Culture in OIT led to step-down

Former CIO Scott Studham resigned Sept. 4 after Pres. Kaler asked him to step down.

by Marion Renault

The culture in the University of Minnesota’s Office of Information Technology — not allegations of mismanagement and possible misuse of funds — led to a University vice president’s resignation earlier this month, school officials said last week.
Former Chief Information Officer Scott Studham resigned Sept. 4 after President Eric Kaler asked him to step down.
“While there have been complaints filed with the University about Mr. Studham’s judgment, that’s not the reason I requested that he step aside,” Kaler said in a written statement released Friday. “My decision centered on the culture in his unit and his relationship with his peers.”
In his statement, Kaler named Bernie Gulachek as interim leader of the department that oversees web traffic, Moodle, network safety and other campus information technology tasks.
Studham — who began working for the University in 2012 — left his post before the start of an investigation into several complaints alleging he used University funding for personal expenses, made unfair hiring decisions and misused his travel expenses and vacation days.
Since May, four anonymous complaints were filed with the University’s audit office with reports of what the complainants believed to be Studham’s misconduct.
In a document released Friday, Studham disputed the allegations and said the claims against him were misunderstandings and “simply untrue.”
He said he resigned to focus on low-cost, personalized education and was surprised at rumors that have circulated about his time as CIO.
Much of a document released Friday that details the complaints focuses on the 21 devices — including a 3D gaming headset, Bose speakers, a body camera and about a dozen computers — that Studham purchased during his four years at the University. 
Studham wrote in the document that none of them were for personal use. 
Some were purchased as good will, he said, to replace or boost faculty member’s technology when it became substandard. 
Other devices were purchased to explore their academic potential and to keep up with disruptive technology, he said.
“When new devices (Google Glass, [Oculus] Rift, wearable device, innovative tablet) would come out people would expect me to know something about it,” he wrote in the document.
Prior complaints
Before his resignation, the University investigated and closed three anonymous reports that University employees filed against Studham, two of which were found unsubstantiated.
Two additional anonymous complaints were filed in the week after he left.
One employee filed a report in June 2013 saying Studham planned to host a University-sponsored “pig roast” that would exclude and isolate staff that practice Jewish or
Muslim faiths. In response, the department refocused the event and sent out a more inclusive event reminder, according to the complaint file.
Another complaint, reported in November of that year and later found to be unsubstantiated, alleged that an OIT employee was selling marijuana in Morrill Hall for more than a year. According to the complaint, several people in Studham’s “inner circle” independently told the anonymous reporter that the CIO was a customer. 
In December 2014, another employee reported that Studham had improperly solicited and received gifts and benefits.
The report, which was also found to be unsubstantiated, alleged that University credit cards were used to buy alcohol, host parties and pay for exorbitant meals above the state-approved limits.
An internal audit said officials extensively reviewed personal reimbursements made to OIT officials and their purchasing cards and couldn’t find unreasonable or excessive purchases.