Uh-oh. Drexel is going to get a shake-up

This is not supposed to be possible. How do you redirect grant funds to strip clubs?

The former chair of the Drexel University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering spent more than $96,000 on area strip clubs and sports bars, in addition to $89,000 on food and iTunes purchases, the district attorney’s office said in a statement.

A university audit showed the longtime professor, who spent nearly three decades at the school, made numerous, unapproved purchases between 2010 and 2017 that he tried to be reimbursed for through research grants, according to state prosecutors.

My grants have all had long, detailed breakdowns of the proposed budget; the awards are then salted away by the university under multiple accounts with designated purposes, like “salaries”, “equipment”, “supplies”; there is a university administrator who monitors everything. I don’t have a checkbook that accesses the accounts. When I want to use my money to buy something, I go through university purchasing, which can draw on the funds, and they buy it for me. Last year I got a new incubator, which was justified under my proposal, and then I realized I needed a second one, which was not, and had to write an explanation to the administrator explaining why I wanted to move funds from one category to another to purchase this equipment. When we had the HHMI grant, we were frequently juggling the budget — this category came in under budget, this one looks like it was going to be a bit over — and we’d have to contact the Howard Hughes institution to clear it.

So this guy had an engineering grant, and he was able to blithely shuffle money from it into entertainment expenses? Unspecified entertainment expenses, since he wasn’t going to be able to invoice a local strip club, and just redirected reimbursements straight into his pocket to the tune of $185,000?

Unreal. I predict that a horde of accountants are going to crack the whip over every department at Drexel, because this is the kind of sloppy management that gets grants yanked.

Oh, yeah, and that department chair has already been fired, and is probably going to jail.


  1. chris61 says

    Seems like every university has one. And then everyone else suffers by having to spend hours filling out paperwork to get reimbursed for a few notepads and some pens.

  2. jrkrideau says

    It seems clear that your university suffers from an intolerable level of micro-management.

    How do you even invoice for pizza and beer for the spider hunters?

  3. Kevin Karplus says

    A lot of universities have laid off most of their purchasing departments and issue credit cards or online systems instead, except for very large purchases.

  4. says

    The professor in this case was in the wrong department. You can be sure that sooner or later some clever social science or law prof will turn up who wrote a convincing proposal to his school as to why he needed them to pay for his strip bar visits. Evo-psych research into whether wanting to see women in skimpy costumes hump metal poles is genetic?

  5. garnetstar says

    Yeah, what everyone’s said is true. But I still cannot imagine how someone with large amounts of grant money managed, for decades, to evade the university’s grant manangement office.

    In addition to monitoring and signing off on every purchase, they do things like mark all property purchased with university bar codes, which are monitored and the propetry must be returned to the university when you’re done with it, or else officially decommissioned. We do get a kick-back on our overhead which is unmonitored, and you’re supposed to buy the pizza and beer with that.

    But, the penalty for mis-spending a granting agency’s money used to be that the university had to pay back, not just the mis-spent funds, but the entire grant. Also, the agency had the option of canceling every grant it’d made to the university, for every professor in every department.

    That’s why universities put in such strict monitoring (you didn’t think they did it out of a sense of responsibility, did you?). The penalties for mis-spending are very stiff.

  6. whheydt says

    One might wonder if his research was based on “Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gown”.

  7. leerudolph says

    Evo-psych research into whether wanting to see women in skimpy costumes hump metal poles is genetic?

    I would assume that would depend on whether the caves in which the male ancestors of the subject psycho-evolved had stalagmites or stalactites.