‘Big temptation for theft in Harvard Uni due to lack of control’

‘Big temptation for theft in Harvard Uni due to lack of control’
Lower level administrators at universities such as Harvard aren’t well paid while there’s a lot of money floating around amid lax controls. Most people will resist, but some sticky fingers might be tempted, says political cartoonist Ted Rall.

Around $110,000 intended for students with disabilities has been allegedly stolen by two former Harvard Law School administrators.

It’s alleged that Meg DeMarco, 33, and Darris Saylors, 32, used the money from the fund to buy iPads, iPods, and other gadgets, as well as DVDs, jewelry, and sex toys.
How that could have happened at Harvard, one of the world’s top universities? RT discussed with political cartoonist Ted Rall. He says it’s the lack of control that make it tempting for some people to steal money.

I have a little bit of insight, I used to be an administrator at Columbia University. After I had graduated there, I worked in the office of admissions and financial aid. Columbia is another school like Harvard. There aren’t a lot of controls in a system that kind of encourages theft. Administrators at the lower levels, such as these two employees, aren’t really paid market rates, they aren’t paid very much. However, there is a lot of money floating around this institution: there are a lot of different accounts, there aren’t very strict controls; the money isn’t checked; there aren’t a lot of audits,” he said.

In Rall’s opinion, “there is a big temptation for theft when you have low paid employees with access to money that’s easy to steal. Obviously most people probably don’t touch the money, but some of them are tempted”.

It is just human nature that some sticky fingers are going to grab some dollars sometimes,” he added.

Following the incident, the Law School said it has taken steps to prevent similar incidents in the future and implemented additional layers of control.
It also assured that it never denied any services because to the alleged theft.

As to how the university can reassure disabled students that it is doing its best to support them, Rall says it should “immediately assure that the funds will be restored.”

Harvard University has one of the largest, if not the largest endowment of any university in the US. It’s comparable to Fortune 500 corporations. They have lots of money. So the first thing the University should do is immediately assure that the funds will be restored and that pending any investigation, or criminal charges, the money will be put right back in there so that none of the disabled students will suffer any kind of cutbacks,” he said.

Rall recalled that when he was a student, “there was an administrator, who stole money out of the financial aid system, and as a result, there were people who literally were not able to get the food that they were supposed to eat during the year.”

According to Michelle B. Deakin, a spokesperson for the Law School, no students were ever denied any services because to the alleged theft, cited The Harvard Crimson.

In Rall’s opinion the two former administrators “will obviously face criminal charges” for “a felony theft.”

But since Massachusetts is a pretty liberal state and if it’s their first offense, the women could get about a year in prison, he said.

If there are mitigating circumstances – like they can claim that there is a psychological problem, or they can claim that they have to take care of their children at home – then the sentence might be low. These women are not going to go to prison for 10 years,” Rall added.

This isn't the first time that Harvard employees are suspected of stealing money from the school. In 2015, a former Harvard computer lab manager faced charges of stealing about $80,000 and spending it on items such as Lego sets and electronics.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.