Professor Venkatesh

Yesterday, The New York Times published an article alleging that Sudhir Venkatesh, a Columbia University sociology professor, seriously misused school fundings.

In a statement emailed to Bwog, Professor Venkatesh called the article “upsetting.” He writes that somebody within the admininstration  leaking private documents to the media makes it hard to fully trust “the integrity of the University’s processes when things like this occur.” Conceding that he was a poor bookkeeper, Venkatesh admits that he “struggled to keep up” with his records. “At the top of my list,” he concludes, “is the need to ensure the trust of my fellow students, faculty, and staff at Columbia and Barnard.”

Read the full statement. It’s below, and after the jump.

The recent New York Times article was upsetting on several accounts. I’m deeply troubled that someone within the University’s administration selectively leaked private documents to the media. It is hard to have full confidence in the integrity of the University’s processes when things like this occur. The irony is that from 2010 onward, as Director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy(ISERP), I worked actively with the Arts & Sciences to restructure ISERP’s management of grants and research. I repeatedly pointed out lax procedures that had long been the rule there and I called for a thorough review of all procedures on several occasions, in part because I was worried about the risks the University faced. The procedures I inherited were ten years old, and I felt they needed to be changed quickly.

That said, I was not successful in implementing changes or, candidly, in paying careful attention to record keeping of my own. The audit document discussed in the Times article was the beginning of an inquiry, not the end. The administration asked me to address a range of issues, which I did honestly and forthrightly. Was I a good bookkeeper? Not by any stretch. I was overwhelmed, I was working both at Columbia and at the FBI, and I struggled to keep up. So ethically, I felt it important to return approximately $13,000 for which there was inadequate documentation. I then took a partial leave to deepen my work at the FBI.

The article also suggests that I work outside the boundaries of mainstream sociology. I plead guilty. My discipline is stuffy and losing relevance daily in the academic and public eye. But, I have never been anything other than scrupulous, honest and ethical in my research, and I have always safeguarded the risk of my research subjects at every moment. With pride, I can say that, as a filmmaker and scholar, I have been working in some of the most difficult research field sites, in our nation’s inner cities with marginal populations, for two decades.

At the top of my list is the need to ensure the trust of my fellow students, faculty, and staff at Columbia and Barnard, and related institutions. My door is always open to this community and I will do my best to ensure that this trust is maintained.

Awesome jacket via