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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

UDC: The Next Penn State?

From former UDC Sports Information Director Bernard S. Payton

Date Released: 11/30/2011
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UDC: The Next Penn State?

Has cronyism, nepotism and corruption been the predominant games in the University of the District of Columbia Athletics Department the past three years?

Within two months of the appointment of the new Athletics Director Patricia Thomas, strange things began to happen. Against the advice and counsel of the UDC swimming pool operator, Thunder Lane, the new athletic director hired a former colleague from Georgetown University to refurbish the UDC swimming pool. Mr. Lane advised that the pool had only recently been refurbished, and in writing, urged Ms. Thomas to re-consider plans to do it ,again, so soon.

Instead of thanking Mr. Lane for his diligence, instead, the athletics director attempted to have him fired. Thanks to the intervention of the worker's union AFSCME Local 20, that effort was thwarted. This also generated much community concern and local media interest. UDC recently fired the Union President Walter Jones, in retaliation.

In spite of Mr. Lane's warning, a former colleague of the athletics director from Georgetown University was engaged with a $50,000 contract, to work on the pool. After the contractor finished his work, the pool was filled with water, which promptly flowed out down Yuma Street towards Connecticut Avenue, possibly endangering the Van Ness-UDC Metro station tunnel which passes nearby. The water flowed for days costing the University thousands of dollars, before it was finally turned off.

Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water was lost as the pump continuously replaced the water that kept leaking out. Finally, the city condemned the pool and closed it because of what was essentially poor judgment and mismanagement of University resources.

As a result of the pool's closing, senior students who were required to take swimming as a part of their course requirements were displaced from the campus and forced to take their swimming class in far flung Takoma Park. This resulted not only in protests by the students, but also by the Health Education faculty.

Also displaced were alumni and senior citizens from the community who participated in the innovative UDC Institute of Gerontology's Body Wise Program and UDC students who wanted to swim recreationally in the pool.

As a result of this, the University was forced to spend millions of dollars unnecessarily, to reconstruct the swimming pool and associated locker rooms, which also had recently been renovated. As of today, r nearly three years later, there is no swimming pool available for students or the community to use on campus, and the men's soccer team and women's basketball team are still without an appropriate locker room. Visiting teams have been relegated to using an environmentally challenged basement locker room.

The senior citizens, many of who are handicapped, have especially been mistreated by the athletics director, being forced to walk up a series of concrete stairs from Yuma Avenue to reach the UDC gymnasium, since the building is in violation of the American Disabilities Act. Many of them have protested this to D.C. Council Member Mary M. Cheh.

There is a clear lack of institutional control within the athletics department, as various NCAA violations have been committed within certain sports, including allowing prospects to live in a University sponsored apartment before becoming eligible to play a sport. The violations continue as at least one prospect was recently caught living in a UDC apartment during the first summer session before being officially enrolled in the University. A review of the men's basketball team is needed to determine if all of the players were in fact eligible to compete during the 2009-10 academic year.

The family of a member of the men's basketball team suspiciously attempted to give a $50.00 cash card gift to the sports information director, which was a direct violation of NCAA rules, for which he may have been fired. Although this was reported to the athletic director, there is a question as to whether or not it has been reported to the NCAA. This may not have been the first time that an attempt to give cash to a University employee was made by a student-athletes family, and not reported in the past three years.

There is a serious on-going problem in the apartments rented by the University for student-athletes. The building is a permanent home to elderly senior residents, who have repeatedly complained about fighting and other possible illicit activities in the building, most of which involved UDC athletes. Senior residents in the building have repeatedly complained to the Council of the District of Columbia about the situation in the apartment complex and have asked that the students be removed from the building to no avail.

An examination of the department's hiring practices should be undertaken to determine if District of Columbia personnel rules have been violated. There is a question as to whether one fulltime coach worked fulltime elsewhere while being paid fulltime by the University during the 2009-10 academic year. This coach was absent from the team's first game of the season, which is highly unusual, and also absent from a subsequent one, but regularly came in to sign time and attendance forms which certified that this person worked fulltime in the Athletics Department.

A further examination should be made to determine if any District of Columbia personnel rules have been violated by the hiring of the athletic director's nephew to work in the Department, in a position created specifically for him and whether a review of his time and attendance record is warranted. Another examination should be conducted to determine if the former basketball referee assignor was replaced by one who employs family members of the athletics director as referees.

An independent investigation should be untaken to determine why only former colleagues of the athletics director from Georgetown University have been hired in top level administrative positions and as coaches, while male African-American coaches who had not worked previously at Georgetown have been fired, and other African-American employees have been repeatedly harassed. The sports information director, was constructively terminated in August of 2011, after being repeatedly harassed and issued a biased evaluation that was filled with false and inflammatory information, some of which came from another former Georgetown University colleague of the athletics director, who provides web site services to the university.

Meanwhile, after hiring other former Georgetown University colleagues, apparently without consulting the budget, it was discovered that there were no funds remaining to purchase equipment and supplies for the start of the fall 2011 sports season in August. Thus, the volleyball, soccer and cross-country teams were forced to start their seasons without proper equipment and appropriate funds to travel.

Even more disheartening was that while spending substantial amounts of funds to employ her former Georgetown University colleagues, the athletics director failed to pay for the books purchased for student-athletes as provided in their contracts during the 2010-11 academic year. Thus, when the new school year started in August of 2011, the University bookstore would not allow the students to obtain new books until the old bill had been paid, and they were without books well into the new semester.

Was a current student-athlete suspended for three weeks by the athletic director for complaining about the lack of books to the president's office? Is this a direct NCAA violation ? Out of control ??? You bet!

An examination of the Department's purchasing practices should also be conducted to determine if a person was hired immediately after selling the University glass basketball backboards to replace perfectly good glass backboards that did not to be replaced.

In addition, a review of the Department's purchasing practices should be conducted to determine why so many goods and services were purchased in violation of District of Columbia procurement and purchasing rules.

For additional information contact:

Bernard S. Payton

Former UDC Sports Information Director

(301) 839-4521

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