A report of ticket misconduct at Kansas Athletics caused concern and disappointment among Kansas University’s faculty as they began to process the news.
Though many faculty members are out of town before summer classes begin on June 8, KU’s report on Wednesday detailing the mishandling of more than 20,000 tickets worth more than $1 million was still echoing in the ears of many in the university community Thursday.
“I think everybody’s sort of astonished,” said Susan Twombly, a professor in KU’s School of Education. “It’s hard to understand how that many tickets could disappear without someone noticing it.”
The report also drew strong words from Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson, who called the news “disturbing and absolutely unacceptable.”
“I am glad to see Chancellor (Bernadette) Gray-Little and the Board of Regents taking this egregious matter seriously,” Parkinson said. “I know they will hold people accountable and ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
Mark Ezell, a KU professor of social welfare who teaches about nonprofits, wasn’t so sure.
Even as audits try to mandate things like internal controls and separation of duties, he said it often takes a whistleblower to bring misconduct to light.
“It’s going to be darned hard for them to prevent it from happening again if two or three people put their heads together,” Ezell said.
He said the scandal, in his mind, fit within a larger context of a continuing discord between the privately funded athletics corporation and the cash-strapped academic side of the university, which continues to face state budget cuts.
People involved in athletics at KU, he said, seem to receive different treatment from those in power compared to those in other academic units.
“It’s just demoralizing as can be to faculty,” said Ezell, who will resign his post in August to take a new position at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. “Our buildings are crumbling and we’re not getting raises. It’s hard to swallow that.”
Ezell has served on a faculty senate executive committee that oversaw the allocation of basketball seats to faculty. He said he would become embarrassed for some faculty members who would become a little too inflamed about their place in the pecking order for seats.
“That’s the only way this could have hit the fan, over basketball seats,” he said. “It’s because they’re so precious.”
Ben Eggleston, a philosophy professor and president of KU’s University Senate, said many KU academics realize that the athletics corporation functions as its own entity, but said it still can reflect poorly on the university as a whole.
He said that the revelations disclosed Wednesday were “obviously harmful,” but expressed hope that KU could prevent similar things in the future.
“Like many members of the university community, I was saddened to hear of the misconduct and lost resources,” Eggleston said. “But I am reassured by the new measures and procedures that the university has put in place.”