The University of Central Florida has appointed a retired U.S. Navy captain as interim director of its embattled Institute for Simulation and Training, after an investigation that exposed the former director and two faculty members traded at least one Ph.D. for grant funding.
Wes Naylor said he will serve until a replacement is found, as the university began a nationwide search. He said he will not apply for the position.
He said he would “steady the ship” and make sure “the actions that have come forward of the few don’t impact the great work that’s done here.”
The university said the institute’s former director, Randall Shumaker, would be fired, along with faculty members Lauren Reinerman-Jones and Daniel Barber. The three are on paid administrative leave until Feb. 7, when their terminations will take affect. They also are barred from UCF property.
UCF had hired Washington, D.C. based law firm Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall and Furman back in December to investigate a whistleblower complaint alleging students were obtaining degrees fraudulently in exchange for grant funding. According to the firm’s report, the first complaint, filed with Shumaker in early 2016, alleged Reinerman-Jones used the funding for her research lab.
Shumaker failed to follow up on the issue, according to his termination notice.
The firm’s report also included multiple allegations of misconduct against Reinerman-Jones and Barber, including using UCF resources to create and run their own private company “without UCF’s authorization or intellectual property rights.” The report said Reinerman-Jones also inappropriately assisted a student obtain a degree, was complicit about plagiarism and mistreated students.
The report said the student possibly violated federal bribery laws by withholding grant funding until his dissertation defense process was complete. The university said it has begun the process of revoking the student’s Ph.D. UCF has not released the name of the student because of federal privacy laws, but the report refers to the student as male.
A UCF spokesman said the university also is reviewing all graduate degrees awarded within the institute’s modeling and simulation program, where the student is accused of obtaining a fraudulent degree.
Naylor said it now is his mission to bring a sense of continuity for those who remain at the institute.
“I’m taking time to listen to students, to faculty, to researchers here,” Naylor said. “I think it’s important that everyone has a voice in an organization like this.”
Naylor said the search could take as little as six months.