UNION, N.J. — Dawood Farahi will step down as president of Kean University in 2020, completing 17 years as head of the school, the university announced in an Aug. 29 release.
The resignation appears to coincide with the end of the three-year contract extension awarded to Farahi by the school’s board of trustees in 2017.
While lauded by some, including former state Sen. Raymond Lesniak and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage, for initiatives such as the expansion of the school and partnerships from South Jersey to China, Farahi’s tenure was marked by highly publicized incidents, including the purchase of a $250,000 conference table, accusations he falsified his academic credentials on his resume and the loss of accreditation for its public administration master’s degree program. The school also hired former Gov. Jim McGrevey to teach ethics after he resigned his governorship amid a scandal.
“Dawood did more than lead the university; he transformed it,” Lesniak said in the release. “He made tough, bold decisions, was guided by principle and an uncanny ability to anticipate market demands, and never shied from confrontation if he knew he was fighting the good fight. I’m impressed by all he has accomplished. Generations of Kean students to come will have a better chance at success because of Dawood Farahi.”
However, he often clashed with the teachers’ union, which gave him a no-confidence vote before his last contract extension, and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten expressed joy at Farahi’s resignation.
“For years, we have organized to expose Dawood Farahi’s incompetence and cronyism that has hurt Kean’s vital mission and reputation, as well as its students and faculty,” she said in a statement. “Finally, with Farahi’s exit, the Kean community can begin to heal and realize their school’s potential as the premier New Jersey institution it is destined to be. The path to rehabilitation is long, but it begins with a legitimate search process for a new leader so Kean can be the economic and educational engine that Union County needs.”
According to his biography on the Kean University website, Farahi came to the United States as a student and began his teaching career at the school 30 years ago in public administration. He served as special assistant to two predecessors before becoming president in 2003.
“It has been more than my honor and my privilege to lead this amazing university; it has been a significant part of my life,” Farahi said in the release. “We will continue this academic year on our path of progress and transformation, building a financially strong and academically vibrant institution like no other in New Jersey. The future for Kean students is bright.”
Among the items cited in the release as Farahi’s “signature achievements” at the university were the creation of the Human Rights Institute; the creation of the New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Mathematics; and the integration of the Liberty Hall Museum campus with the university.
The school partnered with Ocean County College on a unique initiative that lets Ocean County students complete their undergraduate studies at Kean without leaving the OCC campus.
In a move that has been both praised and derided, the school under Farahi created the first full-scale public university in China, Wenzhou-Kean University. This was undertaken while Xi Jinping was provincial secretary of Zhejiang; Xi has since become president of China.
Also under Farahi, the school underwent a $500 million redevelopment program, including its STEM building.
Farahi’s contract allows him to return to the faculty at the conclusion of his presidency.
Board of Trustees Chairperson Ada Morell said the university will begin a search for the next president this fall. Details about the search process, which will include outreach to all university students, faculty, staff and alumni, will be shared in the coming weeks.