Fourth Update: 1520 hours CST February 18, 2012
See below for an announcement made by the St Xavier University president. Let’s not gloat over the former vice president for business and finance’s misery. She will suffer mightily for stealing nearly $900,000 from the tuition-driven university. I think the sentence is way too harsh but was within the plea agreement. She agreed to serve 37 to 46 months in prison and United States District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer basically gave her a sentence right down the middle that was NOT even close to the “near maximum penalty” as claimed. Well do the math and I am right! Forty-two is as close to mid-range as one could get unless Susan had been sentenced to forty-one and a half months! Had it gone to trial, she might have been convicted and sentenced up to ten years. This way she does three and a half, if not less, and then walks.
Susan made a lot more money than professors do here. So she was greedy and insensitive to the fact that she was one of the higher paid members of the St Xavier community and financially quite comfortable. She could have stolen the money and at least used it in a socially beneficial manner. I doubt if the money were used for charitable purposes. Certainly the money she stole could have gone into student scholarships, student relief funds or library acquisitions. At least one of her children got free tuition so Susan was spared many of the financial burdens the middle class suffers. As I recall, she earned her MBA degree in the Graham School of Management at St Xavier. I presume she received free or reduced tuition or perhaps “self-refunded” in her behalf. No, don’t even think about it. A university cannot and will not revoke a degree unless actions related to the pursuit of that degree–plagiarism, bribing a professor, cheating on an exam–would undermine the academic credibility of an institution. As far as I know, there has been no charge to that effect and the faculty would have an interest if such action were contemplated on any campus.
However, let’s put this in perspective. I do not know if she got free or reduced tuition or got a “refund” through other means! Susan was talented, knew the place from stem to stern, beautified the campus, redid the faculty offices, was usually accessible and frequently on campus. She was respected widely. She has many good attributes and qualities and one should not go overboard in vilifying her. I hope she can get out of prison early on parole and get on with her life.
I don’t know what a just sentence is but I say abolish the prisons, abolish the structure of class warfare in this country and move toward a higher ethic where jails and prisons are phased out. Should non-violent criminals do time? If so what is justice for such crimes? SXU got the money back and this harsh sentence is hardly a deterrent for other thieves. Folks will steal if not at the Chicago university then elsewhere unfortunately but Susan hopefully will ponder and ruminate over the meaning of her life and responsiblities to others. I would visit her in prison if the site is near Chicago. I bear no animosity toward her nor do I feel satisfied with the outcome. I just don’t like prisons and folks being dumped into them. It is not the answer but then again, it is hard for me to argue with absolutism that illegal acts, particularly violent ones, are inherently beyond the realm of punishment by confinement. How about house arrest?
What will we learn from this? I think another “painful chapter” in the history of St Xavier University is the treatment of adjunct or contingent faculty. They have a moral, legal and ethical right to form a union that cannot be denied on any ethical grounds. We need to end this outrage and afford them the rights that most Americans have, whether they choose to exercise it or not, not to mention full-time and portion of full-time faculty at SXU! The right to organise, bargain collectively and pursue better pay and work conditions are basic human rights enshrined in New Deal legislation in the 1930s. A union does not have the right to demand a contract. So a university does not have to enter into one but it does have to bargain in good faith. Let’s renew ourselves in the wake of the Piros debacle to examine our own ethical challenges in the treatment of vulnerable women and men. Let the Piros event remind us that those who have much, need to share with those who have less such as Ph.D.s earning $2300 for a university-level course without retirement or health insurance!
Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
This is President Wiseman’s Statement sent by email to the faculty and others on February 17, 2012:
Susan Piros Sentenced for Embezzlement
Ms. Susan Piros, former Saint Xavier University Vice President for Business and Finance, was sentenced yesterday by Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer to 42 months in prison for embezzling more than $850,000 from this University over the course of a decade. She will begin serving her sentence on April 2, 2012. Our written impact statement, filed with the Court on January 24, and the oral impact statement delivered by me yesterday afternoon on behalf of this Community weighed heavily in the decision to impose a near maximum penalty on Ms. Piros.
This event draws to a close one of the most painful chapters in our history. But it also begins one of the most painful chapters for the family of Susan Piros. Let us go forward into our future knowing that through all of this, we have never faltered in serving our students. And in keeping with our Catholic and Mercy tradition, let us go forward as well with a collective prayer — especially for her children. They also suffer now as victims of her conduct.
Christine M. Wiseman, J.D.