SIUC Faculty Association recommends Stapleton, Lane for chancellor position

By Rana Schenke, Editor in Chief

The SIUC Faculty Association has recommended Austin Lane and Susan Stapleton as finalists for SIU’s chancellor position.

Lane was previously the president of Texas Southern University, which he left in February amid allegations of breach of contract regarding informing the TSU Board of Regents of fraud allegations involving a former law school official.

According to an email from TSU’s chief audit executive, Charla Parker-Thompson, the investigation into the law school and violations of Lane’s contract is still ongoing.

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The most recent report from the auditor’s office, published March 10, states the auditors found “several instances” where Lane and other administrators failed to promptly advise and fully report to the board about matters related to the law school and acted in a way that created a material adverse effect on the university.

The full report can be found here.

In addition to the ongoing investigation, the Thurgood Marshall School of Law was also found to be out of compliance regarding a key admissions standard, according to an American Bar Association article.

According to the article, TMSL is “noncompliant with Standard 501(b) requiring it to ‘only admit applicants who appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.'”

The auditor’s investigation found several students were admitted into the law school who did not meet admission requirements, and many of these students also received scholarships despite low GPAs or LSAT scores.

In addition, the investigation found 507 applications to the law school for the 2019-2020 school year that were never reviewed.

“Of these applications, approximately 365 were presumptive admits and thus, the TMSL lost an opportunity to have students that could have improved its entering class credentials,” the report said.

The article said the law school is required to submit a report by April 1 and appear before the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar council regarding admissions noncompliance at its May 14-16 meeting.

Lane said he never did anything unethical and the issue was about an employee, not him.

(See more: SIUC chancellor finalist Austin Lane addresses controversy, departure from TSU)

According to the auditor’s report, Lane was also being investigated by the auditor’s office during the report for the concealment of  entertainment expenses.

The report states Lane failed to notify the Board of entertainment expenses paid through the TSU Foundation rather than through the University entertainment expense reimbursement process, as detailed in his contract.

The report also detailed attempts by senior administration to interfere with or obstruct the investigation.

“Although senior executive administration were specifically directed not to interfere with the investigation, several attempts to gain insight into the investigation were made,” the report said. “Specifically, senior executive administration made several requests of TMSL Dean, on
behalf of President, to provide information related to the investigation.”

Lane entered a settlement agreement with the TSU board, receiving a buyout amounting to approximately $900,000 and departing without admission of wrongdoing.

Dave Johnson, president of SIU’s Faculty Association, said Lane’s controversial separation from Texas Southern raised concerns, and continues to be a concern for many faculty.

“But after looking carefully at the documents involved, evaluating his responses to relevant questions in interviews, and speaking with a number of individuals who worked with him at Texas Southern, we came to the conclusion that this controversy should not rule him out of contention for the position of chancellor,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the association believes both Stapleton and Lane would be collaborative leaders who would promote shared governance on campus and forge a productive relationship with the association.

Stapleton is currently special assistant to the provost at Western Michigan University. She has held various positions at Western Michigan since 1990.

Johnson also gave reasoning why the association did not recommend Kenneth Evans for the position.

“Dr. Evans […] showed little understanding of the basic principles of shared governance,” Johnson said. “His track record at Lamar University, and his answers in interviews, demonstrate to us that he would adopt a much more top-down approach.”

The official chancellor search committee has not yet released its recommendation.

All three candidates’ forum interviews can be viewed here.

Editor in Chief Rana Schenke can be reached at [email protected]

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