working to buy his own clothes when he was 8 years old and turned to higher education as an alternative to picking cucumbers.
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