Three USM officials placed on administrative leave

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM)- Three Southern Miss officials have been placed on administrative leave as a result of a major snafu involving the distribution of nearly 700 tablet computers to students.

Chief Administration Officer Homer Coffman, Director of Procurement and Contract services, Mike Herndon, and Dr. Bob Lyman, who resigned his post as university provost earlier this week. will all be on administrative leave while school officials review possible errors in the implementation of the Southern Miss U-Tab pilot program.

Areas of concern include the failure to properly account for the distribution of the tablets as property of the State of Mississippi and possible violations of IHL policies regarding contract review and state bid requirements.

Three months ago, 700 tablets were given out to students in the Honors college, McNair scholars program, southern style, and student government. It's part of a pilot program by Blackboard Incorporated and Samsung Mobile to test the tablets capabilities.

But here's where the rub begins...the original contract signed by students seemed to indicate the tablets were theirs to keep. However, the university is now saying the tablets are school property and students need to bring them in for coding and tagging as part of university inventory. School officials say students can keep the tablets as long as they are in school, and provide feedback about the devices.

In a letter to student leaders sent out this week, Vice President of Students Affairs Joe Paul says "We will need for you to return the Samsung Tablet to the university when you graduate or otherwise discontinue enrollment with us. Due to a misunderstanding with our i-tech department, we did not communicate this to you at distribution, and for that I sincerely apologize."

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