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UB stays in house with pick for new VP for student life

University at Buffalo President Satish K. Tripathi first appointed A. Scott Weber to a major administrative post in 2010, when Tripathi was provost and Weber, a longtime UB faculty member, was named vice provost and dean of undergraduate education.

Weber’s responsibilities grew from there. He became the point person for implementing the university’s “Finish in Four” program that guarantees students can take the courses they need to graduate in four years, and he later was promoted to senior vice provost for academic affairs.

Now, Tripathi has tapped his trusted adviser to lead UB’s student life operations in the aftermath of an investigation into hundreds of thousands of dollars of questionable spending in the university’s dining system.

Tripathi announced on Tuesday that he has appointed Weber, whose academic background is in civil engineering, as vice president for student life. Weber, whose appointment is effective Jan. 3, will replace Dennis R. Black, who left the university unexpectedly and without explanation in July after nearly 40 years.

The Buffalo News learned in October that the state Inspector General’s Office and the Erie County District Attorney’s Office were investigating Black’s spending of $250,000 to $600,000 to determine whether the expenses were appropriate and properly authorized. The spending involved funds tied to the Faculty-Student Association, also known as Campus Dining & Shops, a $40 million-per-year nonprofit corporation with more than 700 employees.

Dennis Black at center of investigation over UB spending

Weber will oversee the campus dining operations and more than 20 other units of the university, including judicial affairs, student health services, fraternity and sorority life, and residential life operations.

“My whole career, I’ve had a very strong interest in the student experience,” said Weber, who joined the UB faculty in 1983 and twice was named professor of the year by Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honor society.

Weber, 62, was chairman of the department of civil, structural and environmental engineering prior to being named vice provost. He received bachelor's and master's degrees from Virginia Tech and a doctorate in civil engineering from the University of California, Davis.

Weber said he loved his work in academic affairs but was excited about the new “opportunity to contribute to the university in a meaningful way.”

Black, who was the most recognizable face of UB for years, left the university abruptly in July. University officials have repeatedly declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding his departure, but sources have told The News that Black resigned shortly after he was questioned about expenses of funds tied to the university’s dining operations.

In an interview in October, Black acknowledged that university officials had raised questions last spring about whether years of expenses under his purview had been properly authorized and documented. But he also maintained that he did not deliberately misuse university money.

Following Black’s resignation, Tripathi appointed Laura E. Hubbard, vice president for finance and administration, to oversee student life until a permanent replacement was named.

During Black’s tenure, the post was known as vice president for university life and services and included oversight of the offices of emergency management, parking and transportation and university police. Under an organization restructuring, those operations now report to Hubbard. The University Events office, which formerly reported to Black, now reports directly to Tripathi.

Weber said he did not seek out the vice president’s post. Tripathi asked him recently over a lunch off campus to consider it, he said.

In an email to UB employees, Tripathi said that Weber has established himself as an “outstanding leader and innovator.”

“Charged with enhancing the overall student experience for undergraduate and graduate students,” said Tripathi, “Scott’s understanding of our academic enterprise will be greatly beneficial with regard to student life as he will be able to work towards a more integrated experience between our educational and extramural activities on campus.”

Weber said he appreciated the opportunity because it would allow him to learn on a much broader scale how a university operates.

Weber worked closely with Black over the years on aligning student life priorities with the university’s academic vision and plan. But he declined to comment on the reasons behind Black’s departure.

Despite the circumstances of the transition, Weber said he did not hesitate to take the post. He has “incredible respect” for the leadership in the many different units that will now report to him.

“I think they’re a great team and I look forward to working with them,” he said.

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