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April 15, 2011 10:00 AM The University of Dysfunction

By Daniel Luzer

Despite plans for massive improvement at the long-suffering University of the District of Columbia

—it appears DC’s lone public university is still screwing up.

According to an article by Mike DeBonis in the Washington Post:

The University of the District of Columbia exercised scant oversight over its president’s business and travel expenses, an internal audit has found, allowing Allen L. Sessoms to travel widely without developing a budget or seeking approvals required by his employment contract.
All told, Sessoms has taken 36 university-paid trips totaling $58,444 since becoming UDC president [in September 2008]. One trip, to Egypt, was billed at $7,952. The auditors said that in many cases, the expenses were poorly documented.

This comes after trustees of UDC asked last month why Sessoms, the president of a struggling university serving mostly low-income, nontraditional students, seemed so often to be traveling first class.

UDC spokesman Alan Etter said the school would develop a more transparent accounting system soon. Sessoms, like most academic administrators, has a contract that entitles him receive reimbursement for “reasonable business and travel expenses” as president. But UDC developed no specific budget for its president’s expenses and “reviews of Sessoms’s expenses were spotty,” according to the article.

Since he took over UDC in 2008 Sessoms billed UDC for $9,778 for gas, insurance, and parking for his car. The driver of the car, at $39 an hour, cost UDC $51,380 for four months. He also received at $60,000 vehicle allowance; Sessoms used the allowance, (equivalent to roughly 15 times the cost of a year’s tuition at UDC), to buy a Lincoln Navigator.

The graduation rate at UDC is 8 percent.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer