Paid leave continues for WSU ex-provost

After being demoted with pay cuts during a federal investigation of possible immigration law violations, Wright State University’s former provost and a former researcher remain on paid leave at salaries totaling $363,119.

Prior to his pay cut, former provost Sundaram Narayanan was second in charge of the university and its fourth highest paid employee with a salary of $406,601 and a $600 monthly car allowance.

His new salary of $286,362 is only slightly less than his starting pay of $300,000 when he was appointed provost in March 2013.

In an Aug. 12 letter, Narayanan was immediately removed from the provost position and given his job back as a tenured professor in the Biomedical, Industrial and Human Factors Engineering department.

A similar letter went to Phani Kidambi, former head of the school’s international enrollment program who most recently served as a researcher at the Wright State Research Institute. He lost a $27,500 research stipend, bringing his annual salary down to $76,757.

A third letter went to former advisor to the provost Ryan Fendley, immediately terminating his employment “subsequent to your paid administrative leave and as a result of the ongoing investigation.”

There has been no change in the status of the university’s chief general counsel, Gwen Mattison, who was suspended with pay along with the other three on May 4.

Wright State President David Hopkins and trustee board chairman Michael Bridges released a joint statement Monday confirming that the university was under federal investigation related to its work visa program.

The statement notes that no criminal charges are pending against any of those subject to the investigation, “however, we have reviewed enough information to be certain that these personnel actions are merited and are in the best interest of the university.”

The university has declined to comment beyond its statement, which said there was evidence that between two and five years ago not every employee on a work visa sponsored by WSU was actually working at the university, which would be a violation of federal law.

Narayanan was named provost in March 2013. According to the terms of the letter offering him the job, when he comes back to work as a professor he is eligible to get an academic year of professional development leave and a $200,000 startup package “in support of your research endeavors.”

The Aug. 12 demotion letters to both Narayanan and Kidambi, however, leave open the possibility that they may not return to work. The letters say the university “may be pursuing action” under the faculty union contract to remove them from their faculty positions.

The letter to Narayanan, signed by Hopkins, end with a personal note: “I have appreciated our working relationship during your tenure as Provost and your many accomplishments on behalf of Wright State’s faculty, staff, and students.”

About the Author