Internal Auditor Trisha Burnett leaving in 3 weeks

From Around the O, here. If she has another job lined up they don’t mention it.

When UO left OUS, it became exempt from oversight by the Secretary of State’s Audits division. The Legislature does not trust the university leadership, which it believes is obsessed with pleasing Phil Knight, big-time sports spending that hurts the legislators’ beloved Beavers, and vanity projects. I can’t imagine where they get that impression – maybe they read Around the O.

In any case they are unwilling to give UO the funding it needs as a state school without state oversight. While the HECC has done some of this, I’m told that the next legislative session will likely condition increased state support on a rigorous outside audit process, not one that relies on an internal auditor who serves at the whims of our Board of Trustees and President.

UO’s first internal auditor, Brenda Muirhead, asked too many questions and was forced out after 18 months. One or two of her staff left at the same time. I don’t know the real story on why Burnett is leaving. I met with her several times and heard her present to the Board regularly – she seemed remarkably incurious for an auditor, and I figured she’d keep the job for life.

Our administration could do a lot to improve its credibility with the legislature and the UO community by appointing a strong internal auditor who would make detailed public reports. I’m guessing that’s not going to happen – not when there’s already so much to sweep under the rug, and with the 2021 IAAF championships coming up.

Senate Pres talks to Trustees about UO Foundation, IAAF, academic freedom, internal audit

From June 8, just getting around to posting. Video here:

I’m posting this in part because of today’s Op-Ed in the Oregonian from Oregon Association of Scholars President (and PSU PoliSci prof) Bruce Gilley, which inaccurately characterizes the UO Senate’s resolution in support of the free-speech rights of our students as endorsing the “heckler’s veto”. Gilley:

… The protection of intellectual freedom on campus used to be the preserve of faculty. Yet the radicalization of faculty — conservative or registered Republicans have virtually disappeared from Oregon college faculties today — means that faculty today are more often the main threat to intellectual freedom. The disgraceful endorsement by the University of Oregon’s faculty senate of student mobs who disrupted the president’s annual address last October is the latest example. …

The UO Senate’s resolution is here. I can only assume Prof. Gilley has not read it. Among other things, it states:

2.1 BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the UO Senate supports the rights of students to peacefully protest during university events, even disruptively, so long as those protests do not prevent speakers from being heard and the audience from hearing what they have to say; [Emphasis added.]

See below for more. Back up the video to hear the remarks from incoming ASUO President Maria Alejandra Gallegos-Chacon, which end with a call for a reform of UO’s student discipline rules to ensure free speech cases are treated with the care they deserve.

My report to the Board of Trustees as written:

The report in the meeting materials is from outgoing Senate President Chris Sinclair. He is giving a presentation at a national meeting on the Senate’s Core Education reform program, so I’m his surrogate.
I was Senate VP this year, and will be Senate President for the coming academic year. Last week the Senate voted Elizabeth Skowron (Education) in as Senate VP this year, and so she’ll become President the year following this one.
Elizabeth has broad support from the faculty and other Senate constituents, and from Chris and myself. Her election was unanimous.
I’ll be happy to answer questions about Chris’s report, which explains some of the Senate’s work this year, i.e. including the plans we have put in place to improve core ed, teaching and teaching evaluation but first I want to add a few comments.
First, I want to report on a conversation that Chris and I had with UO’s internal auditor Trisha Burnett, this March, as part of her annual check-ins. We explained that we were particularly concerned about
1) UO’s diversity efforts: While you will hear a lot about the IDEAL diversity plan today, meanwhile UO is dropping the ball on basic practices like exit interviews for departing minority and female faculty and open hiring processes for administrators. Burnett agreed that these were problems. I hope you have got the same message from her office and will help address it.
2) The athletic department. As you know the NCAA is investigating UO over an incomplete grade  for a student-athlete. This is a side-show.
One real concern is about the  extent to which the “ Support for Student Athletes” operation is providing good academic support to revenue-sport athletes, and help for those that aren’t going to make it to the pros or graduate. I assume you’ve seen the graduation rates for the revenue sport-athletes. Burnett is worried about the potential for an UNC type scandal, or an Michigan State type one. The faculty knows little about how the AD and SSA operate, and our past oversight efforts have not been successful. The Senate’s IAC committee has been replaced by an advisory committee to the President. You should be aware of Burnett’s concerns about the risk, which she expressed clearly to us, although apparently not in her written reports to you.
3) The UO Foundation. The Foundation is heavily involved in the 2021 IAAF championships award, which is now under federal investigation. Your board was involved in this as well. We made our concerns clear, to Burnett, she made clear that the Foundation was not cooperating with her efforts to learn more. This is not a good situation, we hope you are keeping your eye on it.
Second, I want to explain the Senate’s resolution “In Support of the UO Student Collective”. This is the group of students that disrupted President Schill’s “State of the University”speech in October.
A personal note: One of the first courses I taught when I came to UO was on environmental economics. One of my students was an environmental activist, and frequently and loudly spoke up during lectures to object to the economic approach.
President Schill has said that with this resolution the Senate endorsed the sorts of disruption of classes by students who might object to something about the course content, as has occurred at other universities, such as Reed and Evergreen, where students have essentially shut down courses on particular subjects.
This is not at all what our Senate has endorsed. The resolution states clearly:
2.1 BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the UO Senate supports the rights of students to peacefully protest during university events, even disruptively, so long as those protests do not prevent speakers from being heard and the audience from hearing what they have to say; 
 
 
I’m not a lawyer, but this language is consistent with everything I understand about the First Amendment, everything I believe about academic freedom, and everything that UO’s other policies on these matters state. People have a right to speak, and those who object to that speech have the right to have their objections heard even if that disrupts and causes inconvenience for the speaker and the audience.
What those who object cannot do, and again I quote from our resolution, is prevent speakers from being heard and the audience from hearing what they have to say. 
 
Our resolution does not endorse the sorts of disruptions that prevent faculty, or our President, from teaching what they want to teach or saying what they want to say. It specifically speaks against that, only allowing “disruption” so long as that disruption doesn’t prevent the professor’s lecture, or for that matter the President’s talk, from continuing.
Our resolution does not endorse allowing the actions of the Students Collective taking the podium and shutting down President Schill’s address – although it does call for some leniency in their subsequent discipline, and some reforms to make sure free speech discipline cases are handled with special care. These were students, after all.
If this is not clear, please see the UO policy on Academic Freedom, which the Senate passed in 2014 and which the UO President signed, which states:
The University’s responsibility to help students to think critically and independently requires that members of the university community have the right to investigate and discuss matters, including those that are controversial, inside and outside of class, without fear of institutional restraint. It is the responsibility of speakers, listeners and all members of our community to respect others and to promote a culture of mutual inquiry throughout the University community.
Or see the UO Policy on Freedom of Inquiry and Free Speech, which we passed in 2010, which states:
The University supports free speech with vigor, including the right of presenters to offer opinion, the right of the audience to hear what is presented, and the right of protesters to engage with speakers in order to challenge ideas, so long as the protest does not disrupt or stifle the free exchange of ideas. 
 
I don’t see how the Senate and the faculty could be any more clear about our position, and I’m tired of hearing people misrepresent it. Though of course I’m open to any arguments, even disruptive ones.
Thank you. Questions?

Division of Internal Audit holds outreach event

Wow – this has the appearance of a big step forward in UO transparency. From Around the O:

American horror writer H.P. Lovecraft famously observed that “the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

The University of Oregon Office of Internal Audit is taking these words to heart and working to eliminate the unknown from the audit process.

From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday, May 10, at the Suzanne Schoenfeldt Fields Library in the Ford Alumni Center, the team from the audit office will host a special reception where the campus community can learn about their need and approach to their work.

“May is International Internal Audit Awareness Month and we thought we would use it as a way to get better acquainted with the campus community, and hopefully reduce some of the apprehension people feel when they hear the word ‘audit,’” said Trisha Burnett, chief auditor.

The event is one of several ways the office is attempting to connect with campus, which includes visiting departmental meetings, one-on-one introductions and an enhanced website that features a new video with President Michael Schill.

The event will include several members of senior university leadership, as well as Chuck Lillis, chair of the UO board of trustees. Refreshments will be served.

“We firmly believe that the best way for us to have a successful internal audit function is to build relationships with the very people we are here to work with and support,” Burnett said. “We are here to help, and we hope that by getting to know us we will build understanding of how we can help.”

—By Tobin J. Klinger, University Communications

But still no word on the Athletic Department audit.

 

Waste, Fraud, and Abuse reports increase

That’s the report from the state auditor, below. UO is now exempt from state audits, and its internal audit functions have been crippled since Brenda Muirhead and one (two?) of her staff left suddenly last November, after a series of disputes with VPFA Jamie Moffitt’s office. Their website doesn’t even provide the name of the current Interim Auditor:

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The office did make a report to the BOT, here. The gist is that nothing has been done, because of “nearly complete turnover in staffing during FY 16.”

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All kinds of important looking work has now been on hold for ~3 years:

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UO does pay for an off-site confidential hotline: https://secure.ethicspoint.com/domain/media/en/gui/41097/index.html. They will accept reports on a plethora of subjects:

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But who will investigate?

Meanwhile, here’s the Secretary of State’s press release about the efforts of their audit division – the one UO left, and has never replaced:

Confidential Hotline allows Oregonians to report concerns about waste, fraud, and abuse of public resources

SALEM — The Oregon Audits Division in the Office of the Secretary of State released its annual report on the Government Waste Hotline today. The 2015 report shows a 35 percent increase in complaints over the previous year.

“The increase in complaints from 2014 is in large part a reflection of the public’s increasing awareness about the Government Waste Hotline and increased outreach efforts to state employees,” said Secretary of State Jeanne P. Atkins. “This is good news. We want Oregonians to know that there is a confidential and secure way to report their concerns about possible waste, fraud, and abuse of public resources.”

State law provides confidentiality for the identity of any person making a report through the Hotline. Complaints come from both private citizens and state employees and include allegations of fraud, theft, unethical or improper workplace conduct, time theft, and misuse of state vehicles. Upon receiving a complaint, the Audits Division conducts an initial investigation of each report of alleged waste, inefficiency, or abuse to determine which reports warrant further investigation. The Audits Division is required to notify the Oregon Government Ethics Commission if potential violations of the Oregon ethics law are discovered. Law enforcement must be notified if potential criminal activity is discovered.

“Since the hotline’s inception, the Oregon Audits Division has estimated that they have detected about $16 million in questioned costs,” said Atkins. “Research shows that fraud is most often detected by tips from concerned citizens and state employees. This hotline serves as a check on the use of public resources and a deterrent to bad actors.”

A 2016 study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that tips are consistently the most common fraud detection method. The study showed that organizations with a reporting hotline have a much higher likelihood that fraud will be reported than organizations without a reporting hotline. As it looks like the future of AI is set to make an impact on businesses, hopefully this will help in detecting fraud in any industry and play a part in bringing customers and companies together.

The Government Waste Hotline was established in 1995 for public employees and members of the public to report alleged waste, inefficiency or abuse by state agencies, state employees, or persons under contract with state agencies. In addition to a toll-free telephone line, hotline reports may be submitted by email, fax and by directly calling the Audits Division.

Citizens and government employees with concerns about government waste and inefficiency can contact the hotline at (800) 336-8218, by fax at (503) 378-6767, or through mail by sending an envelope clearly marked “Confidential” to:

Confidential

Oregon Audits Division

Government Waste Hotline

255 Capitol Street NE, Suite 500

Salem, Oregon 97310

A copy of the 2015 report is available here.

Klinger’s report on new UO auditor forgets to mention sudden unexplained departure of the old one

2/15/2016: In Around the O, here.

11/2/2015: UO’s Chief Auditor Brenda Muirhead leaves UO after 18 months

This is really bad news for trust and transparency at UO. Muirhead was a professional with an impeccable record. Her job was to set up procedures to enhance UO’s minimal internal controls and conduct internal audits. For example, her office confirmed that UO had never done an open affirmative action compatible search for $130K VP for Collaboration Chuck Triplett. They are currently conducting a regularly scheduled audit of the athletics department, etc.

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UO Code of Ethics requires employees to “dedicate ourselves before God to our chosen profession”, plus civility

11/28/2015: From what I can tell $130K VP for Collaboration Chuck Triplett is actually going to bring his UO ethics policy to the Senate for debate and vote.

You must “make decisions based upon the greater good” and act in “wise, ethical, and prudent manner”, while not “shifting blame or taking improper credit”. And the administration thinks the *Senate* is wasting faculty time with pointless discussions?

I’ve already seen some pretty good suggestions for amendments, including the admirably brief

“University of Oregon Code of Ethics: All employees must follow the University of Oregon Policy on Freedom of Speech and Inquiry“.

If that fails, I’ll bring up my proposal for a Senate Unethical Activities Committee, with the power to investigate and blacklist offenders:

Meanwhile, rumor down at the Faculty Club Chapel (Episcopalian) is that there will also be questions from the faculty on how we can behave ethically without dedicating ourselves before God to our chosen profession, as VPFA Jamie Moffitt has been requiring the UO Police to do, ever since that unfortunate Bowl of Dicks incident:

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Good thing our Johnson Hall bowl game junketeers aren’t sworn officers. That part about “never accepting gratuities” would be a problem.

As for the God business, sorry, but a higher authority disagrees: “… no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

11/13/2015: UO ethics policy requires “civil, respectful, and nurturing environment”

And if you fail to “make decisions based upon the greater good” or don’t act in “a wise, ethical, and prudent manner” or if you engage in “shifting blame or taking improper credit”, you have violated UO policy, and you are subject to university discipline.

That’s according to UO’s newly revised “Code of Ethics” policy, posted on VP for Collaboration Chuck Triplett’s website, and open for comment here.

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UO won’t release auditor’s instructions for upcoming athletics audit

9/17/2015: Move it along professor, nothing to see here. Really?

From: “Thornton, Lisa” <pubrec@uoregon.edu> Subject: Public Records Request 2016-PRR-078
Date: September 17, 2015 at 11:04:14 AM PDT
To: wtharbaugh@gmail.com
Reply-To: pubrec@uoregon.edu

09/17/2015

Dear Mr. Harbaugh-

Records responsive to your request made 9/15/2015 [for a copy of the instructions to the auditor showing what he will examine, etc.] are exempt from disclosure under ORS 192.501 (37).  However, the university has chosen to provide you with the preliminary objectives of the upcoming athletics risk assessmentt, which you can find below.

The Objectives

•  To gain an understanding of the athletics program in order to identify inherent risks.

•  Identify systems and processes along with related controls that are intended to mitigate these risks.

•  The results of this work will be used to develop a multiple year, risk based audit plan. 

The office considers this to be fully responsive to your request, and will now close your matter. Thank you for contacting the office with your request.

Sincerely, Lisa Thornton, Office of Public Records

The DOJ’s Public Records Manual says, regarding ORS 192.501 (37):

Enacted in 2011, this exemption allows, but does not require, public bodies to decline to disclose documents and information related to audits of the public body (or audits the public body is conducting with respect to other public bodies) while the audit is ongoing. In order to qualify for this exemption, the auditor or audit organization must be operating under “nationally recognized government auditing standards,” and the audit must still be ongoing. An audit is ongoing when it has not been abandoned, and the final audit report in accordance with nationally recognized government auditing standards has not been issued. Note that this exemption expressly states that it “does not prohibit disclosure of a draft audit report that is provided to the audited entity for the entity’s response to the audit findings.”

9/10/2015: Page down for latest email from UO auditor Brenda Muirhead.

5/20/2015: Audit of athletic dept risks due this fall – and another cut to Duck subsidies?

The last audit cut the subsidy for the Ducks by $555,227, recurring. How much will this one save?

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Oregonian and UO Auditor add drop sites for whistleblowing, muckraker docs

Whistleblowing is all the rage these days. If you’ve got some hot muck it’s a seller’s market. Investigative reporter Les Zaitz has the story on the Oregonian’s new secure drop site, here:

Want to secretly submit a tip? Try our new SecureDrop

…. We understand there are those with information they want public who don’t want to risk being identified as the source. The reasons to remain anonymous are many.

SecureDrop was developed by journalists and software engineers to address this concern. The system relies on encoded communications to dedicated computer servers at The Oregonian/OregonLive that are separate from the newsroom system.

You can find details on how to use the system and the levels of protection by going to this web page:[LINK: How to use SecureDrop.]

That link starts start with instructions for booting from a secure operating system on a USB key and installing Eric Snowden’s favorite Tor browser. Yikes.

Or you could report violations of UO policy and so on to UO. Now that we have an independent governing board we’ve got our own auditor, Brenda Muirhead. She has contracted with the outside firm EthicsPoint, for a “totally confidential and anonymous” UO fraud reporting hotline, here:

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Ah yes, the NCAA and the PAC-12. If you’re a professor you may not have realized that you could be fired for violating NCAA rules. UO’s former NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative Jim O’Fallon and our former interim President Bob Berdahl taught me that one the hard way – or tried to.

I’m no law professor, but I’m a bit surprised that the UO audit reporting site doesn’t have explicit warnings about the potential dangers to your career of reporting misfeasance and malfeasance. It seems to me that there are many circumstances where the UO administration could learn your identity from the details of the complaint or subsequent investigation, exposing a whistleblower who’d been told they’d be anonymous to potential retaliation, costly legal bills, and so on. And don’t count on UO’s General Counsel to defend you. Read the Oregon Bar’s rejection of Jennifer Morlok’s argument that interim GC Doug Park and AGC Samantha Hill had an attorney-client relationship with her, when she blew the whistle on the GC’s office seizure of Jane Doe’s counseling records:

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The UO Audit website doesn’t mention this, but if you follow the links to file a report you get handy dropdown menus for reporting various issues:

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Athletics sure is a risky business:

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Remember, if you know about any of this stuff and don’t report it, UO could fire you for violating NCAA rules. But if you report it, you could find yourself it a very sticky spot with your boss and perhaps some hostile fans. Tough choice.