Faculty members who spoke to the Torch – most on the condition of anonymity – say they are frustrated by the allegations published in New York Magazine of the misuse of University funds that could have been used to further their departments.
On the heels of the Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., postponing the upcoming faculty forum, members also said they are bothered by a lack of effective communication avenues between themselves and the University’s most senior officials.
Professors who wish to question Harrington about the allegations that have come to light throughout the Cecilia Chang scandal say they have no avenue now to do so.
“Where should a response come from? What platform? There is no platform,” said a tenured professor, who originally spoke on the record, but later asked to remain anonymous. “Departments have faculty councils which could be considered a venue for faculty, but it is not sufficient for what we need to be a successful institution.”
Elizabeth Reilly, director of media relations, said of the canceled faculty forum, “Dr. Mangione, Provost, has addressed the faculty regarding the postponement of the faculty forum, which will be rescheduled at the earliest convenience.”
Professors say they must submit their questions to Harrington ahead of time prior to the faculty forums.
Now, without the next forum scheduled, some professors are worried that the forum with Harrington will not be rescheduled, given current events.
“If the forum was not rescheduled, it would be unprecedented in my experience here,” one professor said.
Professors asked for anonymity because they feared repercussions to their department for speaking out about such a sensitive matter involving the University president. Regarding the published reports that revealed tens of thousands of dollars spent by Harrington and chief of staff Robert Wile on trips, some faculty members wish that money could have been directed more often toward academics.
“Money used inappropriately by the university are funds that could be used to help research and build our brand across the country,” said one tenured professor.
One faculty member, Dr. Leonard Brosgole, a psychology professor in his 45th year in Queens, says that fundraising has been Harrington’s focus all along.
“I’ve always had a sense that he is a businessman, his priority is money,” Brosgole told the Torch. “He has never had a feel for academics and things have changed here at St. John’s since he came here 20 years ago.”
Brosgole said at annual celebrations, specifically 25th anniversaries for professors, Harrington has often addressed the faculty as his “fellow stockholders” and referred to himself as the “CEO” of the University.
In an email sent to the University community last Friday, Harrington said he would like to answer questions
about the allegations but “it is appropriate” that he refrains until an outside attorney hired by the Board of Trustees completes his review of the matter.
That leaves professors in a waiting game.
Said one, “you’d think an institution like St. John’s would want to clear the air.”