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  1. The Education Gradebook

USF toughens employment checks in wake of problems with communications school hire

Published May 21, 2016

TAMPA — University of South Florida officials have stiffened their hiring procedures following a Tampa Tribune investigation that showed they hired a director for the school of communications without knowing he had affairs with students at his previous job.

USF Provost Ralph Wilcox sent an email to college deans last month saying he will now require a signed statement certifying that all employment references, including the job prospect's immediate supervisor, are contacted before a final review and letter of offer.

"As you know, satisfactory reference checks are a condition of employment at the University of South Florida," Wilcox wrote.

The email came the day the Tribune published a story revealing that Samuel Bradley, 42, director of the Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications, was scheduled to have his tenure revoked by Texas Tech University after the school launched an investigation into his questionable relationships with four students.

That review found Bradley violated the Faculty-Student Conflict of Interest provision of Texas Tech's faculty handbook, as well as three operating policies. Bradley resigned before Texas Tech could revoke his tenure, and was hired by USF nine months later, in August 2013.

Bradley was offered tenure at USF as a condition of his employment, records show.

When USF learned of the investigation, it placed Bradley on paid administrative leave. An independent, external review of Bradley's employment by Tampa law firm Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing is still ongoing, said USF spokesman Adam Freeman. The email from Wilcox only outlines "best practices" with new hires, not any new policies, Freeman said.

In his letter, Wilcox wrote that deans must now report the date reference checks were performed and the name of the USF employee who conducted them, as well as contact information for the references.

If there are reservations about contacting a current supervisor before issuing a letter of offer, the letter must include the statement, "This offer is contingent upon the completion of satisfactory reference checks."