Witkos on WFSB: Senator Proposes Legislation to Improve Background Checks at State Colleges

December 19, 2014

Article as it appeared on WFSB.com

A university professor who made headlines for getting a promotion while behind bars is in trouble again.

Ravi Shankar, who teaches English at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, appeared in court on Thursday.

He’s accused of leaving the scene of a crash, though his lawyer argues that his client received a license renewal form in the mail. The lawyer also stated that Shankar had been told by the Department of Motor Vehicles that his license was valid.

Court records show that Shankar has been in and out of the courtroom 28 times with a number of legal issues.

In his current case, however, he claims it’s just a misunderstanding.

Police said the crash happened earlier this month. Shankar lost control on Route 9 near exit 3 and hit rope guardrails.

Investigators said that, in addition to leaving, his license had already been suspended until July of 2015, and he did not have the proper insurance.

In a different case, Shankar was arrested for DUI as well as giving another person’s license when he was involved in another crash on Route 9 two years ago.

Back in the spring, he served 80 days in jail for violating his probation.

It’s while he was serving that sentence that he was promoted to full time at CCSU and given a raise.

As a result, Republican Sen. Kevin Witkos of Canton is proposing legislation for the upcoming legislative session, which would allow state colleges and universities to perform criminal background checks.

“I met with the Board of Regents president and I shared with him that during the next negotiations in the collective bargaining agreement that they put some provisions in there allowing the university to look beyond the four walls of the classroom,” Witkos said.

Witkos’ proposal would also allow schools to discipline professors if they break the law.

He said that if CCSU was able to do that, perhaps the board would not have promoted Shankar from associate to full professor.

Officials said CCSU recommended the raise but never told the board about Shankar’s criminal past.

“Everybody that’s involved in education gets a background check,” Witkos said. “From a school bus driver to a substitute teacher, but what happens in the college system is that once you’re in, you’re in, without and checks and balances. This bill would provide those checks and balances and would give administrators a chance to remove a professor that really does a disservice to the college system.”

The new legislative session starts in Jan 7.

Witkos said that since he’s on the Higher Education Committee, he’ll make sure a public hearing is set for the bill.

On the latest allegations, Shankar released a statement to Eyewitness News earlier this month.

“I have valid insurance and I certainly was not trying to evade responsibility. I was involved in a one-car accident with no one else involved and I was informed by some of the surrounding drivers that they had already called the police. I called Triple A, gave them my information and confirmed they were going to get the car. I waited until my wife arrived and then we went home to collect our small children, then went to the tow place where our personal information was left in case the police needed to speak to us.”

As for his status at CCSU, the school said Shankar is still a professor there. Beyond that, it had no other comment.