OPINION: Welcome to the club


At Kean University, a coalition of ministers is calling for the resignation of University President Dawood Farahi due to what has been described as a “culture of fear” on campus as it relates to racial issues. And while we do not want to undercut the concerns of the ministers, we would like to point out the myriad of issues that have affected all the students at Kean University during this president’s reign.

Last spring, Bill Nye the Science Guy gave the commencement speech at Rutgers University. In his speech, he said “The color of our ancestors’ skin and ultimately my skin and your skin is a consequence of ultraviolet light, of latitude and climate. Despite our recent sad conflicts here in the U.S., there really is no such thing as race. We are one species, each of us much, much more alike than different.”

Based on the current climate, this sentiment is a far cry from what was said at recent commencement speeches at Kean. But nowhere should this sentiment ring more true than on a public college campus, where every student should have equal access to affordable education, dedicated full-time professors and an administrative staff that is dedicated to serving their education needs. The debate should not just be about whether or not Kean University is providing this for the African-American population; instead it should be included in the debate about whether or not the school is providing this for the entire student community.

The concerns of the coalition of ministers and African-American students should not be dismissed because one of the African-American activists has been charged with making the racist death threats on Twitter. But it is just another issue to stack on top of the giant pile of controversies that have permeated through the school under Farahi’s leadership. It’s another fight to have as part of a much larger battle. But to the ministers we would say, “Welcome to the club. Take a seat, it might be a while.”

To the surprise of no one, Sen. Ray Lesniak has come to the defense of his longtime ally, Farahi. But Rev. Ronald Slaughter, the leader of the coalition, has taken strong issue with some of the statements made by Lesniak in defense of the university president. When Lesniak said the ministers have gone “way too far,” Slaughter fired back citing those words as the exact defense used against the civil rights movement.

Lesniak, in response to basically every complaint ever leveled toward an official in his district, likes to say that his door is always open for people to stop by and express concerns, but not once have we ever seen that amount to anything. And when addressing calls for Farahi’s resignation, Lesniak told the Star-Ledger “certainly there’s nothing specific that would warrant that.”

In response, we offer the following list of “specific” complaints.

During Farahi’s reign, which began in 2003, the school has suffered through accreditation woes due to violations of ethical and academic rules, had sanctions leveled by the NCAA for cheating, increased debt to more than $300 million; purchased a $220,000 conference table, and lowered tenured staff through attrition. The school has also laid off employees while raising tuition, dramatically increased low-paid adjunct staff while raising tuition, opened a five-star restaurant the students cannot afford, and actively engaged in taking tax dollars away from Union and the county.

In addition, the president was caught lying on his resume, the faculty voted 96 percent no confidence, and there are serious questions about why the university is operating in some regards for the benefit of China and not New Jersey. The school also plans to lay off support and library staff that help the least qualified students graduate all while accepting more of these students than ever, and while raising tuition more than any other state college. In fact, tuition has increased 50 percent under Farahi, all while the president continues to cut costs across the board. Who, exactly, are these cost-cutting measures benefiting? It’s quite clear it’s not the students.

By the way, good luck trying to find a parking spot at the school, with students and faculty often arriving late for classes because there aren’t nearly enough spots on campus for everyone.

By our count, that’s at least 15 “specific” reasons for Farahi to resign, and one general and very serious concern about race that does not appear to be going away anytime soon. So again, to the coalition of ministers, we say “Welcome to the Club,” but we would also like to remind them that the senator has already announced he would like to run for governor in 2017. Farahi’s leadership is just one small battle in a bigger war.

Keep up the good fight.


2 Responses to "OPINION: Welcome to the club"

  1. Roger   December 10, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Having been accused on another forum of ignoring racial issues by one of the ministers, I’ll say it again. This is Union County and things will be done Ray’s way. Unless either the Senator and/or the KU President pass away, nothing is going to change.

    Until then, many fine stores carry adult sized pants.

  2. Janice Harris Jackson   December 11, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    This is a wonderful editorial. The Black women who have been persecuted by the Dawood Farahi regime well understand that many other communities are suffering also. We have had to depend on our traditional civil rights remedies because Senator Ray Lesniak has convinced so many New Jersey leaders to dismiss the problems at the University as just being part of the Kean Federation of Teachers labor dispute. This is not true. There were gestures of disrespect to Kean’s highest ranking Black educators as early as the presidential search in 2002. If course, other groups also continue to be victimized. Dr. King warned us that “ Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”* New Jersey tax-payers deserve to know the truth about Kean University though an independent, comprehensive investigation and a forensic audit with oversight from the Legislature. Rev. Slaughter and the Ministerial Alliance, as well as the New Jersey NAACP must keep up the good work so that truth is on its way.

    Janice Harris Jackson
    Retired Kean University Educator (1969 – 2008)

    *Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (April 16, 1963)