Adding to the controversy surrounding the alleged misappropriation of tens of thousands of dollars by former Berkeley Divinity School Dean and Yale Divinity School Associate Dean R. William Franklin, two Yale Divinity School administrators have been removed from their posts over a six-month period.
Judy Stebbins, who had control of the books for Yale Divinity School and the affiliated Berkeley Divinity School, was fired from her position in September after a Yale-initiated audit, and two weeks ago Yale Divinity School facilities manager Krishna Ramsundar was arrested for pocketing student rent over a four-year period, the Hartford Courant reported.
Stebbins declined comment about the circumstances surrounding her termination. Per University policy, Yale President Richard Levin would not comment on what he termed a personnel matter.
Danielle James DIV ’02 said Stebbins oversaw all the grants given to Yale Divinity School students.
“This includes grants given to students with Berkeley funds,” James said.
Beth Lofquist now holds the position of director of administration of finance at the Yale Divinity School. Lofquist said her position deals exclusively with Yale Divinity School.
The Rev. David Bartlett, the Yale Divinity School associate dean for academic affairs, said he knew of no connection between the audit and Ramsundar’s alleged theft of funds.
The Courant reported Ramsundar confessed to taking $16,000 of cash rent since 1997 from student apartments and that, following his arrest for larceny in the first degree, he was fired from Yale. Auditors discovered Ramsundar was keeping students’ rent when they found that apartments listed by him as unoccupied were actually housing occupants.
Berkeley student George Gonzalez DIV ’02 said it was a well-known fact around the Divinity campus that Ramsundar was arrested for allegedly pocketing the funds.
“Reaction on campus has been one of sorrow,” Gonzalez said. “There has been a breach of trust, and if the facts are correct then it is pretty painful.”
International Yale Divinity School students typically live in the housing from which Ramsundar collected rent.
“The way I heard it was that his [Ramsundar’s] actions affected the international students the most,” James said.
Guy Martin, the associate dean for admission and financial aid at the Yale Divinity School, said that he had a good working relationship with Ramsundar.
“Whatever has taken place is a surprise and very sad,” Martin said.
Berkeley, an Episcopal seminary, is affiliated with the Yale Divinity School, and Berkeley students are fully enrolled in the Yale Divinity School. The affiliation agreement between the two schools is up for renewal this year.
Levin said the University’s 1985 affiliation agreement with Berkeley gave Yale the right to audit Berkeley’s books but Yale had not done so before the last audit.
“Essentially, we have the financial records of the University as a whole audited every year by an outside firm and they will test the validity of the numbers and do a certain amount of sampling,” Levin said. “To get a closer look of departments, we engage an internal auditing group that works for the University.”
Levin said that the auditing firm cycles through the various departments of the University trying to paint a picture of the policy, procedures and practices used to handle transactions including purchases, revenues, payroll and expense reimbursement.
“The Divinity School came up for one of those routine audits,” Levin said.
In spite of the scandal surrounding Franklin’s resignation, Bartlett said he hopes the two divinity schools stay closely affiliated.
And Bartlett said he doubts that the incident will mar Berkeley’s reputation.
“We are going to get through this fine,” he said.
Gonzalez, who is in his final year at the Yale Divinity School, said he is slightly disillusioned with recent events but still believes in the institution.
“I still get a sense that the school is littered with really good people that make it truly possible to deal with something like this,” Gonzalez said.
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