UA analyst may lose job

By Eric Eyre
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 11, 1996

File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Steven Ledingham
UA systems analyst


In his mind, Steven Ledingham was creating a computer web site that thousands of adults seeking information about attention deficit disorder could access on the Internet.

But the UA employee's computer project, along with an additional accusation of misusing university phones, could cost him his job.

Ledingham, a systems analyst in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, was suspended with pay over winter break after university administrators learned about the project.

Ledingham was developing a World Wide Web site for the non-profit National Attention-Deficit Disorder Association.

University officials have seized Ledingham's office computers as evidence for their investigation. They expect to decide whether to fire Ledingham by Friday.

"The information they have is my whole life," said Ledingham, who believes he is being discriminated against because he suffers from attention deficit disorder. "It's pretty distressing to have your whole life's work in someone else's hands."

Ledingham's superior, Ken Williams, a senior systems analyst in the department, said UA attorneys and human relations department administrators were reviewing Ledingham's case. Williams called the allegations against Ledingham "serious," but he declined to discuss the specific reasons for the five-day suspension.

"This is not an arbitrary action," Williams said.

Ledingham said department officials accused him of "misusing university computer and phone resources," and creating an unauthorized Web site. He said Williams and two other administrators from his department recommended last week that he be fired.

"I thought all along I was doing the right thing," said Ledingham. "I was trying to help people with attention deficit disorder."

Attention deficit disorder is a neurological problem characterized by impulsiveness, difficulty focusing and restlessness. At least five million adults in the United States are afflicted, according to Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders, a national organization that provides information on attention problems. The disorder can be controlled through a combination of drugs, education and group psychotherapy.

Ledingham said he intended to create the Web site about attention deficit disorder on the university's computers, then transfer it to a commercial Internet provider. He said he worked four months, primarily after hours, learning how to develop a Web site, using content related to attention deficit disorder.

"This was never something I snuck around and hid from anyone," Ledingham said. "I've been grossly taken advantage of here. This whole thing is very disturbing."

While on the job at the university's Biology Learning Center, Ledingham said he often receives and returns calls from other people diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. When his superiors confronted him about the calls last week, Ledingham said he of fered to reimburse the university. He estimated he made long-distance calls unrelated to his job on university phones totalling $150 to $200.

After learning of Ledingham's suspension and possible firing, two officials with the National Attention Deficit Disorder Association sent letters to the university in support of Ledingham's work for the organization. They confirmed that Ledingham, who was not paid for his services, planned to transfer the web site to a commercial Internet provider within the next several weeks.

"Steven had the best of intentions in assisting (us) in providing information on attention deficit disorder through the Web site," said Mary Jane Johnson, the association's president.

The UA has no specific policy regarding the creation of computer Web sites using university resources. But use of computers and telephones by UA employees must pertain to the university's mission of research, instruction and community outreach, said Lind a Drew, manager of the Center for Computing and Information Technology. "If someone wants to do something else, there are scores of commercial Internet providers out there," Drew said.

Ledingham, a UA employee for three years, said he recently spoke with a computer administrator at Stanford University, which plans to sponsor the attention deficit association Web site. He also hopes to place the information on StarNet, a Tucson-based com mercial Internet provider.