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Audit of the Fitchburg State University Objectives, Scope, and Methodology

An overview of the purpose and process of auditing the Fitchburg State University.

Table of Contents

Overview

In accordance with Section 12 of Chapter 11 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the Office of the State Auditor has conducted a performance audit of certain activities of Fitchburg State University (FSU) for the period July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2018.

We conducted this performance audit in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

Below is a list of our audit objectives, indicating each question we intended our audit to answer; the conclusion we reached regarding each objective; and, if applicable, where each objective is discussed in the audit findings.

Objective

Conclusion

  1. Does FSU have procedures in place to review, monitor, and improve support for students with disabilities?

Yes

  1. Has FSU developed an emergency evacuation plan that takes into account the needs of students with various disabilities, communicated it to the campus community, and trained residence hall personnel on it?

Partially; see Finding 1

  1. Does FSU provide the necessary accommodations, auxiliary aids, and academic adjustments (including support services) to students with disabilities to ensure equal access to its programs, facilities, and services?

Yes

 

To achieve our objectives, we gained an understanding of FSU’s internal control environment related to our audit objectives by reviewing applicable laws, regulations, and university policies and procedures, as well as conducting inquiries with management.

To determine whether FSU had procedures in place to review, monitor, and improve support for students with disabilities, we interviewed staff members from FSU’s Human Resources Office and Disability Services Office to gain an understanding of the procedures used to administer disability services to students. We confirmed with outside legal counsel that no claims were filed against FSU through the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination or the Civil Rights Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office during the audit period for failure to accommodate people with disabilities. We reviewed all meeting minutes recorded by the board of trustees during the audit period to determine whether there were any discussions related to disability issues and whether the board of trustees approved the state Board of Higher Education’s Equal Opportunity, Diversity and Affirmative Action Plan. To verify communication of disability service performance, we obtained the two annual Disability Service Reports that were prepared by the Disability Services Office during our audit period. These reports were used to communicate disability service performance (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to the associate dean of students and vice president of Student Affairs. We met with the vice president of Student Affairs to obtain an understanding of the communication structure within the Office of Student Affairs and FSU’s executive management team. We also met with select representatives from FSU’s Admissions Office and Autism Spectrum Disorder Group to determine whether support services for students with disabilities were effectively communicated to the student population.

We reviewed FSU’s Emergency Management Plan to determine whether it took into account the needs of students with disabilities. We interviewed a number of key employees regarding their knowledge of the Emergency Management Plan and its emergency evacuation procedures and documented these discussions. According to FSU staff members, no students with physical disabilities lived in FSU dormitories during our audit period. We obtained and reviewed policies and procedures used to train residence hall personnel on evacuating students with disabilities from the dormitories. We met with two out of three students who were employed as resident assistants during the audit period and available during our fieldwork to confirm that they had participated in emergency evacuation training on procedures related to students with disabilities.

To determine whether FSU properly provided disability accommodations to students, we selected a nonstatistical random sample of 60 students who requested accommodations during the audit period from a list of 634 such students that was obtained from an FSU Microsoft Access database maintained by the Disability Services Office. We reviewed the Request for Accommodation Forms submitted by students and confirmed that the Disability Services Office had evaluated the forms. In addition, we reviewed supporting medical documentation confirming the disabilities. We also noted the types of disability, such as learning, emotional/psychological, or physical. For each student who received accommodations, we listed the approved accommodations.

To test the reliability of the list of 634 students who had requested disability accommodations during the audit period, we randomly selected 5 students from the Access database and traced their information back to their hardcopy files, noting completeness and accuracy. To complete our testing, we randomly selected five hardcopy files and traced their information back to the Access database, noting completeness and accuracy. Based on these procedures, we determined that the data obtained from the Access database were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of this report.

We used nonstatistical sampling methods and therefore did not project the results of our testing to the population.

Date published: June 28, 2019
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