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

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Harrington’s Actions Show Lack of Caring

I don’t think Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M. President of the University saw me as he left Newman Hall at precisely 4:45 p.m. Monday afternoon. I happened to be passing by when he walked out, strolled to the line of cars parked across the street and climbed into a late-model Audi before zooming off.

Even if he had noticed me, and if he had recognized me, I wonder if he would have cared. I wonder if he grasps the hypocrisy – a priest, who has taken a so-called “vow of poverty,” driving a car that likely cost north of $40,000. I wonder what he thinks about when he reads about Pope Francis, and how as a cardinal he used to take the bus, like poor people actually do.

And on a different, but related, note, I wonder if he realizes just how problematic his relationship with Cecilia Chang was, and the collateral damage that came from accepting the perks she offered without bothering to question where they came from.

It’s gotten lost in this whole sordid scandal, but what caught the attention of media outlets across the nation when she was first arrested in 2010 was not the amount of money she took from the school, or her relationship with Harrington or his chief of staff Rob Wile. No, what caught the eyes of ABC

News and the Huffington Post, among others, was that Chang was enslaving students. As Dean of Asian Studies, she had the power to award scholarships to students, who mostly came from Asia, in exchange for work study positions. “Work study” to those students came to mean doing

Chang’s laundry, cooking dinner for her son and picking her up if she was in a bind after one of her notorious gambling benders.

These students’ college experiences were ruined by Chang even as she lavished Harrington and Wile with all of the watches, suits, vacation trips and expensive wine we’ve talked about ad nauseam all semester. While Chang’s fudged expense reports were rubber stamped by Wile, these students slaved away on her orders.

It seems clear that Harrington thinks he’s been misrepresented in this whole regard, that media outlets like the Torch and New York Magazine have taken things out of context, and that his continued trust in Chang despite obvious red flags was a sign of naïveté, not institutional corruption.

Whatever he thinks, his lack of control over one of his subordinates resulted in years of misery for some of his students. Harrington profited from Chang’s thievery, no doubt, but that’s not the only reason why he is unfit to remain as St. John’s president. He’s unfit because he put his own selfish desires over the well-being of his students, and it ended up with some of his students getting hurt. He didn’t intend for those students to be abused by Chang. But they were because he refused – for whatever reason – to stand up to her. He allowed Chang to play by her own rules, and she left a trail of destruction for which he is ultimately responsible.

If he understood that, he wouldn’t have been so defiant when we interviewed him in December. If he understood that, he wouldn’t have reportedly threatened to go after us when we published a factually accurate editorial that cast him in a negative light. If he understood that, he would have already resigned.

Instead, he’s trying to wait it out. It might work. He knows how to network, and how to get people on his side. The Board of Trustees is full of people that have obvious and deep ties with him.

Harrington’s proven to be willing to put himself ahead of the school over which he presides. When the outside counsel reports its findings to the Trustees, we’ll see if they do the same.

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About the Contributor
Michael E. Cunniff
Michael E. Cunniff, Editor-in-Chief
I'm Mike Cunniff, a junior journalism major and the sports editor here at the Torch. When I was a little kid, I decided I wanted to be a sports announcer when I grew up. I used to turn down the volume while my beloved Patriots played and do my best Greg Gumbel impression as Drew Bledsoe fired pass after pass into the waiting arms of opposing cornerbacks. That was my dream until I was about 14, when I realized that I had neither the dapper looks or silky baritone voice to warrant plastering my face all over television (and billboards, and magazine covers. Dare to dream, right?). I realized, when I wasn't plagiarizing Sparknotes when writing English essays (kidding, mostly) that I actually enjoyed writing, and decided that writing about sports suited me better than talking about them. My favorite sports to watch/cover are basketball and soccer. I actually used to be a halfway decent shooting guard back in the day, before I did my knee in the offseason before senior year. I still love all four Boston teams (the Revs don't count), as well as Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League (I talk about them too much). I'm probably better than you at FIFA 12. Outside of sports and journalism, I like The Office, Bagels 'N' Cream, road trips and karaoke. __________ I like to joke with Mike that he’d react the same way to the Zombie apocalypse as he would in covering a major news break on campus — which is to say he wouldn’t really react in any particular way at all. Nothing seems to phase him. Anything — ANYTHING — could happen on campus, and I am confident that Mike would lead the Torch in the best possible reportage for that story. He has already demonstrated that ability in his superb coverage of the Sports section, and I know that ability would translate in a much larger role next year. -Bill San Antonio Editor-in-Chief, Emeritus
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