Chris Powell: Paying criminal prof $60,400 to go away

What was more or less a triumph of public administration was announced last week at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, which obtained the resignation of an English professor, Ravi Shankar, who had amassed a long criminal record and even had received a promotion while serving a jail sentence, though the university said it had not known that he was locked up at the time.   

Even so, the university declined to fire Shankar, uncertain if the professors union’s contract allowed it. Noting that the professor's crimes occurred off campus, the union and a local state representative who is a union tool argued that they had nothing to do with his job and that criminality is irrelevant to employment in public education.   

But after getting away with making a scandal, Shankar was arrested again, this time accused of expensive shoplifting, prompting the university to suspend him without pay last August. Last week's resolution: Central has paid Shankar $60,400 to resign and he can never work again in the state university system.   

Of course, few criminals working in the private sector get severance pay like that, but since public administration in Connecticut long has been practically against the law, the university system probably achieved the best possible outcome for the public.

If Shankar had not been bought off this way, he might have sued for wrongful dismissal and, given the political composition of the state Supreme Court, in a few years he might have won a decision that no government employee can be fired for anything less than mass murder and that he was owed millions of dollars in retroactive pay and lawyer costs.  

While such a decision would have established formal precedent that criminality doesn't matter to employment by government in Connecticut, people who pay attention might have figured this out already from the newspapers.


SURPRISE! ALL TEACHERS ARE GREAT: Releasing the first summary of teacher evaluations in local school systems, the state Education Department reports that 99 percent of Connecticut's teachers have won the top two ratings, "exemplary"  and "proficient," with only 1 percent rated "developing" or "below standard." So either schools have the best class of employees of any industry in Connecticut or the evaluation system functions only as political cover for school administrators, school boards and teacher unions.   

Since individual teacher evaluations are exempt from the state's freedom-of-information law lest schools ever operate in the public interest rather than their own interest, there is no way for the public to verify any evaluation or to evaluate the administrators who do the evaluating. Besides, if evaluation summaries keep getting published, any administrator who rates a teacher "below standard" will risk getting questioned about his failure to replace him.   

Just as there's no sense in asking the barber if you need a haircut, there's no sense in asking school administrators if they are maintaining high standards with their teaching staffs. What else are they going to say?    The law requires the evaluations of all other government employees in the state to be public. So either open the teacher evaluation process to full disclosure and let students and their parents participate in it, or stop wasting time and money on the charade.


WHERE GUNFIRE IS NORMAL: Residents of East Windsor and Willington are alarmed that the state police propose locating a weapons training range in their towns.  The townspeople fear that the noise of pistol and rifle fire will be disruptive and diminish property values and ruin the character of their towns.    They don't know how lucky they are. The new range could go in Hartford, Bridgeport, or New Haven and the gunfire might not even be noticed.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.