Georgia Tech president Bud Peterson speaks to undergraduate candidates before the Spring 2016 Commencement at the McCamish Pavilion, Saturday, May 7, 2016, in Atlanta.

Georgia Tech has had a ‘dramatic increase’ in ethics complaints, president says

Georgia Tech has seen a dramatic increase in the number of ethics complaints since July, which about the time that investigators released several reports exposing serious ethical wrongdoing by several now former top administrators.

Since July, there have been 140 complaints, Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson said during a question-and-answer session with more than 100 faculty members and employees. By comparison, there were 85 complaints in 2017, according to a University System of Georgia analysis.

Peterson said there are positive and negative aspects to the rise in reported complaints. The bad part, he said, is there’s a possibility that there have been additional ethics lapses by some employees. The good part, he said, is “people are coming forward reporting things they’re concerned about.”

Peterson said in response to one question that some of the complaints are multiple accusations about a single issue. Others are “score-settling,” he said. Peterson said those complaints are often communication breakdowns between employees that must be resolved more productively.

Georgia Tech officials did not have information Tuesday afternoon about the status of the additional complaints.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in September Georgia Tech is often slow in completing ethics investigations. Georgia Tech took an average of 102 days last year to investigate a complaint, the second-longest time of any college or university in the University System of Georgia, according to a report presented in April to the state’s Board of Regents. Savannah State University had the longest average time, 135 days.

Tuesday’s meeting is the kick-off to more than a week’s worth of discussions at Tech to improve its ethics culture. University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley ordered Georgia Tech to update him on what officials there are doing to improve after reports found problems such as a top official who was a paid board member of a German-based company that had contracts with Tech. Peterson’s next update is due Monday.

A few employees told Peterson they’re concerned that many administrators are now afraid to make decisions and asked the president what’s being done to address that. Peterson acknowledged “there’s some anxiety on campus” and asked employees to “embrace each other” as they work through what he described as an embarrassing chapter in the school’s history.

“I want to get back to the point where you are as proud (of Georgia Tech) as you were six months ago,” he said.

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