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May 4, 2014

TO:

David Wilson, Dean
College of Art & Sciences

FROM:

Michael Erickson, Professor
English Department

RE:

Webster University Thailand

Thank you for the opportunity to teach in Thailand. I’ve had a great experience in Southeast
Asia. The land, the culture, the people are all wonderful. Teaching here has been a
challenge, but rewarding as well. I’ve come to respect and admire many of my colleagues
who are doing good work under trying circumstances. The students are a mixed bag to be
sure, but some are hard workers who sincerely want an American education.
Shortly after I arrived at Webster University Thailand it became evident to me that there are
some serious issues here around academic quality, safety, and infrastructure. The following
notes are from my observations and discussions with a wide cross-section of faculty,
students, and an administrator. I did not initiate or prompt these discussions. People were
eager to talk to me about their experiences at WUT. People wanted someone from the
outside to hear their stories. Again and again students and faculty would say to me, “You
must tell people what’s going on here.” So I started taking notes.
In most cases I was able to find multiple sources to confirm a story. For example, I was able
to confirm the story that Rector Ratish Thakur did threaten American students’ lives in
meetings in the fall 2010. I have extensive records kept by students including eyewitness
testimony. Both past and present faculty have confirmed the threats.
The academic climate is so bad here that at last year’s graduation ceremony both the
valedictorian (an MBA graduate) and the honored speaker plagiarized large portions of their
speeches. Bizarrely, the student bragged about his intended plagiarism to friends before he
gave his speech. This was widely known at the time and nothing was said or done about it.
People are afraid to speak out publicly. As an administrator recently told me, faculty here
are ruled by fear and apathy.
For example, the new WUT BA in Animation is being forced on the Media
Communications faculty who are unanimously opposed to the program. There is no
equipment (computers, software, etc.), no tech support, no money, and no qualified faculty
to lead or teach an animation program. The head of marketing, Samrat Ray Chaudhuri,
simply cut and pasted it from the Webster St. Louis web site. Faculty who have questioned
the ethics of this have been told to shut up or leave.
Given the climate of threats, intimidation, and retribution here I have largely omitted
specific names in this report. I would like to include them, but the administration here has a

 

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well-earned reputation for vindictive terminations for even the most mild criticism or
suggestions. For example: In fall 2010 Grant Chapman had a confidential meeting with
faculty to listen to their concerns about WUT. Despite assurances that he would hold their
comments in confidence, Grant immediately told administrators everything he’d just heard.
All the faculty who confided in Grant were soon fired. Two were held up to public ridicule.
One was allowed to keep his job, but at a price. Grant was here again a few months ago.
This time only one faculty member met with him confidentially to express concerns. Again
Grant told Nisha Ray Chauduri everything the faculty member said. Nisha has already
started telling people she’s replacing that individual.
Not surprisingly, Nisha Ray Chaudhuri is an enthusiastic partner in Ratish Thakur’s
administration. Many faculty tell of her brutal firings and threats. The faculty turnover
rate here has been staggering:
- Well over 90 faculty and staff have been fired or quit in the last five years, a turnover
rate of over 125%.
-From the fall of 2012 to spring 2014 there has been a 40% turnover of faculty.
-Five more people are leaving this spring, including Robin Ramcharan, College of Arts
and Sciences Department Head. All of his efforts to be an effective leader have been
thwarted by the administration.
- The new Department Head of Media Communications has earned the ire of the
administration and will probably be leaving soon.
- In another recent case, a department coordinator, one of WUT’s most successful
teachers and published scholars, was threatened after he raised a question about a
Nisha Ray Chaudhuri proposal. Her husband, Samrat Ray Chaudhuri, head of
Marketing, Recruitment & Admissions, said that merely questioning Nisha’s
judgment was justification for firing.
Those not fired often leave under duress. The last WUT librarian quit after he was
pressured by Rector Ratish Thakur to write negative letters about staff the administration
wanted to fire. The librarian refused and quit. He has not been replaced. Incidents like
these in recent years have left an undeniable climate of fear and paranoia on campus.
Quite a few students and faculty tell me they believe administrators in St. Louis know
what is happening at WUT and are deliberately turning a blind eye to it. Many have told
me they’ve contacted officials at Webster St. Louis. Often, they are referred back to
Grant Chapman. Many have given up. They believe that Webster has placed money
above academic integrity and human rights.
Still, despite the threats, coercion, and apathy here, there are many faculty and students
who tell me they want the truth to come out about WUT. There are some good programs
here, as well as good faculty and students. Many faculty and students feel the school
could still become be a thriving, financially stable, successful American university.

 

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Primary Observations:
The normal infrastructure of an American liberal arts, residential university has
been gutted to save money at WUT. A partial list of what’s missing:
There has been no psychological counselor on staff for some time (much needed since a
student dies here every year, and many more are seriously injured in accidents and
assaults). Students with special needs are told not to come to WUT.
No psychological services (on campus or off) for veterans suffering from PTSD of
whom there are several.
No librarian.
An embarrassingly poor library.
No bookstore.
Little media department equipment.
Uncomfortable, hot classrooms. Very poor (and noisy) classroom air-conditioning.
Student TOEFL and gpa admissions standards have been lowered far below what is
necessary for student success. This contributes to low retention.
No writing center and no writing center staff. A huge failing considering the large
student population with below college level TOEFL scores. Many students can barely
speak English. (The administration claims students can use the online writing center in
St. Louis. Few students know about it or use it.)
No academic tutors in any subject, especially English (desperately needed).
WUT website contains false and misleading information about programs and credentials.
Departments have no support staff.
No math or science teacher.
No faculty senate or other from of faculty participation or governance.
No vice-rector (the rector is rarely seen on campus).
No functional athletic field, gym or athletic equipment.
No stated budget for student government.
Work-study positions go unfilled.
Few clubs or activities. A business club and Rotaract Club are active with little support
from the administration.

 

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Most on campus activities seem to be Media Communications department sponsored or
class projects.
No student newspaper or online journal.
No career services office or programs to speak of. (Again students are told to use the
online St. Louis office. Few know about it or use it.)
Student Affairs does little except impose fees and fines on students. (SA director is exNavy with no university experience.)
An administrator has recently proposed cutting RA positions from the hotel residences.
This would not only be immoral, but it would be a violation of the Clery Act.
Faculty research support has also been eliminated, although faculty are still required to
do research and publish.
(It should be noted that many of these positions, services, programs and standards were
present at WUT ten years ago. Student academic levels were higher and the student
population was roughly the same as it is today. Source: Roy Avecilla, Department Head
School of Business and Technology.)
Budget cuts and firings have been punitive and severe.
Many key positions such as librarian have gone unfilled for months or years. Support
staffing is down to the bone. Many support staff have quit and not been replaced.
Overtime pay has been eliminated. Remaining staff do the work of two or three workers
in some cases. Three HR people have come and gone in the past year. HR work has been
pushed on to the person who handles visas. While this person knows visas, he is
untrained in HR. The HR job is particularly difficult here because of all the turnovers
and the many different contracts the administration uses.
Faculty firings and turnover have destroyed academic integrity and cohesion in
programs.
From January 2009 to today more than 90 faculty and senior staff were either fired or quit
WUT. This has had a devastating impact on academic programs.
Of the 37 full-time A and B faculty, only 8 are women. This gender imbalance is reflected
in the culture at WUT. It also sends a terrible message to the students.
Many faculty are local, long time ex-pats from a variety of countries. Few know much
about Webster University or its programs. Only 12 of the 37 are from North America
(although the WUT website claims half the faculty are from N. America).
Faculty are given one year contracts only. They can be fired without a stated reason. Their
benefits and pay have been systematically cut. This is very disruptive to departmental
planning and course scheduling. Last minute adjunct replacements are common, often a

 

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week or two into the semester.
Faculty governance and participation in WUT is virtually nonexistent. Faculty do serve on
the Disciplinary Committee, one of the few functioning committees. (Functioning is a
relative term here. A Nepalese student last year was arrested by Thai police for possession
of meth and other drug paraphernalia in his room. Nisha told the Disciplinary Committee to
give the student a warning, not expulsion as the faculty wanted. Her reasoning? It was near
the end of the semester. They did what she wanted.)
Faculty representatives are appointed to the Executive Committee in secret crony
maneuvers, despite the administration’s open call for self nominations.
Faculty morale is at rock bottom.
WUT is an American university in name only.
This administration seems to know nothing about what constitutes an American university.
Freedom of speech, academic standards and rigor, research support, student support and
services, as well as a “student centered” education are conspicuous by their absence. This is
not a cultural divide between the American way of education vs. the Indian way of doing
business. It is rather that the top administrators here do not know what a real American
university education consists of, and have no interest in finding out. This is understandable
since none of them went to a real American university in the first place. Their own
academic experiences were with low-end academic degree mills (some have since been
closed), which is what they are replicating at WUT. They have lowered academic standards
far below what they were ten years ago and slashed student services. They actually brag
about how much money they’re saving by doing this. I honestly believe they have no idea
what a real American university is.
When I heard that WUT administrators have openly questioned the credentials of some
Webster St. Louis faculty and administrators (Dan Hellinger and David Wilson), I
became curious and started looking at WUT faculty and administrator credentials.
Interestingly, WUT’s own website does not list schools where degrees were earned for
several faculty, especially business faculty (and administrators). I did a cursory
background search of some of academic claims made by WUT faculty and
administrators and found some discrepancies. A more thorough investigation may be
warranted.
Health and safety issues are present on campus and in housing.
There is strong evidence of gang assaults by WUT students of other WUT students off
campus. This semester a group of six Nepali students attacked an Australian student in a bar
in Hua Hin. The Australian was sitting with a Nepalese woman. This was apparently the
trigger for the assault. An American student tried to help the Australian and he was beaten.
Days later, the American (a veteran with PTSD) later assaulted someone he believed to be
in the Nepali gang. As he drove by the student on a motorbike, he slashed the student’s
throat with a knife or similar weapon. I know the student whose throat was slashed. He had
nothing to do with the original gang assault. He’s Bhutanese, not Nepalese. He was taken to

 

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a hospital where he received several stitches. The American has since disappeared. After a
delay of several weeks, the six Nepalese were brought before the Disciplinary Committee.
Crucial video evidence from the bar has been erased. Most faculty believe the six will not
be expelled for the initial attack. This group is also well known for the sale and distribution
of drugs on campus. (Addendum: the DC voted to expel one student in the gang attack. The
administration has yet to respond.)
Veterans suffering PTSD have had violent classroom meltdowns.
Some rapes and assaults on women have been reported, but it is unclear what, if anything,
has been done. Again, nothing in Clery reports.
No fire fighting equipment on the Cha-Am campus, except for a few old wall canisters. No
emergency plans or notification systems evident. Broken, cracked walkways. Moldy smell
evident in ESL rooms. Smell of raw sewage common. Several students have been injured
and died in traffic accidents in recent years. WUT has not responded to this with any policy
changes. Incidents of intimidation and assault are not handled well, or at all.
Academic standards and quality control are not much in evidence.
Book ordering is discouraged if not impossible. Few classes ever have books. There is no
bookstore. Faculty must make their own copies. They are forced to copy large portions of
textbooks, an international copyright violation. Copying is difficult at best. I know of only
three available machines on campus. There are no departmental support staff to do copying.
There is a staff person in the library who can copy for classes (one of the people the rector
tried to force the former librarian to fire). Students must pay for library copying. (They are
already paying a fee for the library in their tuition.)
While many students do have a good work ethic, there are many who do not. Faculty say
they feel pressured by administrators to pass students who shouldn’t be passed.
Some classes assign no homework. Students report class work is often far less than that
stated on the course syllabus. Students report not getting midterm exams back for some
classes.
Some faculty do not take attendance. Some do. Some do not impose the 3 absence school
policy, others do. The situation is confusing to students. Others take full advantage of it.
Some students brag that they’ve figured out how to avoid class and still get A’s.
Cheating and plagiarism are widespread and plainly evident. Students willingly report
widespread cheating. Some even defend it. Some students have figured out how to get
faculty computer passwords and have stolen exams and PowerPoints.
The business program is a sham according to many students in the program. Media
Communications has some strong faculty and classes. They are almost the only program
sponsoring and promoting activities on campus.
International Relations is the only program that appears to be at an American university
level.

 

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Communication between the administration and faculty and students is almost
nonexistent.
The tight clique that runs WUT is secretive, dictatorial and inaccessible. Most were at
Stamford University together (a local Hua Hin university widely regarded as a low-end
degree mill). There are two married couples in this clique. Faculty and students have no real
say in academic issues or governance. Communication is one-way, usually in the form of
email directives. A few days before the two day Songkran break an email was sent out
adding a third day to the break. Another email a few days ago cancelled Monday finals due
to Coronation Day. How did they not know about this and anticipate it in academic
calendar?
Samrat Ray Chaudhuri (he serves on the Executive Committee with wife Nisha) is fond of
telling WUT faculty members that Thai professors make half of what they do. He has
repeatedly stated his desire to go to an entirely part-time faculty.
Very questionable financial practices at all levels, especially in student accounts.
Students are relentlessly hit with new fees. Some are ridiculous: an athletic fee (there is no
athletic program or equipment, soccer fields are abandoned). Study abroad students are hit
with “maintenance service” fees ($300-$400) after they leave. Despite repeated inquires the
charges are never explained. There are even library fees! Student visa fees are charged well
above what the government charges. Housing charges are well above direct pay prices for
the same rooms. There is a student government fee, yet the student government has no
budget. Friends and family are charged to attend the graduation ceremony of their sons and
daughters. There’s even a new fee for non-Media Communications students to take Media
Communications courses, 1,200 Baht a class. There are fines and fees for late registration,
2,000 Baht ($60), and class adds and drops. They’ve even turned a no-smoking campaign
into a revenue generator. For the annual “smoke out” days, students can pay 2,000 Baht
(two days) for the right to smoke on campus. There is no accounting to students and faculty
of where these funds go.
Where does the money go?
I recently met with Roy Avecilla, Department Head of Business. A concerned student in the
business program arranged the meeting. After we sat down, the first thing he said to me was
that he didn’t know anything about misappropriation of funds at WUT. I hadn’t asked him
about misappropriation of funds, and I hadn’t planned on asking him about that. I asked
him what misappropriation of funds? He told me he isn’t involved in budgetary matters so
he didn’t know. Clearly, the issue was on his mind, and clearly he wanted me know he
didn’t have anything to do with whatever it is that he has no knowledge of (supposedly).
Students report their family and financial aid deposits are held for months.
Students say they are often denied access to funds already deposited. WUT will tell them
the money was not received; yet families can produce evidence from their banks showing
the money was transferred.

 

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Operational bills are reportedly not paid in timely fashion.
Septic tanks were not cleaned for three weeks at midterm. The stench on campus was
undeniable. Necessary maintenance on campus is clearly deferred beyond reasonable limits.
The explanation is that the campus is moving to Bangkok. In reality, nothing has been done
to facilitate campus relocation. The office move in Bangkok has been delayed for months as
well.
Departments are often denied reasonable requests for academic funding, research,
guest speakers, etc.
The Media Communications Department Head was denied funds to attend a worldwide
conference of Webster Media Communications department heads. Faculty research funds
have been eliminated. Funding for a faculty proposed conference in Bangkok was approved
and then rescinded twice. The faculty member was told to pay for the conference out of his
own pocket. He cancelled it.
Low scoring ESL students are recruited and not supported.
Entrance TOEFL scores for WUT are far below normal university standards for
undergraduate (400 or lower) and graduate programs (500 or lower). Students are admitted
with little chance of success. Faculty have no support to help these students who land in
their classes. ESL and GCP programs are haphazardly maintained and run. ESL program is
inadequate to meet needs of students, especially while they are also taking college courses.
WUT has a very low first year retention rate, probably because of ESL problems.
Even after taking ESL classes many students still cannot score high enough on the TOEFL
to pass. To address this Nisha Ray Chaudhuri has just changed the ESL program so that
students who get a high grade in an ESL class will not have to retake the TOEFL. This will
result in even more unqualified students entering WUT majors. It is also an example of the
clever, but shortsighted problem solving employed at WUT.
The treatment of students from China is particularly troublesome.
Chinese students are especially isolated both in and out of class. Many leave within the first
year. Many say that marketing representatives make promises to them that are not kept. One
new student recruit was left at the airport for six hours while her parents in China franticly
tried to contact Webster officials.
Marketing and Recruitment reps make false promises to student recruits.
New MBA students repeatedly claim that WUT marketing reps promise them jobs. MA IR
students say that recruiters tell them they can do the MA IR program in a year. In both cases
faculty report that they have to regularly tell students that these claims, the claims that often
brought students to WUT, are false. Marketing recently wanted to admit a student with a
1.6 gpa.

 

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To be fair, the WUT administration has made some changes since the fall 2010 crisis:
The new campus nurse can speak English.
Rooms with black mold have been cleaned or closed off.
The library is open most mornings.
Bathrooms are kept cleaner.
Buses are now Webster owned and run on time (for the most part).
But a lot of promises made in 2010 have not been kept: regular communication with
students and faculty, transparency, attention to infrastructure, etc.
“Balancing” the WUT budget has come at a terrible price in student services, faculty
engagement, academic quality, infrastructure, and health and safety. Strangely, it has now
come to light that WUT’s supposed budget surplus from last spring has disappeared. A
$900,000 surplus vanished sometime between last spring and December. Where did it go?
Certainly, it wasn’t spent on students or academic programs. The Bangkok Center move has
been delayed and delayed again. The rector tells faculty and others that the Cha Am campus
will be moving soon. Two years ago he said it would be in 2015. Last year it was 2016.
This year he says it will be 2017. In fact, nothing has been done. They haven’t even begun
the process of selecting a consultant for the project. The truth is they’re going nowhere.
The longterm situation at WUT is unsustainable. No organization can survive this level of
fear, turnovers, and gutted institutional support systems for very long. There is certainly
enough evidence present to warrant independent, outside audits of WUT’s finances and
academic programs. WUT and Webster University’s reputations have suffered because of
the situation here. There is no Webster University identity present, no sense of purpose, no
pride of belonging here. Nor can there be in an institution ruled by fear and apathy. Many
students have asked me if their WUT degrees will be worth anything in the outside world.

 

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Not that anyone is asking, but here’s my overall impression:
- WUT does not meet the academic standards of an American liberal arts, residential
university.
- Student services are terrible or nonexistent.
- Health and safety issues (and liabilities) are significant.
- Funds may have been misappropriated.
- The administration terrorizes and bullies its faculty and students who speak out or
innocently cross them.
My recommendations are:
- We immediately suspend study abroad approvals to WUT.
- The administrative team at WUT needs to be replaced immediately.
- A full independent financial audit of WUT needs to be conducted as soon as possible.
- A full academic audit of WUT by concerned programs in St. Louis needs to be conducted.
- If we cannot do the above we should consider closing WUT.
Furthermore, I believe the Webster faculty senate should be brought up to date on what’s
been going on at WUT. This affects many programs. Some questions need to be answered:
Why, for example has this gone on so long? Why has it been allowed to get so bad? How
has someone who threatened the lives of students been allowed to continue at the head of an
American university?

 

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Here are some of my more detailed notes:
Academic:
This first one says a lot about the academic climate and rigor at WUT.
Both the spring 2013 valedictorian and the guest speaker plagiarized their speeches.
The student, an MBA graduate, plagiarized from a Steve Jobs speech. He boasted about his
plan to deliver a plagiarized speech to his friends before he delivered the speech!
(Subsequent investigation has revealed that the student’s motives may have been revenge at
being used to do a faculty’s Ph.D. research as part of the student’s class work.) The quest
speaker (a woman on the University Council) plagiarized part of her speech from “A Road
Less Traveled.” A faculty member in attendance recognized the plagiarism immediately and
reported it. Nothing was ever said or done about either instance of such public, humiliating,
plagiarism.
Faculty turnover has damaged academic cohesion. (40% in 18 months.) Both teaching and
advising suffer with such high turnover rates. The new Global Citizenship requirements
have been poorly implemented. They did not plan for the capstone course requirement. I
talked to a student who must stay an extra semester just to take the capstone course. This is
a result of poor planning and implementation of academic policy.
Competent faculty from reputable schools who ask questions are routinely driven out, while
lousy but docile faculty are kept on. (Evidence from 2010 to today is convincing.) One new
business faculty here is the main feature of a student Facebook page where 6 students have
detailed his creepy sexual advances. A senior business major told me the first four weeks of
the man’s finance classes were incomprehensible gibberish. This poor hiring may explain
why the business department here is such a shambles. (To be fair, Roy is dealing with this
faculty member and has fired him.)
There is evidence of several undergraduate and graduate faculty listing degrees they either
do not have yet, or never attained. Some attended universities that subsequently lost their
accreditation or their programs were cut. Ratish Thakur claims to have a 1997 MBA from
Southeastern University in Washington D.C., a university that lost its accreditation and
closed in 2009. Prior to its closing it had become a degree mill. Many faculty here question
his actual credentials. Faculty say he has given conflicting versions of his degree history. In
one bio (I have a copy of it) he misspells Southeastern. Verification inquiries for
Southeastern University are handled by Graduate School USA (they hold the records for the
defunct Southeastern).
An instructor in a marketing class had students do marketing and web designs for several
Thai companies as an exercise. He then turned around and sold the student’s ideas to those
companies as his own. He reportedly got 50,000 Baht from one contact! When this was
revealed, the administration simply told him to stop. The students were not compensated for
their work; the instructor was not reprimanded. There has been no follow up by the
administration.
Academic standards here are far below any comparable university in the U.S. Students are
admitted with TOEFL scores in the low 400’s, and even as low as 350. A score of 550 is
considered essential for a student to have any hope of succeeding in an undergraduate

 

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program. The dropout rate is, as a result, high, particularly among Chinese students. A
member of the marketing team told me point blank that Chinese students are lied to in
recruitment. They are promised things that Webster won’t deliver. They are also told
Webster is a very prestigious school in Thailand, something considered important in China.
The case of the Chinese students at WUT is particularly sad. They are shunted into
elementary ESL classes and then passed along, particularly if they’re in the business
program. The ESL and GCP coordinator is in Bangkok most of the week completing his
own PhD at a Thai university. Because of poor language and study skills many students
drop out.
Most WUT students tend to stay within their nationality groups. There is little interaction
between students. Little opportunity for Chinese students to learn English from their
peers. The administration has done little to improve this situation.
I would estimate the language skill level of the majority of my students to be in the U.S.
7th to 9th grade range. I’ve had to cut more than 50% of my assignments and reading
because the students simply can’t do the work. Most have never written a proper college
paper. Psychology students say they only take multiple-choice exams. A business faculty
told me that he never assigns papers. “It’s too much work,” he said. “Besides writing is
subjective.” Another business faculty told me, “I’m not paid enough to grade papers.”
Many 3-hour classes meet for 2 hours or less. Faculty talk about this in a surprisingly
matter of fact way. There is no embarrassment. Most classes have no books. (I was told I
couldn’t order books here and given no other alternative.) It’s not unusual to see students
coming to classes with no books, no notebooks, only a cell phone.
Student academic skills are abysmal. Most do not read. Again and again faculty tell me
this, and I saw it first hand. Most students have acquired little in the way of critical
reading, thinking, or writing skills.
Student cheating and plagiarism are rampant, obvious, and well documented. Before
midterms, students on the bus one day were openly sharing Nisha’s previous midterm
exam in a business class.
Some faculty report not assigning homework because, “They won’t do it anyway.” Many
faculty do not require written work at all. One professor told me that writing essays was
“subjective” and he could not grade subjective work. Other faculty confirmed this opinion.
Many faculty only use multiple choice exams, or group presentations.
The library is wholly inadequate to support a small university population. Very few
holdings. Books are routinely stolen by students. No security system in place. No librarian
on staff. The library meeting room has poor AC and becomes sweltering during meetings.
Just before midterm I heard students on the bus trading past exams with other students.
They were openly cheating and did not seem to mind my presence. The most popular exam
to score was Nisha Ray Chaudhuri’s business class. Apparently, she does not change her
multiple-choice questions from semester to semester.
My students were very wonderful people, but lacked the basic reading and writing skills to
be successful in college. When I assigned a paper in one of my classes one student told me
that she was a psychology major and they don’t do paper. My media communications

 

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students complained about my reading requirements saying they are unused to reading in
their classes.
All material for classes must be copied from textbooks. Massive international copyright
violations here. Copying is very difficult here and very time consuming. Only three
functioning copiers available on campus to students and faculty. Copy paper is tightly
regulated and often hard to come by.
Office supplies are kept in a locked room and only one person has the key. You have to sign
out for everything, even for a box of paper clips. This seems a bit penny-wise pound-foolish
in view of the disappearance of last spring’s budget surplus.
Student concerns:
Several past and present students report being threatened after pestering administrators with
requests. The usual threat is “Bad things can happen in Thailand.”
No writing center. Used to have one as recently as the David Morgan era. Now closed.
Students desperately need help with writing skills.
No counseling center. No counselor on staff. Students had no one for grief counseling after
death of Harry Rossignol Jr.
No tutoring for students who need help, especially in English. No English language floors
in any of the hotel/dorms. No language labs, etc.
Student newspaper, print, stopped when Ratish took over. There is no online student paper.
No Webster Today access. No internal communication organ, except the occasional email
from administrators telling people what to do.
Students are admitted who are clearly not able to succeed in college. TOEFL entrance
scores for WUT have been lowered below 400, far below that required to be minimally
successful in college level work. Some students are not tested until after they’ve entered
WUT. The present ESL program is wholly inadequate.
The ESL and GCP coordinator was rarely around this semester. (My office was in the same
suite.) Lost students would often ask me where he was.
Financial aid and family student deposits are being held for unreasonable lengths of
time. A Nepalese student couldn’t access 100,000 Baht his parents deposited for him for
over two months. It was only after loud complaints on his behalf that the money was freed
up. Students tell story after story about funds being held up. Many say they live on ramen
noodles for weeks. Many students believe the administration waits for favorable fluctuation
before disbursing funds to students. A lot of student financial aid flows through the
administration. It is frequently held up. (I believe, based on reliable sources, that the
administration is robbing Peter to pay Paul, and has been doing so for some long time.)
Housing is over charged above actual rate. Students pay above going rate for same rooms.
Students are locked into unbreakable contracts.

 

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Students report consistently paying above market rates for common services like visa
renewal. Other fees like “maintenance charge” are never explained.
Student government has no budget. There is a Treasurer, but she has not duties except to
ask administration for money requests for activities. Requests are accepted, denied, or
tabled without any comment. Students report no communication avenues with
administration. Students in government say they are often recruited to stage events for the
administration.
Students are charged an athletic fee, yet athletic facilities are nearly non-existent.
Students are told not to use the unmaintained soccer filed. The “gym” is shabby and in
disrepair. There are a handful of balls, most worn out or flat. There is no equipment.
A dozen WUT students are former U.S. military. They are so upset at conditions that they
are threatening to tell veteran organizations in Bangkok, Pattaya, and abroad about the
situation. GI money is a big part of WUT budget.
A visiting professor from the Business Dept. in St. Louis, Pat Masidonski, met with
students and heard their concerns in the last year. They say she was horrified by the stories.
They say she apologized several times for what is happening.
A former member of the WUT marketing team says schools and families in China are
routinely lied to about WUT’s reputation and facilities. Chinese students are particularly
isolated at WUT since their English is usually very poor. The usually standard for university
acceptance is a TOFEL score of 550. WUT accepts student from China with scores in the
400 – 350 range. The present ESL courses are not enough to bring the Chinese students up
to 550. Many leave in their first year: 20%. Many do not socialize outside their Chinese
student community. There is no tutoring availing on campus. No writing center. No
mentorship programs. Some manage to graduate without ever learning English well enough
to function at the college level. This is because faculty feel they have no option but to pass
them along. My source tells me that when the students return to China their WUT degrees
are worthless. He reports that words is spreading in high schools that WUT is not a good
place for Chinese students.
Nisha has just announced a change in graduate school ESL assessment (faculty were not
consulted on this change). Graduate students taking ESL classes will not have to retake
TOEFL if they get an “A” in the 1000 level class, or a “B+” in the 2000 level class. This is
an attempt to clear the backlog of grad students who cannot pass the minimum TOEFL
scores. It now puts ESL instructors right in the bull’s eye of the administration’s wrath if
students don’t get high grades in ESL classes. Graduate school instructors they have many
students whose English is so poor they can’t possible write a dissertation. This is a perfect
example of how this administration is destroying this school.
In the recent student government election several students ran on an anti-administration
platform. They won. Student Services cut the days of student speeches from two days to
one. The election dates were changed at the last minute. Students say SGA is exploited
by Student Services to do the work Student Services should be doing while being denied
funds to do events the students would like to do.

 

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There was a near revolt on campus after the death of student Harry Rossignol Jr.
Students organized the memorial in the library (not WUT staff). Ratish did not plan to
attend, but rushed to the scene after being threatened by students. (He got there late and
made a speech about himself. He told us this was the fourth time he’d had to tell parents
the news of a student death in four years. He made no mention of what we might do to
prevent this from happening in the future.) Ross died in a motorbike accident.
Later, during the release of candle lit kites outside, a palm tree next to a building caught
on fire. (Not a good idea during dry season.) I, and a few students, saw how serious this
was. I ran to the tree and called upon students to find fire-fighting equipment. All we
could find was a garden hose. While students tried to douse the fire, I ran in search of
more hoses, ladders, or any other fire-fighting equipment. NOTHING! Because the fire
was in the crown of the palm, our hose was not quite long enough. A student climbed on
top of another student’s shoulders to shoot the water high enough. This worked. If the
tree next to this one had caught fire, the west wing of WUT would certainly have caught
fire. At one point I turned around to look for others to help. All of the administrators and
faculty had left the scene. The fire department (assuming there is on in Cha Am) was
never called. Once the fire was under control I walked back to the administration
building. Ratish and Nisha had their head together in deep conversation, ignoring the
students’ efforts to save their school from burning down.
I attended Ross’s funeral in Bangkok. His family couldn’t come to Thailand. The
arrangements seem to have been largely handled by a Thai faculty member who came up
from Hua Hin with 4 or 5 WUT students and 5 teachers at an elementary school where
Ross had been a volunteer. I get there early and joined the faculty member. No WUT
administrators were there. They all arrived just before the ceremony. During the monks
chanted prayers Ratish occasionally checked his cell phone. The head of Student
Services did not come up for the funeral. On the ride back to Hua Hin students gave me
an earful about how WUT is run.
The student blog, Webster Thailand Fourth Estate, details student concerns and actions
from the fall of 2010 to December 2013. I have checked out many of the allegations and
found them to be true. Although at times hyperbolic, the Fourth Estate is a fairly honest
forum for students to express their frustrations with WUT. You can find it at:
http://fourthestate.blog.com.
I have obtained several files kept by students from the 2010 – 2011 turmoil. I was shocked
to discover that nothing at WUT has changed in four years.
Health and safety:
In April, one of my students was slashed in the throat by another WUT student. My student
did not know his assailant: a WUT student on a motorbike with a knife. My student was
taken to a hospital where he required several stitches to close the wound. Another inch
closer to the jugular vein and he would be dead.
It was indeed a case of mistaken identity. The student with the knife thought he was
attacking a member of another gang on campus.
A female student was assaulted in the Hin Nam student residences by another student. A
faculty member living in Hin Nam was notified of the incident. The perpetrator is in the

 

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process of being expelled. WUT Clery report shows no incidents of violence. Yet, there are
several stories of unreported assaults against women.
An ex US marine with a reputation for intimidation and violence graduated from WUT
recently. The administration and faculty were terrified of him. He then moved onto to a
WUT graduate program in Bangkok where he was even more disruptive in class. After he
threw a table in class, a professor told him to get out of class. The ex-marine began calling
Nisha dozens of times during the night. Furious, Nisha threatened the professor! He soon
quit. The ex-marine is still in the Bangkok program.
Faculty issues:
Faculty must “finger in” the new time attendance system. Faculty must be on campus a
minimum of 32 hours each week. Faculty find fingerprint ID degrading. Most teach four
classes and advise and would be here more than 32 hours anyway. They find it creepy, “Big
Brother” like. This contributes to climate of fear and paranoia on campus.
Faculty turnover remains astonishingly high, retention low. I’ve heard more stories than I
can report about faculty who challenged students to work and were later terminated. It
seems that simply exercising your right to free speech and your right to conduct a
challenging class will get you fired here. Many more faculty have quit in disgust with
WUT.
Several younger faculty are completing their PhD’s. Many say they will move on as soon as
possible.
A faculty handbook exists (written by Nisha), but few faculty know about it. No grievance
process. No appeals. No peer reviews of faculty. No written performance evaluation of
faculty.
No representative body for faculty. No senate. Faculty have no rights or protections. Only
one-year contracts.
Academic Committee has been gutted, and will likely be disbanded. Executive Committee
made up of Nisha and her husband and selected faculty. Faculty have no input or say on
agenda. No influence on policy.
Some faculty reportedly not paid for three months at a time. Some report having their pay
cut without notice. Since the HR office has been without an HR officer, contract renewals
are chaotic and stressful.
Student evaluations carry too much weight, say faculty. Since no other forms of evaluations
exist, departmental or administration, student evals take on outsized importance. They can
be used to justify punishing faculty who ask too many questions, or expect too much work
form students.
Six people share media communications office. Over-crowded. Attempts to expand stopped
by Ratish. Said AC was too expensive for space. AC already exists.
James Gomes can't attend worldwide Webster Media Communications program conference

 

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in Geneva. R did not approve funds. Effort seems to keep non-inner circle faculty and staff
from contacts with Webster programs outside Thailand. Reason given is that Gomes is still
on probation.
Faculty concerns about bus drivers. They drive barefoot, sometimes, and on cell phones. A
few weeks ago a driver had a serious accident with a motorbike rider.
A faculty member suggested scooter training offered by local police. Administration nixed
it. No safety training. Administration claimed that safety training would seem to encourage
motorbike riding. Silpakorn University next door bans student use of cars and motorbikes.
Students can only ride bicycles.
Administration discourages faculty exchanges. My visit was approved by Al Cawns last
year. Ratish was not happy when he found out I was coming. The administration has made
absolutely no attempt to welcome me, or to introduce me to staff and faculty.
Faculty have reported finding snakes in classrooms.
Attendance issues: some confusion over the policy. Nisha sent around two emails
detailing the attendance policy for the school. Classes are held once a week in 2 hour 50
minute sessions, for the most part. Some people say this is to accommodate the bus
schedule. Others vehemently deny this. Nisha allows 3 absences per semester. That's 3
allowed misses out of 14 classes. Midterm and final are not counted as classes. Faculty
are forbidden to teach at on midterm or final days, even if time remains. This semester
students stopped a professor who tried to use the time after a midterm for a lesson.
Students reported him to the administration.
WUT website states that its mission is the same as Webster University, but the Webster
University mission statement is not posted.
This year, a new faculty hire flew in from America, stayed two days, and then left.
Faculty say it is not unusual for instructors to not show up for classes. I did see many class
cancellations as well as people covering for absent faculty. Many part-timers are older expats who are coasting. A 73-year-old ex-pat was brought in the second week of classes to
teach a psychology. The original professor never turned up. No explanation. The ex-pat is a
charming old fellow who must take 18 pills a day to stay alive. He usually forgets to bring
his PowerPoint presentations to class and has to “wing it.”
Faculty members complain the marketing department (recruitment and enrollment) is
ineffective and squanders money. They say marketing makes promises that cannot be
fulfilled by programs. Marketing refuses to talk to departments or include them in decision
making. Students confirm that marketing makes promises about WUT that are not true and
cannot be kept.
A former member of the marketing team says that WUT targets under performing students
in China who cannot get into Chinese state universities. Acceptance standards are so low
that some students with poor English skills are admitted. The former marketing team
member also says a student he recruited arrived at the Bangkok airport with no one there to

 

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meet her. The student was left for hours. The family frantically called the recruiter asking
who was meeting their daughter.
WUT administration wants to start a program in animation. There is no equipment at the
campus for such a program. There is no budget to support purchasing the equipment. The
administration claims to have contacted Thai companies about the animation program. They
claim corporate interest and support for the program. Members of faculty have checked
with these companies. The companies say they were never contacted by the administration.
I recently attended a faculty meeting with Ratish and Nisha. Both spoke ebulliently about
how wonderful things are at WUT. Nisha concluded her remarks by asking the faculty if
they had any questions. No one spoke. This was the only meeting between faculty and
administrators all semester and no on spoke. After Ratish spoke (WUT move to Bangkok
coming in three years) there was silence. Nisha suddenly broke into enthusiastic applause.
A smattering of people clapped half heartedly.
What happens to those who speak out:
In fall 2010 Grant Chapman listened to faculty concerns. People told him of confidential
matters. He told everything to administration. All faculty who talked confidentially were
soon fired. Two were held up to public ridicule. Not only was Grant no help, but he helped
Nisha and Ratish root out and fire malcontents.
A faculty who wrote a program report on a proposed expansion of a program to Bangkok
was threatened with being fired for raising questions. He was subject to a 90 minute
interrogation later by Ratish. Faculty are routinely threatened with being fired for behavior
that would be considered normal at a U.S. university.
Jeff Bowman, former librarian, was told by Ratish to write false evaluations on library staff
members Ratish wanted to fire. He refused to frame colleagues. He quit very publically and
circulated his reasons. Faculty who were friendly with Bowman were hauled before the
rector and interrogated about their loyalties.
Detskada Prapaporn was the long time, successful registrar. Very well regarded. Quit
abruptly under administration pressure to favor some faculty. Maureen Ricafort from
Business took over. Favoritism now dominates class day and time assignments. A
previously neutral office has been politicized.
More recently, students claim to have been warned by the rector, “Bad things can happen to
you in Thailand.” James Jain, Finance Controller and a close associate to the rector, is also
alleged to have threatened faculty. He suggested in a meeting three years ago that hiring
thugs to hurt people in Thailand is easy and inexpensive. Faculty present replied if that was
true they could also hire thugs to hurt people. They were all subsequently fired.
Cronyism and corruption:
Faculty positions are not advertised in usual academic journals and websites like Chronicle
of Higher Education. They rely on own website and small Thai organs. The new registrar
advertised for her assistant on her Facebook page! Naturally, only her friends applied for
the position. One example of many instances of rampant cronyism.

 

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The visiting faculty in Bangkok from Grenoble’s Ecole de Management, Prof. Leslie
Kleb, is Nisha’s dissertation advisor. He lives in the Netherlands and only teaches online.
She’s brought him out to teach in Thailand. He loves it here.
The WUT website contains many outright fabrications and lies. The school does not
have 600 students (probably less than 380). Some faculty listed as having PhD’s do not
in fact have PhD’s (at least not yet). More than half the faculty are not from North
America as WUT claims (less than a third are N. American, in fact most are from the
Philippines or other countries). Most PR photos show lots of white students (a fact that is
used to sell the school, particularly in India) when there are few. Career services and
professional contacts are virtually nil, and so on. Four of the school’s top six officers are
married to each other. All six are close friends. Reputable, long tenured administrators
like the executive asst., financial officer, and the registrar were either forced out or quit,
some over falsification of QA documents.
The rector claims that all Thai universities falsify data in the IQA and the EQA. He says
WUT is the only school that doesn’t falsify data in the QA’s. Many faculty here believe
that is a false claim.
Benjamas was the previous, long term QA officer. She said to many people the books were
cooked. She left because she did not want to be a party to fraud. Falsification of information
to the Thai government is a crime. She may have kept evidence of this, possibly to protect
herself when this comes to light.
Several housekeepers were fired last year. Told they looked too old. Told students didn’t
need to be reminded of old people. Truth is they were near retirement and WUT thought it
would save money by firing them.
Samrat marketing dept., recruiting students, junkets around world. Highly inefficient dept.
Trips to exotic places for “recruitment.” Recruitment is falling short. No numbers available.
Expense/result ratio must be terrible.
Several faculty report that families sometimes pressure administrators into keeping students
who should be expelled for academic or behavioral reasons.
Here is an excerpt from a recent email I received from a Webster St. Louis study abroad
student. She was a student at WUT in spring 2012.
....The class was a literature into film class that I took Spring 2012.
I wouldn't want to file a formal complaint about him or anything, because in the
end I realized he wasn't really a bad guy...just a crappy teacher and a little crazy.
I did have one really weird issue with him, which was what I contacted you for
advice on. The way the class was set up was that there were 3 tests throughout
the course of the semester. No papers, no assignments, just the 3 tests. When
our first test was assigned, he made a really big deal about how easy it was going
to be and that no one needed to study or worry about it. The test was comprised
of about 6 very general, opinion based questions. Very elementary questions like
"Why do you think Kurt Vonnegut used time travel in the book? Did you like it or
not like it?" Stuff that would be on a high school freshman's English test. I
answered the questions pretty thoroughly. The next class he passed out the tests
and I received a 70%. I was really frustrated by that grade, especially since it

 

20  

was one of only 3 grades we'd be receiving and because the test was pretty
ludicrous in the first place. But the really weird part was that he then gave me
the graded test of another study abroad student who was absent and told me to
take it to her. This seemed inappropriate anyway, because he could have just
given it to her the next class. But since I had her paper, I could see that she
received a 100% and had written really basic, half-assed, misspelled answers to
all the questions. The way he graded my paper, and then the way he made a
point to give me Ashley's paper was all very weird and felt like he was trying to
personally make me feel bad. He made me feel really weird when he gave me her
paper, too, like he was trying to prove a point and he wanted me to take it
personally. It seemed like a trivial thing for me to get upset about, so I tried not
to worry about it, but I also felt like I was in a situation were I was being
targeted by this guy for some weird reason.
What made it even weirder was that I was pretty much the only person in the
class doing any of the reading assignments. Some of the students hadn't even
bought the book. I think the girl who got the 100% grade actually even said in
class that she didn't like the book and hadn't been reading it. In the beginning, I
treated the class like I would any English class. I did my homework, took notes,
prepared ideas to talk about during discussions. No one really participated except
to make fun of the book and talk about how stupid Kurt Vonnegut was. But then I
started to get the feeling that the professor actually didn't like that I was doing
the work and trying to think critically about it. And the professor pretty much just
made fun of the book, too. Every time I commented on the book in a way that
would be normal for a Webster English class, he seemed to get really
uncomfortable. There was another study abroad student in the class who dropped
the class after the first few weeks for this exact reason.
After the following class of getting my test back, I tried to talk to him about it and
he said he was really busy and had to make copies and couldn't talk. He tried to
brush me off and literally just kind of walked out of the classroom while I was
talking to him. He said something like "I just gave you that grade because I know
you're smart and I want to challenge you." I explained that because I was trying
to keep my GPA for the honors program, it mattered to me that I was receiving
low scores and that I would drop his class if I needed to. He said he'd raise my
score and that was the end of it. The whole thing wasn't a huge deal, just a really
bizarre interaction to have to have with a college professor. I felt like I was
dealing with this total nut and because the WUT campus is such a weird place,
there was pretty much nothing I could do about any of it.
As the semester continued, I stopped trying to talk about any of the reading
assignments intelligently. The professor started being nice to me once I started
participating at the level of a 15-year old. I ended up getting an A in the class,
basically by acting dumber. For the rest of the semester, the whole class was
spent with everyone just trashing whatever book we were reading. Since I was
stuck in that situation, I just took it for what it was worth. It ended up being not
that bad, and the professor kind of grew on me as the semester continued. I
definitely think he was a little insane though.
The worst thing about WUT was all of the cheating that was going on. That was
what infuriated me the most. It seemed like the few good professors were
actually afraid to speak out when they knew students were cheating, because the
students from wealthy families seem to have all the power at that school. I heard
stories from WUT students that all of the professors who actually challenged
students, held them accountable, and didn't allow cheating had been fired the
year before. I think that campus is a very corrupt place, and just being there for
a semester, I heard and saw a lot of crazy stuff. It's a shame, because Thailand is

 

21  

an incredible place for Webster to have a campus. Everything about my time
there was absolutely wonderful except for the time I had to spend at school.
Let me know if I can help in any other way! I did have some good experiences
too, and I'd be happy to share those. Ajarn Jim and Claudio Cicuzza were both
great teachers who I could tell try very hard to make the best of a crappy
situation. I don't even know if those two are still there anymore....

The instructor’s name was Keith Fitzgerald and he was listed as a faculty member as
recently as Fall 2013, eighteen months after this student’s experience. He was finally let go
after he stalked a female student, leaving dozens of bizarre messages on her Facebook page.
The administration could not continue to look the other way. Colleagues here still speak
warmly of Mr. Fitzgerald.
Infrastructure:
Maintenance delays and obvious infrastructure cuts evident on campus. Campus stank for
three weeks from full septic systems in the “canteen” (cafeteria) and in front of the
administration building. Moldy smells in some classrooms. Black mold on the sides of
buildings.
Lights left on and doors open while AC is on routinely around campus. No energy
conservation evident.
No fire emergency equipment in evidence. Only a few old garden hoses taped to hose bibs.
This was painfully evident when a palm tree caught on fire during a memorial service for a
student who had been killed. Students worked together to fight the fire. Administrators and
staff left the scene.
Buildings and walks in disrepair. Cracks and missing tiles and bricks. Terra cotta roof tiles
are old and cracked. Probably original. AC units are very old, again probably original to
1990’s. Many are rusted. Some have been cannibalized. The rears of the buildings are black
with mold and rain streaks. An abandoned building on campus is open and unsecured. It is
filled with broken furniture and glass. There are no barriers or warnings not to enter.
Only the building entrance seems to be maintained. Still broken tiles in evidence at
entrance. Computers in classrooms are out of date, but still serviceable. Projection systems
work, but sound is terrible. Missing remotes forces instructors to hunt down projector
remotes.
Classrooms are barely serviceable. AC is old and loud. Some work very poorly. Hard to
hear over AC. Turn it off and you roast. White boards are very old and filthy. Many have
some many inerasable marks that writing legibly is difficult. Black curtains over single pane
windows. Many areas of the campus are blocked off and not used. Some rooms are used for
storage.
There is a large building on campus directly across from the library that was built partly on
adjacent property and cannot be used. It is literally falling down and is still open. I walked
in and looked around. It is filled with broken glass, tiles, desks, chairs, rats, etc. This
building needs to be torn down, or sealed up for safety reasons.