Message from President Drinan on Additional Financial Accounting Controls

November 24, 2014

A Message from President Helen Drinan

BOSTON (November 24, 2014) — In the coming days, Simmons will ask the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office to prosecute a former Simmons employee for fraud — misappropriating SOM student fees and other monies for her own use. That employee was terminated this past summer. We are taking this sad and unprecedented step of referring this matter to law enforcement on the recommendation of former U.S. Attorney Donald Stern, who this summer conducted an inquiry into financial irregularities in some SOM accounts, at our request. One of Attorney Stern's final recommendations was that Simmons refer the matter for criminal prosecution.

Members of our Board of Trustees have been aware of this situation since it came to light in connection with our FY14 year-end close. I am sharing the news with all of you because I believe this episode should serve to remind us all — faculty, staff, and administration — of our shared responsibility to safeguard Simmons assets and to protect the tuition and fees our students and their families pay to attend Simmons.

    Attorney Stern's report suggests a number of lessons in this regard:

  • If you see something, say something. Some Simmons colleagues saw red flags, but remained silent.
  • Effective managers are curious, involved, and responsive. If you are unsure how to approach or respond to a workplace issue, seek advice sooner rather than later.
  • Don't let unresolved items go unchecked; escalate issues within your own department or with more senior staff in other areas if matters are not addressed.
Performance and workplace problems need prompt attention. Leaving colleagues to "work it out" for themselves for months at a time is neither in their best interests nor ours. We have people and resources available to assist employees — but those who witness the problems firsthand need to tell us who needs help.

Every Simmons manager is responsible for creating a working and learning environment where colleagues feel comfortable raising concerns. If your concerns are not being addressed, speak up. Your Vice President or Dean, and your colleagues in Talent and Human Capital Strategy, will welcome hearing from you. Our General Counsel asked me to remind you that her door, too, is always open. Fraudulent activity is an aberration at Simmons and our community is made up of people who come to campus every day with the best interests of students and colleagues at heart. I am grateful for the dedication our faculty and staff bring to our classrooms and offices and am saddened that our collective trust and confidence has been shaken by one of our own.

Moving forward, I am confident that we have enhanced our policies and financial protocols across all of Simmons to detect anomalies sooner and am optimistic that the need for better communication and closer managerial oversight is now uppermost in our minds.

Helen Drinan