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Prof. Wilson’s Attorney Responds to the New York Times

To: Ariel Kaminer

From: John S. Yong

Attorney at Law

Johnsyong@gmail.com

212-233-6855

Concerning:  “CUNY Hopes to Dismiss Brooklyn College Official Over Financial Inquiry” By ARIEL KAMINER, New York Times Jan 13, 2014

Dear Editor,

In the service of the full exoneration  of my client Professor Joseph Wilson,  I am writing to clarify some of the misstatements and errors contained in Ariel Kaminer’s article, while acknowledging the Times attempt at balanced coverage.

Dragging  Professor  Wilson in CUNY’s accusatory mud,  in advance of any administrative determination of his innocence  in a grievance proceeding  is tantamount to a public flogging, if not a lynching.  This is neither due process nor justice in the public interest.

Regarding my client’s compensation, the CUNY collective bargaining agreement states (Section 24.4(b)(4) ) “The specific budget and dollars allocated for summer pay would be determined locally by the College not by CUNY Central and not pursuant to an agreement between the University and PSC.”  Therefore  Professor Wilson’s  compensation for summer and intersession work was fully legitimate and justified.

As for the accusations regarding  book and equipment purchases, these were fully transparent and approved by CUNY. Purchases were made from a personal discretionary “in service” account provided by the University for work performed  by Professor Wilson– for his personal use–and had no relationship to Worker Education. Therefore book and equipment purchases were legitimate and violated neither law nor university policy.

The article  mistakenly states that the disciplinary hearings will conclude this week. In fact, the next hearing date is currently being scheduled. The hearing process will take months  if not years to administratively litigate and arbitration is the next step in this process.

Public documents and investigative journalism  will reveal that Professor Wilson’s school related travel was fully vetted and approved in public meetings with university administrators presiding.

As the article correctly points out, The Graduate Center for Worker Education was founded some 30 years ago.  Unfortunately, what  the Times and CUNY omit is that the GCWE was historically  an evening graduate program. Hence,  CUNY’s sophistry and the sinister implication regarding evening classes,  left unquestioned by the Times,  is  endemic of CUNY’s prosecutorial incompetence: GCWE students have always been welcome from 9am to 10pm daily, and on Saturdays. Apparently neither the Times nor the CUNY prosecutor spoke  to students to confirm  that simple fact, or to confirm the fact of Professor Wilson’s year-round availability and work ethic, was characterized by external reviewers as “Herculean” .

Importantly, the need to generate program revenue has been encouraged by previous administrations and is  ubiquitous throughout CUNY. The GCWE worked in concert with City College, with full support of successive   Brooklyn College administrations,  in an era of fiscal austerity driving programs like Worker Education to be self-sufficient.

At no time during this nearly three year ordeal, were any of these charges, or the accusations that have already been abandoned, ever discussed by the CUNY administration with Professor Wilson: rather than easily resolving these issues, CUNY seeks to criminalize the faculty and its own decades-old institutional practices, wasting taxpayer’s dollars in the process.

Thus a longstanding local campus feud and vendetta initiated by the political science department  has escalated to a senseless disciplinary and prosecutorial folly gracing the pages of the NY Times.

CUNY’s pattern of viewing and treating faculty and students like the “enemy” says more about CUNY than my client.  Only when this case is brought before an independent arbitrator will my client be totally absolved and vindicated.

Unfortunately, and prematurely, the Times enters this fray without providing the context of the charges or an understanding of the contradictions within.

Moreover, if CUNY can get away with this against an accomplished, popular African American scholar and program director,  stemming from a longstanding faculty feud, the arrival of the McCarthy-like corporate university is truly upon us.

An irony is that some CUNY College Presidents, apparently get hundreds of thousands in unreported extra pay. However, since 1996 my client worked for and fastidiously reported his director’s income that was established and approved by the College.

Sadly, while very aware of the racial undertones and backdrop surrounding this saga, nevertheless the  article  fails to acknowledge this element of the conflict as manifested in the  mass purging of faculty of color and progressives and in the mistreatment of students, most of whom are woman, at the hands of faculty and administrators widely perceived as elitist and racist.

Perhaps labor law and civil rights violations would be equally worthy of investigative journalism?

Also omitted by the Times are the numerous faculty claims and grievances pending and decided  against the political science department, and the College’s administration–including Professor Wilson’s claims. The silence of the Times on this point represents acquiescence to  management’s perspective and omits the larger critical point that the only real opportunity to have the facts examined and determined by a neutral party is through arbitration.

Professor Wilson’s defense is supported by the Professional Staff Congress, the faculty union. This circumstance and the PSC’s statements have also been omitted in the article.  In fact Professor Wilson’s work and integrity has enjoyed wide and deep national and international support.

It’s curious and notable that the University will provide documents and statements concerning Professor Wilson,  but has not been forthcoming about its Vice President  for Finance or successive presidents to whom Professor Wilson reported on budgetary matters. Thus, CUNY’s assertions, innuendos and half truths, both large and small, are left unexamined by the Times.

The destruction of a once vibrant graduate program serving New York’s working class at the hands of an irrationally motivated  faction in the political science department, and an unpopular president who has lost the confidence of the Brooklyn College’s faculty, is indeed the larger story. When will the Times  investigate the adverse actions  committed by the CUNY administration against students, staff and faculty in this affair?

We only hope that the Times will devote as much coverage to my client’s exoneration as it does to this litany of hyperbolic innuendo and baseless accusations.

John S. Yong esq.

Response to the NYTimes (PDF File)

UPDATED 2/20: Responses to the One-Sided New York Times Article of Jan. 13, 2014

the-new-york-times

From John Alter:

As a graduate of the GCWE, and former student of Professor Wilson, I serve as Chair of the Committee of Concerned Students, Alumni, Faculty, and Staff – a group determined to assure the campus at 25 Broadway remains dedicated to worker education.  I was disheartened to read Monday’s article publicly airing unproven accusations with little mention of what is the more important story of Brooklyn College’s destruction of an internationally lauded worker education program. In my experience, the GCWE provided an outstanding MA program that is otherwise not available to non-traditional students in NYC. Unfortunately, this article promulgates a false narrative without the due diligence that would otherwise uncover a Brooklyn College administration that left students and alumni of the GCWE unnecessarily defending the merit of their degrees. In a larger social context this shows how people of color, immigrants, single mothers, and the working class are all too frequently denied access to higher education and maligned in the process.

John Alter

Chair, Committee of Concerned Students, Alumni, Faculty and Staff

From Anthony Gronowicz:

The January 12, 2014, story entitled, “CUNY Hopes to Dismiss Brooklyn College Official Over Financial Inquiry,” misses the reality that everyone in this longstanding program was purged, and the program itself dismantled.  Full-time faculty were involuntarily reassigned, and adjunct faculty and part-time student assistants summarily fired.  Students enrolled in degree-earning disciplines were left hanging, no longer able to complete degrees in a program that for over thirty years turned out graduates who went on to become elected government leaders and union officials.

It is clearly an academic freedom issue because so many rights of so many were violated.  It is an academic freedom issue because as an instructor one can no longer teach and as a student one can no longer learn in a stimulating environment in lower Manhattan where working people conveniently took classes on their way to earning a substantial degree in fields that “enhanced academic skills and job mobility”, a quote taken from the Middle States 2005 external review that specifically commended this program that CUNY management has seen fit to destroy.

Anthony Gronowicz

Adjunct Professor of Social Science at the Borough of Manhattan Community College

From Stephen Lieberstein:

Monday’s story about Brooklyn College seeking to dismiss Joseph Wilson, the long-time director of the College’s Graduate Center for Worker Education, misses the real story. While Prof. Wilson is in the midst of a due process hearing far from concluded, the Graduate Center and its academic program has been largely dismantled to the detriment of its students, mostly workers of color, whose achievements the college has denigrated.

Some points in the story are simply wrong, as the one reporting that students were kept out of the Center until the evening because some of its rooms had been rented out during the day. In fact, in my eight years teaching there, many students and others who worked nearby came in during the day to speak to the academic staff. Only when an interim director replaced Prof. Wilson did the Graduate Center empty out, and students and instructors were sometimes prohibited from meeting there outside of class hours. Once a vital intellectual hub, it became a littered, empty shell in the guise of “improving” the program. That’s the real story.

Stephen Leberstein

Former Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College

From Charles Levenstein:

Apparently, Professor Joe Wilson received a variety of grants from sources outside Brooklyn College which were in part used to supplement his salary with the approval of the College Administration. If Brooklyn College now realizes that it made some sort of mistake, then it can request return of the funds from Professor Wilson – but to accuse him of malfeasance because of errors they have made is a classic case of “blaming the victim.”

In an era in which faculty are urged to find outside funding, it is very strange to be punishing an ambitious and entrepreneurial faculty member for his accomplishments. Salary supplements provide real incentives to faculty, especially in public universities where program funds are scant. It is a grave mistake for Brooklyn College and CUNY administrations to be sending a message that efforts to find outside support will be subject to arbitrary and punitive rules.

Charles Levenstein, Ph.D., M.S.

Professor Emeritus of Work Environment University of Massachusetts Lowell; and

Adjunct Professor of Occupational Health Tufts University School of Medicine

From Eric Radezky:

January 29, 2014

To the Editor:

I write in response to the January 13, 2014 New York Times article entitled “CUNY Hopes to Dismiss Graduate Center Official Over Financial Inquiry.”  The tone of the article inappropriately portrays Professor Joe Wilson as if he has already been found guilty of whatever financial mismanagement CUNY accuses him of.  To date, no such judgment has been rendered and no proof of wrongdoing has been offered to the public.  All we have are accusations and conjecture.   Although the article’s author Ariel Kaminer stops short of saying Professor Wilson is guilty, rebroadcasting such accusations in the middle of an investigation can destroy a person’s reputation, especially when and if that person is found to be innocent as I believe Professor Wilson will be.

I graduated from the Graduate Center for Worker Education six years ago.  Since then I have gone on to work for a New York State Assemblyman and I am currently completing my doctorate in political science at Rutgers University.  Without the GCWE program and without the guidance of Professor Wilson I would not be where I am today.  I am sure that a lot of people in this city can say the same.  For that reason I am dismayed by any rush to judgment that would tarnish his good name, and I beseech the Editors of the New York Times to print a correction that clearly states that Professor Wilson is presumed innocent and that anything in Kaminer’s article that would cast doubt on that assumption was printed in error.

Sincerely,

Eric Radezky

From Jamell Brady:

As a scholar and graduate student of Brooklyn College’s GCWE, as well as a former student of Professor Wilson, I was dismayed by the slanted article “CUNY Hopes to Dismiss Brooklyn College Official Over Financial Inquiry”. In a short of words, this has been nothing more than a modern day public lynching and a severe disservice to America’s way of due process. While the stakeholders at Brooklyn College has unequivocally decided to dismantle this well lauded program, the teachings and the curriculum at GCWE as a whole has empowered me with a voice to stand-up and say No, enough is enough.

As a top down approach, marginalization is becoming too common, more importantly widely accepted. While working a full-time job, paying taxes and being a well-respected community member, my degree is a proud symbol of my achievements. I am extremely disheartened that the NY Times has decided to print such a disproven, unfounded and factually inappropriate article. The stakeholders at the Times should be beholden to their mantra, “All the news that’s fit to print”; nevertheless facts should matter in time for the printing press.

In solidarity,

Jamell Brady, M.A. ‘12

 

From Barbara Bowen:

To the Editor:
 
Re “CUNY Hopes to Dismiss Brooklyn College Official Over Financial Inquiry,” Ariel Kaminer, Jan. 12:
The Professional Staff Congress/CUNY (PSC) is the union that defends the rights of the CUNY faculty and professional staff, including Professor Joseph Wilson.  Your article does not mention that we declined to comment on the allegations against Professor Wilson; no matter how strong the member’s case is, the union does not publicly discuss open disciplinary cases. 
 
The PSC and CUNY have a jointly negotiated process for resolving allegations of misconduct, a process that includes a final decision by an impartial arbitrator.  In numerous cases CUNY has leveled serious charges against employees only to have a neutral arbitrator rule that the allegations had no merit.  It is improper for CUNY to attempt to try its case in the media, and we are disappointed that the New York Times would permit CUNY to do so.     
 
Barbara Bowen
President, Professional Staff Congress/CUNY

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