Wright State University’s board of trustees voted to fire its former provost who has been on paid leave in a faculty position for more than three years.
Six of the board’s nine members voted this evening to fire Sundaram Narayanan effective June 30. Three board members were absent from the closed-door meeting Wednesday when trustees met with Narayanan and his attorney Ted Copetas.
“At the end of the day, Dr. Narayanan was a decision-maker at the highest levels of the university at a time that resulted in millions of dollars in losses and the board feels there needs to be accountability from our administrators … and I think in the end that’s what it came down to,” board chairman Doug Fecher said after the vote.
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Following the private meeting, trustees returned to public session and voted to accept president Cheryl Schrader’s recommendation to terminate Narayanan’s employment.
Narayanan was placed on paid leave in May 2015 when a federal investigation was launched possible violation of immigration laws at WSU.
There was nothing “happy or satisfying” about the decision trustees made Wednesday, Fecher said. Fecher said he hopes that the decision helps the university move on from the visa scandal.
How WSU trustees voted on Narayanan’s termination
Doug Fecher: Yes
Bruce Langos: Yes
Bill Montgomery: Yes
Stephanie Green: Yes
Grace Ramos: Yes
Anuj Goyal: Yes
Michael Bridges: Absent
C.D. Moore: Absent
Sean Fitzpatrick: Absent
“This was not easy. There’s nothing to be happy about,” Fecher said. “This was hopefully the end of a very long and difficult chapter in the university’s history and I’m hoping we can all begin to put this behind us and move on and learn what lessons need to be learned and put the university on the path to the success that it deserves.”
After Narayanan and Copetas met with trustees behind closed doors, the former provost declined to comment on the then-pending decision. But, before trustees voted to fire Narayanan, Copetas said he thought the meeting “went very well.”
Copetas said on Thursday that he and Narayanan would ask the faculty union to take the case to arbitration.
“If the university thought it had grounds to fire Dr. Narayanan from his faculty position, why didn’t it do so three years ago? The answer, is that it didn’t have grounds to then, and it didn’t have grounds to (Wednesday),” Copetas said via email. “In the end, (Wednesday’s) vote was merely about giving the board someone to blame.”
Narayanan was one of four university administrators initially suspended in May 2015 because of the federal probe, which a Dayton Daily News investigation revealed was related to the university’s use of H-1B temporary work visas to secure employees for an area IT staffing firm.
University researcher Phani Kidambi, who was also suspended since May 2015 because of the federal probe, resigned from the university in August, records show.
The two others were university chief general counsel Gwen Mattison and senior advisor to the provost Ryan Fendley. Mattison was forced to retire in August 2015 with a $301,331 separation payment.
Fendley was fired in August 2015, but then filed two lawsuits against the university. A breach of contract suit was settled with Wright State Applied Research Corporation paying him $13,209. A wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Fendley in the Ohio Court of Claims was decided in Wright State’s favor in September.
Copetas has not said whether he and Narayanan would file a lawsuit if the university terminated the former provost.
“We’ll have to evaluate our options after the board of trustees makes that decision,” Copetas told ;this news organization last week.
While Fecher said he hopes another lawsuit isn’t in the university’s future, he said Wright State’s leaders would handle one if it’s filed.
“That’s always a possibility,” Fecher said. “We’ll handle that if it comes. But, I don’t know that you can let that type of thing affect the kinds of decisions that you feel need to be made.”
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