When attempting to circumscribe the contours of the recent University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff scandal one word stands out: disappointment. We are profoundly disappointed with the UAPB administration and staff. Beyond disappointment, we feel anger that those entrusted with the education of our young people and the stewardship of tax dollars have brought so much disrespect on the institution and the community.

When attempting to circumscribe the contours of the recent University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff scandal one word stands out: disappointment. We are profoundly disappointed with the UAPB administration and staff. Beyond disappointment, we feel anger that those entrusted with the education of our young people and the stewardship of tax dollars have brought so much disrespect on the institution and the community.

As recently reported in the Commercial, the University of Arkansas System released audit findings and the names of four UAPB employees fired Feb. 21 in connection with $736,880 in payments that did not go through the proper accounting channels, $4,219 in funds to an individual who could not provide supporting documents, violations of state nepotism codes, general disregard for payroll and vendor procedures and other financial issues associated with the Harrold Dorm Complex and Living Learning Center.

If the present allegations are substantiated, the UAPB administration permitted a family of individuals to have seemingly unfettered access to the university’s coffers. Whether the individuals involved are pursued criminally is a matter for the prosecuting attorney’s office to decide. As the State Police has confirmed that it is looking into the alleged fraudulent activity, this course would not be surprising. While a determination of guilt would certainly be a weighty matter, an equal heft lies in the specter of shoddy bookkeeping and business practices — not to mention nepotism. That these misdeeds were so prevalent and pervasive, administrative credibility is undermined on a number of frontiers.

At the center of this controversy are: Rita Ticey, director of the Harrold Dorm Complex; Desiree C. Ticey, administrative specialist in the Department of Public Safety; Eugene Butler, director of public safety; and Rickey Ticey, security officer and maintenance employee. Rita Ticey oversaw the employment of her husband, Rickey Ticey, and her daughter Desiree Ticey. According to the Arkansas State Auditor’s report, Rita Ticey was also assistant to Chancellor Lawrence A. Davis Jr., and in that position, signed financial and hiring documents on behalf of the chancellor.

It is an obvious point that such allegations cannot go much higher in the administration. That such acts occurred so close to Davis suggests the chancellor lacks sufficient attachment to the inner workings of his own institution. Davis is quoted in the audit report as saying, “Nepotism was not intended.” Even so, family members were hired with his apparent approval. If someone that near to Davis was permitted to systematically manipulate the university’s hiring, payroll and procurement procedures, one cannot help imagine the extent of possible corruption in more distant corners of the institution.

It does not take too many such missteps before one could conclude that the “Flagship of the Delta” has run firmly aground. It’s not that other state schools are without intrigue, it’s that we expect more from our local branch of the University of Arkansas system.

Simply put, the students and community deserve better. This kind of administrative falter is anathema to the mission of UAPB. It devalues graduates’ degrees. It breeds distrust. It provides fodder for biased detractors. In short, it works against the very fiber of what a university should be.

When administrators become detached; when employees use their office for personal ends; when processes and procedures are found wanting — these people and situations detract not just from a school; they steal knowledge, credibility and potential from those they’ve promised to serve.