Farahi investigation began with a question and a flyer
The allegations that President Dawood Farahi misrepresented himself on resumes dating back to his 1982 application to Kean, which were levied by the Kean Federation of Teachers, began with a colored flyer, distributed by Peter Pezzolo, a professor of Philosophy.
"I circulated three flyers last semester about the issue of President Farahi's scholarly publication claims," said Pezzolo in an e-mail.
The three flyers questioned past claims that Farahi authored "over 50 technical articles in major publications" (according to a 2008 resume posted on kft2187.org/farahi).
Questions were also raised about an award he received and a position he held as dean prior to his employment at Kean. Farahi is quoted in an article published in the Star-Ledger that mistakes were made on his resumes, but that it wasn't his fault.
After being alerted about the inaccuracies, James Castiglione, a physics professor and president of the KFT, Kean's union of faculty, professional staff and librarians, wrote a letter to Kean University's Board of Trustees in late November alerting them of the situation.
"No one's been able to find anything published by President Farahi," said Castiglione in an interview. "Zero peer-reviewed publications."
After two weeks of silence, he wrote another letter requesting an update. In return, he received a letter from Chair of the Board Ada Morrell stating that the Board has received his letter and it had been referred to the Executive Committee "for handling."
Then, over winter break, The Wall Street Journal reported on the allegations against Farahi, soon followed by The Star-Ledger.
Several local news outlets, as well as national ones like the Chronicle of Higher Education, have also reported on the Farahi controversy.
The decision, under the state college system, rests with Board, with no official oversight existing since the mid 1990s. Last Year Gov. Christie appointed a Secretary of Higher Education, but when a phone call was made to find out the hierarchy of power, a spokesperson for Secretary Rochelle Hendricks said that "The Trustees of the University are investigating the allegations, and it would be inappropriate for the Secretary [of Higher Education] to comment at this time."
Still, the president of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten, as well as Castiglione, sent a letter to Gov. Christie asking for a full investigation.
The KFT has been distributing flyers to faculty and students in an effort to bring more awareness to the topic as the University has not released a statement on the issue.
The accusations about academic misconduct span from his time before Kean in the early 1980s to his 2008 resume to the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration.
On his 1982 resume and job application to Kean University, Farahi lists an article titled "Patterns of Administrative Efficiency" that was accepted for publication by Administration and Society, and another article named "Budget Control and Fiscal Policy" that was submitted for publication to Administrative Science Quarterly. The KFT has received letters from both publishers which state that neither has received or published any work by President Farahi.
In his 1994 and 2008 National Association of Schools of Public Affairs & Administration accreditation resumes, Farahi also said he was Acting Academic Dean at Avila University in Kansas City, MO, but the union says he was not.
Farahi, in an interview on Feb. 3, would not talk in detail about the allegations saying only that the investigation is ongoing and it would be inappropriate to comment on the allegations at this time.
"My employers [The Board of Trustees] were given a set of allegations and they have a due process that they need to follow; and as soon as the process is complete and they made a decision, then I will be free to talk to you," he said. "And I will talk to you, because I have a lot to say."
Farahi contends that any investigation into academic misconduct should be met with privacy and confidentiality, and that any student or staff member would also request the same privacy were they under investigation.
"I respect the process for my students, I respect the process for my faculty and I respect the process for myself," said Farahi. "If the same allegations were made about a faculty member, I would not discuss it with you until the process is complete. If allegations were made about a particular student, I would not discuss it at all until the process is complete. The presumption of innocence is the very nature of a free society."
The KFT and Farahi have had a rocky past since he became president in 2003.
Last summer, Farahi received an 83 percent vote of no confidence by the faculty at Kean, and has set up a website that details all of their allegations against Farahi (kft2187.org/Farahi).
"Under President Farahi we've now seen the University placed on warning by Middle-State that our accreditation may be in jeopardy," said Castiglione, who also teaches Physics at Kean. "I think there was a sense among the faculty as to what else is going on."
Separately, a Facebook page called Farahi Fraud Investigation aggregates news posts as well as images of Farahi's resumes and job applications.
"For the president of an institution to say he's going to hold students to the high standards of our Academic Integrity Policy and then have a double standard for himself," said Castiglione, "He's lost all legitimacy and credibility as president."
Farahi maintains that he has greatly improved Kean since taking office.
"I am here to serve the students and that's what I have done. I have made some choices that have been unpopular for other groups, but never unpopular for students," he said. "The students don't have to worry about me changing to a different direction than doing the best I can for them."
Student Katie Arzig, a junior and one of the founders of Occupy Kean University, criticized Kean for not communicating to students about the controversy.
"Whether it is true or not affects our school and the student body deserves to be addressed on it, or told something at the very least."
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