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Board of Trustees at Kean University calls emergency meeting

By Daniel Reyes
On February 9, 2012

The Board of Trustees of Kean University announced that a follow-up emergency meeting regarding the investigation of President Dawood Farahi will be held on Feb. 15 at 5 p.m. The Board predicts that a final decision on Farahi's employment will be announced at the meeting.

The Board held a five-hour emergency meeting on Feb. 9 in response to allegations levied at President Dawood Farahi in November that he falsified credentials on past resumes.

Ada Morell, the Chair of the Board, moved to adjourn the meeting late Thursday night after the board spent more than three-hours in closed, executive session. She announced that the board would reconvene "early next week," to continue the meeting and make a final decision.

The Board met at the Kean Hall Conference Center to a standing-room-only crowd of students, faculty, staff and alumni.

After an initial 40 minute private session, the Board opened the floor to those who wished to address the room. The seven that signed up were each allowed a maximum of three minutes to speak.

Dr. James Castiglione, a Physics professor and president of the Kean Federation of Teachers outlined a KFT meeting that was held just hours earlier where the union voted unanimously to call for Farahi's resignation. He went on to ask the Board to restore academic integrity to the university by removing Farahi from office.

Jesus Diaz, a professor of General Studies, spoke on a similar note, saying that "The evidence is out in public. The evidence is undeniable."

He went on to say that in the event of Farahi staying in office, a degree from Kean would be "worthless."

Student Ashley Kraus cited the Academic Integrity Policy required on all Kean syllabi and then, looking at Farahi, asked, "If we have to abide by it [the policy], shouldn't you?"

Faculty member Gilda Del Risco, Elementary and Bilingual Education, turned the attention of the room to the KFT, saying that the allegations it is levying at Farahi are destructive to the university.

"What you're doing to the university is wrong. What you're doing to the students is wrong," she said. "It's ridiculous."

She went on to ask how anyone would know if the KFT wasn't responsible for some of the errors on Farahi's resumes.

"They [the KFT] have always been trying to get rid of Dr. Farahi," she said in an interview with a Tower Editor after the Board went back into executive session. "They were never able to do it. Now they find this [the resume errors] or came up with this, ‘oh now we got him.'"

"When Dr. Farahi came he established order," she said. "And you know why? Because of you guys, the students."

Castiglione, when asked afterwards for a response to her allegations, said it was "classic ‘blame the messenger.'"

"They have no evidence for that and there is none," he said. "It's…it's absurd."

Farahi supporter Jose Sanchez, Executive Director of Social Sciences, was met with laughs by some of the audience when he called Farahi "an honest man."

"It may be a lot of fun for you to do all this," he said. "But it is sadistic and wrong."

The Board moved back into a private session and did not return to the conference hall for more than three hours.

While the audience was waiting for the Board to return, Castiglione said that this is the students' university and "the academic integrity and the reputation of your [the students'] university determines the value of your degree; and the students need to make their voices heard to protect the academic integrity of their degrees."

Castiglione also acknowledged rumors that some of the faculty were talking about a possible boycott of May commencement ceremonies.

"There are some faculty," he said, "who are putting together an effort to boycott graduation."

"Graduation is for the students. That's why it's so important for the faculty to stand up for the Academic Integrity of the institution, and the degrees that are being conferred to the students," he continued. "That the president has no legitimacy to confer those great degrees to students on the basis of this."

Kathleen Henderson, president of the union that oversees the adjuncts, said that the state of affairs now is a no-win situation, also adding that it is impossible to take a side without hearing both sides of the argument.

Castiglione said the next day over the phone that the Board's decision to reconvene next week was both hopeful and unsettling. He reaffirmed that he is happy the Board is not "whitewashing" the allegations, but feels that there is overwhelming evidence to support the accusations.

"They [the students] should speak out about this," said Kraus the next day during a phone interview. "Because really it's our money, we're the paying customers here."

"If he's lying about this, what else has he lied about? And if he can come up with the proof, then that's fine," she continued. "I don't think that he's [Farahi] a bad person. I just think that he should own up to what's right."

The University has not released a statement regarding the accusations.

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