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Audit knocks ASU chancellor, wife
By Sarah Morris
Sun Staff Writer

JONESBORO — Arkansas State University Chancellor Tim Hudson nixed the university’s search for a full-time study abroad director in February after he learned his wife Deidra, who holds the position part-time, could not be hired.
That search is now back on with a hire expected before the start of school, according to ASU System President Charles Welch following the release of an internal audit of the Jonesboro campus’ study abroad program that found the program was “unorganized.”
“(Deidra “Dee Dee” Hudson) is going to stay on for a couple more weeks, primarily because we’ve got some study abroad trips and students in the pipeline for the fall, and we do not want to let those folks down,” Welch said Tuesday. “So the provost will be working with her closely on that. At the time the new full-time director comes in, Dee Dee will move out of the position and will not be employed in any other position.”
The transition follows the ASU System Office of Internal Audit’s recommendation for Hudson’s decision to be revisited. Auditors began reviewing the study abroad program after an unnamed person called to report concerns about two study abroad trips and the program’s overall management.
The finalized audit was presented Monday to Welch and forwarded Tuesday morning to the ASU Board of Trustees. It was among documents related to the program released to The Sun under a June 6 Freedom of Information Act request. ASU System officials previously said, per Act 1137 of 2015, that the documents could not be released until the audit was presented to trustees. The newspaper disputed that decision.
“Definitely, I think we found there were some organizational issues, and some policies and processes not nailed down,” Welch said. “But if anything, to me, it was 100 percent proof positive that we don’t need to be operating a full-time program such as this with a part-time director. To me, it reinforced that we definitely need a full-time director if we are going to operate a program such as this.”
Deidra Hudson was hired as the program’s part-time director on May 1, 2013. The number of students participating in study abroad programs was 93 in 2013-14, 85 in 2014-15 and 117 in 2015-16, while the number of students in academic exchanges was 10 in 2013-14, 10 in 2014-15 and 19 in 2015-16.
Still, the internal audit reported four issues: The program was managed by a part-time employee who could not work more than 28 hours per week; students used a PayPal account to pay for a Nordic study abroad trip; there was not a contract with the Nordic instructor — and couldn’t be unless ASU violated state law; as well as no written agreement with Multisense Espana, a third-party vendor for the Lanjaron study abroad site.
The largest issue was Deidra Hudson’s part-time status and that “trips are unorganized.” Her job description includes 14 duties and responsibilities.
In a May 11 email, Executive Director of Global Initiatives Thilla Sivakumaran confirmed the internal audit was correct in that: Hudson “pressured, or advocated” for the study abroad director position to be made full-time at a salary greater than the proposed $50,000, which was a $12,858 salary increase from $37,142 salary of the former full-time study abroad director. Hudson also routed an envelope containing an excel report of comparative campus directors’ salaries circled for reference to Sivakumaran’s office.
The ASU Executive Council approved the full-time position on Nov. 16, 2015, along with a $50,000 salary for the position. The position was posted Jan. 27 for 10 business days.
“(Sivakumaran) notified (Deidra Hudson) of the full-time position posting; however, (her) application was not submitted before the deadline and (the human resources department) extended the application posting until Feb. 11, 2016 at the request of (Sivakumaran’s office). On Feb. 11, 2016, (Deidra Hudson) emailed her resume,” the audit reported.
Auditors noted, six days later, ASU Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Len Frey informed Hudson his wife could not be hired full-time due to the university’s policy on spousal employment. Diedra Hudson withdrew her application later that day.
The chancellor asked Lynita Cooksey, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs and research, to cancel the full-time director of study abroad position posting, which was conveyed to the human resources department, the audit stated. That department then cancelled the position, and electronic notifications were sent to the additional 14 applicants.
“Therefore the study abroad programs continue to be managed by (Deidra Hudson) in an extra help position,” the audit said.
When asked if there were any ethical concerns from the audit, Welch said he can’t speak to individual personnel matters.
“I would just say I think we all realize that mistakes were made during this process that perhaps meant the entire process was not communicated as well as it should have been or decisions made in a manner that we would have preferred,” Welch said. “But those are things we will deal with moving forward.”
Auditors also noted that there were several inconsistencies including the collection of a $50 student application fee and transactions noted for certain programs but not listed in provided financial activity reports. Student tuition payments were also processed differently for the Lanjaron, Spain, study abroad site than elsewhere.
ASU has 17 study abroad sites, but auditors said Deidra Hudson primarily traveled to Lanjaron, Spain, and London. She was asked in December 2015 to explain her travel to Lanjaron, Spain.
“Because this program is housed with out [sic] the support of a university and staff, I act as that support for the first week,” she replied. “In that most of our students and one of our professors do not speak Spanish, I feel more confident greeting them and getting them settled.
“I also set up the office and classrooms, orient the assistant and meet with the Spanish instructors and local lecturers negotiate prices for the following year and handle any in person discussions that need to happen,” she added. “I also meet with the mayor and the staff from the ministry of tourism as a courtesy to our university and program.”
The auditors’ fourth issue regarding Multisense Espana is related to the Lanjaron, Spain, site. Auditors found ASU should have a contract with the company as well as bid out the service, per state law.
Multisense has been paid about $250,700 for work done since 2013. Hudson previously hired Pablo Rubio, whose father is the company’s president, as the coordinator of special projects for the chancellor.
Rubio, who worked last school year, resigned in May to return to Spain. His salary was $70,000.