The Candlewood Suites hotel is one of those cheap but dated places to stay just outside Syracuse Airport. It is also where the dean of Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management agreed to pay an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute $80 for sex, according to police.
Though Dean Kenneth A. Kavajecz, 51, allegedly sought out the undercover escort more than six months ago at the Candlewood extended-stay hotel, he wasn’t charged with a misdemeanor of patronizing a prostitute until more than six months later, on Sept. 13. The university removed Kavajecz as dean of the business school the following day, presumably after learning of the incident nearly a half year after it occurred.
The new details on the dean’s arrest were revealed this week by the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Police. The sheriff’s office disclosed that the dean was one of eight men caught in a months-long sting operation that was launched after authorities received complaints from the community about prostitution and human trafficking.
DEAN AGREED TO BE INTERVIEWED FOR A FLATTERING PROFILE
The sheriff’s office failed to charge the men for more than six months because deputies wanted to protect the undercover officer and prolong the ongoing investigation, said Onondaga County Sheriff Eugene Conway at a news conference yesterday (Sept. 22). The eight men are accused of going to hotels in the town of Salina and agreeing to pay between $70 and $260 for sex. Kavajecz, who was being paid nearly half a million dollars a year in his job as dean, was released on an appearance ticket and is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 29 in the Town of Salina Court.
Kavajecz, in his job as the new dean of the Whitman School for just two years and nine months, had made the $80 offer for sex just after 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9, according to police. The timing meant that the dean agreed to be interviewed for an extensive profile by the student newspaper, The Daily Orange, with full knowledge that he was about to be charged with a crime.
That profile, a flattering portrayal of the dean, opened with an anecdote about a family vacation Kavajecz had taken with his wife of 26 years and children earlier in the summer. The story, published in The Daily Orange, recreated a welcoming speech to this year’s incoming freshmen in which Kavajecz said that he celebrated his 50th birthday on a family ski trip. “From atop a mountain cliff, with his skis inching over the edge some 13,000 feet in the air, he looked down at the steep drop below,” the story read. “At the time, he felt just what the freshmen before him feel: fear and uncertainty. But Kavajecz ignored those feelings, the rocks and the wind and jumped off the cliff to head down the mountain anyway — just as he’s done all his life.”
‘TIME TO JUMP’
“Don’t take the (ski) lift back down,” the story quoted him telling his audience of about 700, many of whom were freshmen and soon to begin classes at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management. “It’s time to jump.”
Kavajecz joined Whitman in July of 2013, after spending more than 10 years at Wisconsin Business School in Madison as a professor of finance, starting in May of 2003. He started his teaching career at the Wharton School in 1996 as an assistant professor for seven years after earning his Ph.D. from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. When he left Wisconsin, Kavajecz was associate dean of both the undergraduate program and the full-time MBA program and had been chair of the Department of Finance.
At the time of his appointment as dean, Kavajecz beat out two other final candidates, Urton Anderson from the University of Texas at Austin and Donna Rapaccioli from Fordham University. Anderson was chair of the accounting department and professor of accounting at the McCombs School of Business, while Rapaccioli was dean of the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham.
Whitman’s full-time MBA program is ranked 89th best in the U.S. by Poets&Quants, having dropped six places from its year-ago rank of 83rd. The school’s undergraduate business program was just ranked 43rd by U.S. News & World Report, exactly the same rank it held last year.