The occasionally close ties between academia and the oil and gas industry have come under greater scrutiny as of late, particularly after it was discovered that a University of Texas professor who led a study on fracking had been sitting on the board of a drilling company the entire time, with compensation totaling over $1.5 million in the last five years.
And this week comes a story about how a University of Houston energy professor’s lavish lifestyle, buying thousands of dollars worth of luxury pens and stays at five-star hotels.
Professor of Physics Arthur B. Weglein‘s extravagant spending was exclusively reported by KHOU 11 Houston Tuesday. What did they find? Hotel stays at five-star properties like the Four Seasons and Fairmont, over $500 a night. Luxury car rentals of $180 a day, for riding around in Audis and Land Rovers. And over $26,000 expensed for dinners and booze at the Brazilian restaurant chain Fogo De Chao. Then there are the Mont Blanc luxury pens: $500 a pop, with $8,000 worth purchased over the years. All expensed to the University.
The professor’s excuse? Because his research receives funds from the oil and gas industry, he’s earned it.
“I’m not living high on the hog,” Weglein tells KHOU. “Our funds do not come from tuition. They do not come from federal or state funds.”
More from KHOU:
“Dr. Weglein said the majority come from the private sector, mostly big oil companies, which pump big bucks into the University for a research program that Dr. Weglein runs. It’s called the Mission-Oriented Seismic Research Program, an academic and petroleum industry consortium that develops new oil drilling strategies in deepwater conditions.”
According to the Texas Tribune’s public employee salary database, Weglein made about $190,000 last year from the University.
The University’s provost tells KHOU that “under current policy, any money that crosses the university’s books must be spent under tight new restrictions.” Except for those dinners at Fogo De Chao.
When confronted by KHOU about his spending, and in his expense reports to the University, Weglein justifies some of his luxuries in some fascinating ways. Those luxury rental cars? He needed them to navigate the steep hills of San Francisco. Business class flights to Calgary and Brazil costing thousands of dollars? He has a bad back. The pens? Some were gifts to doctoral students. Others for “computation by hand written derivations.”
And what about the $17,000 in alcohol Weglein’s expensed over the years?
“What about it?” Weglein told KHOU.
“Do you know how much you’ve spent in alcohol over the years? Do you have any idea?” reporter Jeremy Rogalski asked.
Weglein’s reply? “Uh, this conversation is over.”
You can read the full story over at KHOU.