WSU investigating best practices


Greene County News Report

FAIRBORN —Wright State University has hired a prominent law firm and an outside accounting firm as it searches for ways to enhance administrative flow.

At a public meeting Thursday, the board of trustees voted to hire Ohio-based Dinsmore & Shohl and the accounting firm Plante Moran to investigate potential ways to improve administrative practices, ensure compliance with an increasing array of government regulations, and expedite delivery of legal services to the university.

The university has also had staff members from the Education Section of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office work on campus to gather information and make practical recommendations on how to best enhance the services provided by the general counsel’s office. With only one attorney position in the current budget and a quickly increasing workload from the expanding campus and applied research work, more lawyers will need to be hired and new procedures put in place to allow for the best legal services to be provided for issues important to students, faculty, staff, researchers, and the trustees.

“The bigger and more advanced a university gets, the more legal issues that arise on a daily basis,” Hopkins said via press release following the vote. “That’s why we’ve asked the education attorneys in the Attorney General’s Office to help us reorganize and expand how our campus legal work is handled. We’re pleased that they have agreed to offer practical advice and recommendations to us so we can continue to make good decisions. We’ve been discussing our request for this need for months, so today’s vote simply formalizes our previous agreement.”

The release did not indicate why the university launched the investigation.

In addition to the state higher education attorneys, the vote formalized an ongoing relationship with Dinsmore & Shohl. The firm has more than 575 attorneys in 18 American cities and has a strong reputation for coming in from the outside to investigate practices and procedures and then make recommendations for improvements. By making such recommendations, the firm often helps reduce potential legal liability, which — for Wright State — could result in saving taxpayer and tuition dollars.

“The Dinsmore firm is a respected team of subject matter experts who can tell us how to take a strong administrative operation like ours and make it even stronger,” Trustee Chairman Michael Bridges said in the release. “We’ve already tasked them with looking into all administrative areas for improvement and advising us on steps we can take to implement best practices in ensuring compliance, limiting liability, and mitigating risks. Nearly every day, accounts of university compliance issues are in the news. As Wright State leaders, we want to proactively plan for and mitigate such risks. Dinsmore can help us do that.”

Staffed with more than 2,000 professionals in offices around the world, Plante Moran advises some of the largest and most complex institutions in America. The firm has a cross-functional operations improvement group that offers a full spectrum of integrated operational, financial, strategic, human capital, and technology services to help organizations reduce costs and continue to improve performance. One of their main specialties is investigating, from an outside perspective, potential areas of concern or unseen liabilities. By using sophisticated accounting techniques, the firm can save clients money and reduce client risks.

“After much review, President Hopkins and my colleagues on the board of trustees all agree that Plante Moran has the subject matter expertise and wide range of experience to give us the outside advice and perspective that we need to keep this university moving forward,” Bridges said. “Every organization can find ways to do things better and those of us who love and support Wright State know that our university is no different. We look forward to detailed and aggressive recommendations from the outside accounting professionals at Plante Moran to help us make the best possible strategic decisions for our university.”

While the combined work of the professional organizations retained and affirmed by the board has been underway for several weeks, university leaders saw the campus summer break as an optimal time to officially set out the goals and timetables for the work to be done.

“Some parts of the campus quiet down during the summer months, which makes this a good time for outside experts to work with us to do the kind of thorough administrative review and make the sort of recommendations that a growing institution needs to thrive,” Hopkins said. “We won’t have much to discuss publicly until we get all these reports, but we look forward to announcing exciting and positive changes in how we administer and advance Wright State University’s success as a national higher education leader.”

The resolution, approved unanimously, also asked for recommendations from each of the outside entities so President David Hopkins and the board of trustees can make future management decisions as part of their ongoing leadership efforts.

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