[Marxism] CUNY Hopes to Dismiss Graduate Center for Worker Education Official Over Financial Inquiry
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Mon Jan 13 07:41:46 MST 2014
NY Times JAN. 12, 2014
CUNY Hopes to Dismiss Graduate Center Official Over Financial Inquiry
By ARIEL KAMINER
The Graduate Center for Worker Education, a tiny outpost of Brooklyn
College in Lower Manhattan, has long been a busy place. For three
decades, it has attracted students from across New York, minted hundreds
of graduates of its master’s program in urban planning and
administration, and housed the noted labor studies journal Working USA.
But at the moment it is the center’s extracurricular activities that are
attracting the most interest. The City University of New York, of which
Brooklyn College is part, has accused the center’s longtime director of
helping himself to at least $200,000 in salary that he was not entitled
to, misappropriating grant money and secretly renting out the center
during the day, taking at least some of the money for himself and
leaving students to wait until evening every day to enter.
CUNY’s internal investigation, conducted by a former federal prosecutor,
also concluded that the director got himself reimbursed for travel
expenses he had not incurred, for purchases at his daughter’s boarding
school and for “a television set purchased at J & R Music World on or
about Christmas Eve.”
The university’s charges are laid out in a letter that Brooklyn
College’s president sent to the director, Prof. Joseph Wilson, a year
ago, repeatedly accusing him of having “unjustly enriched” himself
through these activities.
The college has suspended Professor Wilson, 62, and is moving to fire
him. The state attorney general’s office is investigating but has not
charged him with a crime.
Professor Wilson is fighting the charges in an internal hearing that is
expected to wrap up this week. He has succeeded in getting CUNY to drop
some of the charges, including one regarding a paralegal course that
CUNY had accused him of creating without permission and profiting from.
Emails he provided indicate that his superiors had been aware of its
In correspondence with supporters and in response to questions from The
New York Times, Professor Wilson and his lawyer have characterized the
investigation as a malicious vendetta by an ascendant faction of the
political science department. They declined requests for interviews.
However Professor Wilson’s case is resolved, it also raises questions
about oversight within CUNY.
During the inquiry, Brooklyn College’s vice president of finance and
administration, Steve Little, resigned. Mr. Little did not respond to
requests for comment, and CUNY would not say if his departure was
connected to the inquiry. The letter charging Professor Wilson does not
accuse Mr. Little of wrongdoing.
CUNY has since “taken steps to improve internal controls to strengthen
fiscal oversight,” the university said in a statement. The political
science department is overhauling the worker education program, with a
new location for much of its curriculum: right on the Brooklyn campus,
where the department can keep an eye on it.
The graduate center was founded with an idealistic mission: to train
working people for assuming leadership roles in their communities, and
to offer that training on a schedule and in a location compatible with
their day jobs.
Its faculty embodied that mission. Professor Wilson, who has two
master’s degrees and a doctorate from Columbia, is a respected scholar
of labor history and an influential figure in Brooklyn College affairs.
His colleague Noel S. Anderson was a graduate of Brooklyn College who
returned after his doctoral studies and became a mentor to many
students, including a number who entered city government.
That back story has fueled the outrage of the graduate center’s
supporters, who describe CUNY’s investigation as part of a larger
national attack on the working class. They have turned the events at the
graduate center into a public cause, holding protest rallies and posting
a petition online urging CUNY not to “jeopardize the incredible legacy
Brooklyn College has in empowering New York City workers.”
The most extensive accusations against Professor Wilson involve
compensation beyond his salary of $116,000. With narrow exceptions,
including summer teaching responsibilities, CUNY does not allow faculty
members to earn more than their base pay; administrative duties are
usually offset by a lighter course load.
But CUNY said that in the two years that the internal investigation
reviewed, from 2009 to 2011, Professor Wilson “secured for himself
upwards of $200,000 over and above his salary,” with an unspecified
additional amount for nonteaching work during the summers through
invoices that “either stated false hours, false dates, were duplicative
of other invoices or time sheets, represented work that Respondent was
already paid for and/or identified work that was not actually performed.”
The charges do not explain why these disputed requests for compensation
In his defense, Professor Wilson has produced documents, some of which
his lawyer John Yong provided to The New York Times, showing many
friendly exchanges with senior administrators, who congratulated him on
his academic goals and approved his budgets even as they gently reminded
him to follow established bureaucratic procedure.
Professor Wilson’s lawyer has characterized the renting of the center
during business hours — to the Manhattan Institute of Management, a
business school whose director says it paid about $3,500 a month — as a
legitimate way to generate revenue for the center.
The charges against Professor Wilson allege that he “had no authority to
enter into such agreements” and “personally benefited from the monies
these agreements generated.” The amount he is accused of taking is not
CUNY’s investigation, conducted by Marcia R. Isaacson, also found that
Professor Wilson “improperly appropriated funds provided in a grant by
the New York State Office of Children and Family Services” and “caused
himself to receive moneys from this grant to which he was not entitled.”
The grant, for $75,000, was intended for Brooklyn College programs for
The documents his lawyer gave The Times include correspondence between
Professor Wilson and CUNY officials on how the grant money was being
spent, but Mr. Yong declined to elaborate on how that correspondence
refuted the charge.
The CUNY investigation said Professor Wilson had also obtained
reimbursement for expenses, like the Christmas Eve purchase of a
television (CUNY says it “is not now at the GCWE and there is no record
that it ever was there”); for books and other items at schools in
Vermont “at which his daughter was a student”; and for “false,
duplicate, and/or misleading paperwork” pertaining to travel to Cuba in
2008, Venezuela in 2009, Egypt and Greece in 2010, and Brazil in 2011.
The documents shown to The Times do not address these allegations.
Dr. Anderson is not named in CUNY’s charges; he resigned from Brooklyn
College in June 2012. According to Year Up, the nonprofit where he now
works as national senior director of programs, Dr. Anderson began
working there the previous July. That raises questions about whether he
drew two separate salaries for a full year, despite rules barring
outside employment for CUNY employees.
Dr. Anderson declined to comment. But the letter announcing his
resignation from Brooklyn College indicates that the parting was not a
“As a professor,” it said, “I would love to be at a college that treats
each person fairly and equitably, no matter what their background or
circumstance, that does not convert personal vendettas into department
policy and that uses its power to empower its faculty and students not
to castigate and demean.
“I do hope one day I will find that place. Until then, I am moving on.”
In an email that Professor Wilson sent out to supporters last summer,
several months after CUNY finished its inquiry and initiated firing
proceedings, he offered “some key rebuttal points.”
The last of them says: “There is a long history of political persecution
in the US, (and CUNY/BC) including the government frame-up of Angela
Davis, the Black Panthers, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, W. E. B. DuBois
prosecution, the frame-up of countless civil rights and labor leaders,
and mass firings of CUNY faculty during the McCarthy era. This attack is
part of that detestable history.”
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