Kean faculty raise questions about accreditation process

UNION COUNTY — Kean faculty members discovered evidence that the accreditation crisis the university went through in 2012 might have been resolved on political grounds rather than merit.

At issue is a letter Kean President Dawood Farahi sent to Gov. Chris Christie in December 2012 thanking him for nominations he made to the Kean Board of Trustees. The university president also thanked the governor for his support with getting the university off of probation.

“I also want to express my gratitude for your support with our board of trustee’s nominations and with our re-accreditation efforts,” Farahi noted in his missive to Christie, referring to the fact that the governor appointed Dr. Thomas Bistocchi, a former Middle States board member.

Bistocchi was a late Christie nomination which ousted another board member who not only wanted to stay on the board, but expected the re-nomination.

The faculty member pointed out that given the recent “Bridgegate” incident which placed the governor’s political interference in question, this is significant.

“One can grasp its significance,” the source said, adding that the letter clearly indicated Christie was involved in some way with Kean’s re-accreditation efforts.

In his letter to the governor, Farahi thanks Christie for the help he provided.
“The efforts of Secretary Rochelle Hendricks and Gregg Edwards played a critical role in our success,” the university president said, noting that “they handled many delicate matters with aplomb and skill.”

Hendricks is New Jersey’s acting Secretary of Higher Education and Edwards is the deputy secretary.
According to information provided by a Kean University staff member who dug into what took place in 2012, things moved too quickly for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to find Kean in full compliance, especially because one of the reasons the commission put Kean on probation was for problems in the “General Education” area.

“Correcting the general education shortcoming would have required a redesign of the general education program and no such design occurred,” said the staff member, who preferred their name not be used.

Also cited was the fact that standard 6, integrity, was one of the four standards Middle States felt the university had to improve, but the university continued to have issues in this area.

“This standard stipulates that employees must be treated equally, but before University President Dawood Farahi’s resume fraud was exposed, at least five faculty members resigned or were terminated for similar lapses,” said the source, adding that one made national headlines.

“How can a school claim to treat its employees equally when faculty and a vice president resigned or were terminated for their lapses but a board retains the president, who committed the same type of offense?” the staff member asked.

Questions also remain unanswered regarding a letter Middle States sent Farahi and Kean Board of Trustee Chairperson Ada Morell in July 2012, just months before the university received accreditation after being put on probation. In the letter, which LocalSource obtained, Farahi and Morell are chastised by Middle States for posting a message on Kean’s website concerning the commission’s decision to put Kean on probation.

The statement contains two brief quotes, drawn directly from the report prepared by the peer review team that visited Kean on behalf of the commission in April 2012. Apparently Middle States felt this information was misleading and demanded it be changed immediately.

“This letter is to remind you that, as part of Kean’s recent non-compliance action, the university was asked to demonstrate its implementation of ‘procedures to ensure that factual information about the institution, including Middle States Commission on Higher Education team reports and commission actions, are accurately reported and are made available to the institution’s community, standard 6,’” the letter from Debra Klinman, Vice President of Middle States said.

Klinman went on to say that Kean only used excerpts from their report and “when an institution has misrepresented a team report, misquoted excerpts from a report or otherwise used a report to create a misleading impression about the institution or accredited status, the commission reserves the right to release the full report to the public.”

Klinman instructed Farahi and Morell to “immediately” modify the website message to indicate that the small section quoted represented “one piece of a larger whole,” and the commission’s deliberations may, in fact, “ result in an accrediting action other than the one recommended by the team that visited the university in April.”

Klinman also advised Farahi that the Middle States report on why Kean was put on probation be provided in full, upon request of “any constituency.”