How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

General Discussion for SMART Scholarship Recipients
Lando

How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Lando »

I am sick and tired of SMART and their constant changing of the rules, changing the forms, and basically altering the contracts we signed in our cohort year. You know, I feel like Lando when he complains about the agreement between him and the Empire, and Darth Vader says "Pray I don't alter it any further." This is ridiculous. This forum is full of horror stories where people are constantly getting screwed over and they have no recourse. If we decide to leave because we feel that the government is not holding up its end of the bargain, we are basically threatened with paying back $100,000's of dollars. I'm tired of this crap.

Since I have been a scholar I have had my pay screwed up 4 times in 2.5 years. One time the SMART put $7K in my account and then promptly removed $9K all in the same day. My bank called me and asked me what was going on, they had never ever seen anything like this. No apology, nothing. I have received multiple tax forms in the same year, each one with different amounts on it. Why can't they get these simple things right? I have heard of horror stories of other SMART participants being lied to by their SF, its just a mess.

In my cohort year, when you reached PHD candidacy, you were given a raise. Nope, that changed, after I signed my contract and it no longer available to my cohort year. Prior to my years in the program, participants received a stipend regardless of where their SF was. Now, you do not get a stipend unless you are some arbitrary distance away. The internship is just a waste, it is not worth the student's or the SF time. So, i have to postpone my degree even more, by not taking summer classes to go work for free at a facility to doesn't even want me there. By postponing my degree, I increase my time in the program, thus owing the govt more time.

I want the SMART program investigated. I want the inspector general to take a look at this government program and decided if it is legal to treat its participants like this. Knowing what I know now, I would have never joined this program.

Withdrew

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Withdrew »

If you do go through with the investigation (and I hope you do), PLEASE post the contact information for the appropriate Inspector General POC here so those of us who have been in a similar situation can contact them and show them that this isn't an isolated incident. I would love to add my story to yours.

The SPO likes to act like all of the Scholars are deliriously happy and can't wait to work for the DoD for life. In reality, even people who make it through the program can't wait to leave when it's over. Personally, I had a terrible experience that pretty much mirrors yours. I would be more than willing to provide documentation of my time in SMART.

Guest

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Guest »

I echo that my friend.

Lando

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Lando »

U.S. Department of Defense – Office of Inspector General
4800 Mark Center Drive
Alexandria, VA 22350-1500

I am going to start by writing a letter here. If anyone else wants to write too, that will increase our chances of someone listening.

Guest

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Guest »

Has anyone heard back yet?

RPI CSE
Posts: 40
Joined: Fri Apr 01, 2011 2:46 pm
Contact:

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by RPI CSE »

Lando wrote:U.S. Department of Defense – Office of Inspector General
4800 Mark Center Drive
Alexandria, VA 22350-1500

I am going to start by writing a letter here. If anyone else wants to write too, that will increase our chances of someone listening.
Would you mind posting a copy of what you wrote? With all PII removed of course. If i knew what someone else wrote, I would be a little more likely to do the same

Guest4

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Guest4 »

If you do write a letter, make it generalized. Then get your hands on the SMART scholarship mailing list if you can. Send out a mass email, have as many people as you can sign it, then send it off, that may be more effective. While I can say I'm having a reasonably good experience in the program and at my SF, I agree that the terms of the SMART scholarship are a little ridiculous, and I would sign it.

Guest

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Guest »

Guest4 wrote:If you do write a letter, make it generalized. Then get your hands on the SMART scholarship mailing list if you can. Send out a mass email, have as many people as you can sign it, then send it off, that may be more effective. While I can say I'm having a reasonably good experience in the program and at my SF, I agree that the terms of the SMART scholarship are a little ridiculous, and I would sign it.
I have the master email list as of 2013.

Guest

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Guest »

What about initiating a class-action lawsuit instead?

Guest

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Guest »

You'll have my signature. After hearing all the horror stories, and experiencing some myself, after going for internship there during the summer, there is no way I'd want to work with them rather than the private sector. If they would have disclosed everything about them, and how messed up their system is before hand, a lot of us would have chosen to take a different scholarship.

Guest

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Guest »

You will also have my signature. I do not have a single good thing to say about SMART.

Guest

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Guest »

I will also sign.

SmartRecipient

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by SmartRecipient »

I also had an experience where after I graduated my sponsor facility expected me to work for about 30% less than what they had told me I could expect in my phone interview. When I tried to negotiate they told me if I didn’t have it in writing they couldn’t do anything. They claimed I had to start at the lowest pay grade they could offer me, and they used the fact that I would have to repay the scholarship to pressure me to accept their offer. They complain they have a hard time getting good employees to replace the retaining generation, but then the treat people that have committed to work for them like garbage. I would definitely sign a petition, or participate in a class action law suit.

Sisyphus
Posts: 60
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:40 pm
Contact:

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Sisyphus »

As part of my efforts organizing resistance to SMARTS draconian debt collections and mistreatment of participants, I compiled a detailed report (as detailed as I could given the reticence of many participants to go on the record in detail with their stories at any rate) and submitted it to various offices throughout the US legislature and OSD, as well as an independent group tasked with reviewing the program an insider put me in contact with. I have reason to believe this played a part in triggering SMART's "formal review and [if asked for] suspension of all outstanding debts," which is a process that will probably be playing out for the remainder of this calendar year.

This included an early submission to the Inspector General's office to try and report the abusive practices and just poorly designed nature of the program. The response I got, since I did not submit it anonymously, was:

"This is in response to your correspondence to the DoD Hotline.

In accordance with Department of Defense Directives your reprisal complaint was forwarded to the Directorate for Whistleblower Reprisal Investigations (WRI) for preliminary analysis of your reprisal allegation. WRI declined to initiate an investigation into your reprisal allegations.

No further action will be taken by the DoD Hotline at this time. We appreciate your bringing this matter to our attention.

Sincerely,

The DoD Hotline Team
"

Either this was because the program was already being investigated by other people, or the IG felt it was outside of their domain. Either way that path seems closed for the foreseeable future.

If you want to try and defend yourself against the program I would recommend joining the discord I set up (you'll find the post for that on the front page here) and reading up on the discussions and current state of things. Your representatives are your best bet for having your mistreatment looked into and abated, although others have had to retain lawyers as they appealed themselves and/or initiate lawsuits against SMART (those are currently on hold due to aforementioned review).

anonymous1

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by anonymous1 »

I've been following all of the dissidence towards SMART for a while. While I respect that all of you have problems with the program, and they are probably justified, I just want to pipe in and break up some of the groupthink. Not all of us hate SMART, I love my job and will probably stay on after my commitment. I also know of a lot of people who feel the same way, both in my immediate organization and outside. I would not have been able to afford the school I went to without this scholarship, and I'm incredibly grateful a program like this exists.

If you were a PhD student who requested more time and was denied, I feel for you, but at the same time I think that a lot of you made an immature decision based on immediate money and now regret it. A program gave you hundreds of thousands of dollars, they frankly have the right to demand whatever they want from you THAT YOU SIGNED. If you're a PhD student, you had to have known that the majority of people require more time than initially planned. You cannot have your cake and eat it too, a lot of the things I've read over the years come across as extremely entitled. You accepted the money without an issue, now that you broke the contract, which again , you signed, you need to fulfill said contract.

If you were funded for a Bachelors or Masters and are sad that you're friends took higher starting salaried jobs, I dont know what to tell you. Suck it up, you chose this, now own it and stop trying to whine your way into getting off the hook.

Maybe I was raised differently. Maybe I am legitimately the only person who has no animosity towards SMART. But I think you get out of this hole some of you think you're in by serving out your time and making the most of it. If this is escalated to the point of hitting the media I, and I promise it's not only going to be me, am going to tell the truth about the immense difference that having this scholarship made to my life.

Sisyphus
Posts: 60
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:40 pm
Contact:

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Sisyphus »

anonymous1 wrote:I've been following all of the dissidence towards SMART for a while. While I respect that all of you have problems with the program, and they are probably justified, I just want to pipe in and break up some of the groupthink....
anonymous1 wrote:Maybe I was raised differently...
Your post doesn't read like you're trying to "break the group think" at all, at least in any constructive manner. Instead it reads more like you're trying to condescend to those of us with legitimate grievances or who were actively wronged by this program, white knighting on behalf of a government program with numerous design flaws just because everything went well for you.

Yes there are some people who just for all intents and purposes took the money and ran. I honestly don't have much sympathy for those cases beyond the draconian terms of repayment with no alternative arrangements like giving the years they owe (though just how many disaffected people there have been in this category speaks to the poor implementation of this program, ESPECIALLY in the earlier years where SF's that had no business hiring on STEM recipients did so).

There are others however who literally had their contracts changed on them or were abused and mistreated by their SF and SMART actively made choices, given all their discretionary power, to throw them to the wolves instead of keeping them in the DoD at another location.
anonymous1 wrote:If you were a PhD student who requested more time and was denied, I feel for you...
Uh huh...
anonymous1 wrote:If you're a PhD student, you had to have known that the majority of people require more time than initially planned. You cannot have your cake and eat it too...
So much for that. What is that even supposed to mean that "If you're a PhD student, you had to have known that the majority of people require more time than initially planned"? You do realize that SMART has long admitted brand new PhD students into this program with a time limit, much more brutally enforced by LMI now, that is significantly below the average completion time for most STEM PhD's at most universities?

The only good faith way to interpret that statement would then just be as "you shouldn't get a PhD through SMART," which I would wholeheartedly agree with, but the fact remains SMART actively goes around and advertises to recruit fresh PhDs for whom there is no conceivable way to truly grok the vagueness and indeterminacy of the PhD process until actually experienced. The design of this program literally sets them up to fail with an unforgivably high probability.

If anyone needs to get it through their heads that PhD programs never go according to plan it's SMART, because it is LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE to anticipate the course a PhD program is going to take given the nature of original research and the fickleness of advisors, publishers and committees. All I wanted to do was finish my degree and go to my SF, supporting myself for several years after I had no funding to try and finish to "uphold my commitment" only to be stabbed in the back by a new management that demonstrably knows fuck all about how STEM PhD's actually function as many other posters stories have illustrated on this forum.

So congratulations on being the 9 in 10 or so that survived SMART just fine (though of those 9 there's no way to know how satisfied they were in the end). But just because this program has worked for plenty of people does not automatically excuse it of its failings due to poor design and poor decisions by those running it. Especially when many of those could have been avoided since SMART basically endows themselves with arbitrary power to decide its rules and structure.

So if you DO actually support this program and want to see it continue then you should want to see it fixed and reformed where needed instead of just blithely writing off those it failed as either deserving it, entitled scum or just a fixed and essential cost of doing business.

Guest

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Guest »

The fact that you call it "groupthink" strongly indicates you haven't bothered to listen to any of the specific cases that any of us have listed. A lot of us went through some serious, real shit, and many of our cases are very unique. Most of us are simply asking that SMART and the DoD actually listen to what happened to us, and restructure the program so it doesn't happen to others in the future.

My SF did some stuff to me that would have been highly illegal in private industry (confirmed by two attorneys) but because they are the federal government they are immune... yes... the federal government is literally immune to most legal protections for employees in our country. Because I had a SMART contract, I had absolutely no recourse. My SF took advantage of that, and put much of it in writing. They also put in writing that they were comfortable treating me that way because of my SMART contract, because they knew I had no choice. Many of the emails were bad enough that my Congressman's office called me almost immediately after reading them and asked how they could help me. Sure, I signed a contract. But being a young person (by definition most people are at the start of school when they signed the contract) I didn't fully understand the complex legal system surrounding federal employment legislation, employee protection laws, and contract negotiations. Are you saying we deserve whatever is coming to us because we weren't legal experts when we signed?

Get off your goddamn high horse. Yes some people walked away. They should have to pay it back. But you don't know what the rest of us went through.

Guest

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Guest »

It's cute how you think you know exactly how the program works out for everyone.

Explain to me this then: several of us who have listed problems were contacted by current and former SMART program officials, who were tired of seeing abuse stories like ours roll in to their inboxes and have been trying unsuccessfully to get the program to acknowledge there were valid, disastrous cases out there that were ruining the lives of enrollees. They gave us help and guidance on how to get the program changed, since they hadn't been able to do it from within despite years of trying. So if you're right and literally every one of us is wrong.... what were they thinking?

Contract

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Contract »

Everyone should start their comments in this thread with "I signed a contract."

Guest

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Guest »

Contract wrote:Everyone should start their comments in this thread with "I signed a contract."

I signed a contract.

And then the federal government, the government of my own country, turned out to have knowingly written that contract in such a way as to give itself carte blanche to abuse the citizens who were foolish enough to sign.

anymouse

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by anymouse »

I signed a contract...

...for PhD funding with an organization that, unbeknownst to me at the time, did not fully understand the uniqueness of PhD degrees and their time to completion, as evidenced in their FY2013 Plans item

"Conduct a study to benchmark the performance of SMART PhD scholars (i.e., time to degree) with those of their peers in the general U.S. PhD population."

in the document found at

https://www.globalsecurity.org/military ... b_2014.pdf ,

and other documents for consecutive years.

Justin

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Justin »

Forget about the IG, I want to sue their asses for the 9 years of torture they put me through after I left the program due to their breach of contract.

malarious
Posts: 67
Joined: Tue Jun 13, 2017 1:54 am
Contact:

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by malarious »

Some of the SFs are kind of... a source of trouble. I am not here about lawsuits or such, I am happy with my job. That said, they offered more than the GS7 scale goes to as a start, laid out my first auto raise, and scheduled promotion (in DB scale) from 2 to 3. I essentially increase salary by 30% by the 18 month mark.

The facility is tied to starting pay and sounds like they're just milling scholars. If possible try to get a new SF (not easy). GVSC had a higher pay than expected, my super is supportive of paying for my masters (even without smart), I have optional paid overtime, and no real complaints.

Talk to the facility SMART coordinator maybe. I told mine I expected to get worse treatment and she said, "We can burn you out in 3 years or aim for you to retire with us, we prefer the latter." I am disappointed all SFs are not handling this equally.

Sisyphus
Posts: 60
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:40 pm
Contact:

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Sisyphus »

malarious wrote:
Wed Oct 21, 2020 10:35 am
Some of the SFs are kind of... a source of trouble....

Talk to the facility SMART coordinator maybe. I told mine I expected to get worse treatment and she said, "We can burn you out in 3 years or aim for you to retire with us, we prefer the latter." I am disappointed all SFs are not handling this equally.
It is often not the SF (or not just the SF) that is the source of trouble. In many instances it has been SMART program office decisions and policy changes, which are solely up to their own discretion (as they effectively have arbitrary power due to the...elastic way all their rules have been/are written), that has fucked participants over.

In fact, many of the worst cases I've seen (including mine) have been entirely at the hands of the SPO and their antagonistic/spiteful decision making over the years.

Guest

Re: How Do We Initiate an IG Investigation Into SMART?

Post by Guest »

When I transferred SFs my supervisor was extremely helpful in the process, but I got an email from a SMART representative that effectively said "you are not allowed in any shape or form to contact any other facility, and if you do, it is grounds for dispersal of the program and payback." I was able to transfer facilities thankfully but that email definitely made it known that SMART themselves really don't care about the wellbeing of their participants. Now I'm counting down the days until I can leave the program.

Post Reply