[Marxism] CUNY Hopes to Dismiss Graduate Center for Worker Education Official Over Financial Inquiry

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
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 
existence.

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.”
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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 
were granted.

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 
specified.

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 
minority empowerment.

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 
happy one.

“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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