The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

View this profile on Instagram

The Torch (@sju_torch) • Instagram photos and videos

Photo Courtesy / YouTube Jojo Siwa
Jojo Siwa’s Bad Karma
Catherine Pascal, Staff Writer • May 3, 2024
Torch Photo / Anya Geiling
Live Show Spotlight: Roger Eno
Anya Geiling, Contributing Writer • April 30, 2024

Flames of the Torch: The Last Straw

If there’s something we’ve learned this year, it’s that you never know what’s coming next. As the bizarre Chang saga continues, we’ve come to learn way more than we ever expected to about Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M. – his travel itineraries, his real estate investments, his designer suits and his penchant for expensive wine.

Now we’ve learned about his trip to the Caribbean with his favorite student-turned-right-hand-man, Rob Wile, and Wile’s then-girlfriend (now wife), Gabrielle Weir.

Charging more than $9,000 to a credit card given to Wile by Chang, according to credit card statements obtained by the Torch, Harrington, Wile and Weir lived it up on St. John’s dime.

The University professes that Harrington and Wile had no idea that Chang was turning around and billing the trip’s expenses (as well as thousands of dollars in other dubious charges) to the school in her travel and expense reports. It’s not hard to believe that – Chang was nothing if not meticulous in her corruption, and fooled many people for a long time.

No, we’re not suggesting that Harrington and his sidekick Wile were aware that they were taking money from the school when they went on their little excursions.  But we do find it hard to understand how they didn’t question further into where the money for the trips (and the suits, and the watches, and the liquor, and the casino visits, etc.) was coming from, and why it was coming.

Chang, according to University officials and testimony from Harrington, always told Harrington that the money for the finer things that she was providing he and his allies was from donors, or a gift from her. Harrington should have asked for more detail, or to meet these supposed donors. But that would have risked stopping the gravy train, and what Harrington didn’t know couldn’t hurt him.

We’ve found ourselves in this position before. Should we be calling for Harrington’s resignation? Should we describe him as trusting and naïve? Should we reserve judgment for the inevitable next shoe to drop?

The breaking point is near. The University stresses that the context is key with these reports, but it gets to a point where all the context in the world won’t save him. He may have been duped by Chang, someone who predated him at the University, but he fast-tracked Wile to a position that answers directly to him.

Ultimately, he is responsible for the expense reports Wile approved, the nightclubs charged on his card and the tailored designer suits Wile received while on the delegations to Asia.

There’s a whole other, financially independent, argument to be made as well. We know Harrington doesn’t like to have to explain or reconcile his actions as president of the University and his vows as a Vincentian priest, but there are some things that just seem inexplicable. Traveling with a young, unmarried couple – including a then-University undergraduate – to the Caribbean looks pretty suspect. Why he never felt the need to check with the school about this trip is lost on us. Warning bells sound in situations far less sticky than this.

Keep in mind that this is the president of a university that doesn’t allow guests of the opposite sex into dorm rooms past 3 a.m. A university that states in its Residence Life handbook that it does not condone “cohabitation” or “sexual intimacy.”

A university that would not, under any circumstances, “recognize a gay alliance.”

A university that will not allow pro-abortion rights speakers – even a prominent alumnus like the governor of New York – an audience on campus.

In other words, Harrington presides over a school that follows a strict interpretation of Catholic teaching on all matters regarding sex, but suddenly became the cool chaperone when Wile asked if his girlfriend could join them on their Caribbean get-away.

You can give Harrington the benefit of the doubt on whether he was complicit in Chang’s corruption. You can forgive him for tiptoeing near the line when dealing with a young staffer who he had developed something of a father-son relationship with, as New York Magazine called it.

But, for how long? The point is fast approaching where we are tired of listening to rationalizations, based in plausible deniability.

We want one of two things. Either Harrington chooses to be the leader that we have been missing throughout this ordeal and in doing so, addresses this issue in the public eye or he should step down, as this issue demands strong, public leadership from the top down.

View Comments (2)
Donate to The Torch
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of St. John's University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Torch
Our Goal

Comments (2)

We love comments and feedback, but we ask that you please be respectful in your responses.
All The Torch Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • C

    ConcernedMar 7, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    Thanks for your excellent editorial. I think it is sad that there is only one comment. My only disagreement with what you’ve written is that at the end you say we want one of two things. I think we need both. It does not seem likely that Harrington will be able to provide strong leadership.
    Read the comments at New York Magazine, on both the original article and on article author Steve Fishman’s blog. Many unhappy members of the SJU community have a lot to say about Harrington, Wile and others, and the consensus seems to be that there is a lot more to uncover. But why aren’t others weighing in here? Again, you’ve written an excellent piece, and it deserves more comment.

  • J

    Jim ReillyMar 6, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Reverand Harrington has stated in the past, regarding transgressions,
    “Cultures develop on a team — and I’m not talking about ethnic or religious culture — it’s the way people interact and what they think is acceptable or not acceptable,” . “A coach shapes the culture of the team.”
    What about the coach of the University doesn’t he shape the culture of “academia”.