For Greene County News
FAIRBORN (WDTN) – The president of Wright State University is explaining for the first time publicly, why the university is under investigation, why two staff members were removed from their posts and why a third employee was terminated.
President David Hopkins and Board of Trustees Chairman Michael Bridges released a letter to the staff explaining the ongoing investigation; 2 NEWS obtained that letter Monday evening.
The president confirms that federal authorities are “reviewing potential violations of federal criminal statutes” surrounding the H-1B work visa program.
The H-1B program allows U.S. employers to sponsor highly trained professionals from another country who come to America to work in a specialty field. Oftentimes, the visa program employee works in areas such as biotechnology, chemistry, engineering and computer science.
Federal investigators are checking into whether some visa program-sponsored staff were actually paid employees at the university. The situation developed between two and five years ago.
As a result of the ongoing investigation, two university staff members, Provost Sundaram Narayanan and Director of Business Process Re-engineering Phani Kidambi, were removed from their posts. Senior Advisor to the Provost Ryan Fendley is no longer employed. Proceedings will begin under the collective bargaining agreement to also remove Narayanan and Kidambi from their respective teaching positions.
No criminal charges are currently filed. The three staff members have been on administrative leave since February, leading up to the newest action.
In the statement to staff, Hopkins said, “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 also announced that it will do away with the provost position. It instead appointed Tom Sudkamp as vice president of curriculum and instruction and chief academic officer.
Mark Polatajko was appointed as vice president of business and fiscal affairs and chief operating officer.
The university says it will not comment further until the federal investigation is complete.