Vol. 24, No. 3                                                                                        July 4, 2005



       In a recent number of Patriot Returns (Vol. 24, No. 1) we commented on Barbara Bowen's dyspeptic denunciations of Christoph Kimmich, Matthew Goldstein and a good deal of the New York press for their handling/covering of the Shortell and Parmar scandals at Brooklyn College. To date, Professor Timothy "Superman" Shortell has stepped aside, and Professor Priya Parmar has yet to be heard from. Further, the PSC has cancelled its subscriptions to the New York Sun and the Daily News--no doubt at the cost of many working class jobs. The Patriot Returns had hoped that this would be the end of the affair, and looked forward to a summer filled with more of the PSC's krazy kontract kapers. We loved that giant inflatable rat.

      But no! Just when it seemed safe to walk the tree-lined streets of Bedford Avenue again, CUNY's Queen of Released Time--the Unsinkable Susan O'Malley--decided to jump into the affray. In a June 13th e-announcement on "The Shortell Brouhaha," she offered a typically insightful assessment of the situation. Queen O. had just returned from a meeting of the American Association of University Professors, where she failed in an attempt to have CUNY censured over its handling of the Susan Rosenberg and Mohamed Yousry cases (the PSC supports an affirmative action program for the legally challenged), but continued to insist on an immediate investigation of abuses of academic freedom at CUNY.

      We here at The Patriot readily admit to being confused by the Unsinkable Susan's arguments, analyses and actions. She seems to claim that: 1) Under CUNY Bylaws, President Kimmich did and does have an obligation to screen chair candidates with rigorous standards and 2) the issue dramatically changed from Brooklyn College's perspective once the press picked up the story. Based on O'Malley's and Bowen's comments, and their careful courting of the AAUP's Joan Scott and Roger Bowen, the PSC has cried out that academic freedom at Brooklyn is under assault and has referred the case to the AAUP--even though Shortell himself withdrew his bid to be chair!

      Moreover, in his withdrawal e-mail, Shortell didn't cite an alleged "academic freedom" violation as the primary reason for short-circuiting his bid to be chairman! Failing to follow the PSC's party line, the Superman made unsubstantiated allegations against some colleagues and explained that he had come to "believe that the department is ungovernable". Does the PSC now think that the AAUP should investigate every college in the country whose professors don't get along?

      In addition, O'Malley seems to be under the impression that this self-styled member of the Übermenschen used language critical of "'retarded people". It is painfully clear that she doesn't know the basics of this controversy. Her statement that "...Shortell's main error was his chairing the Brooklyn College Core Curriculum Committee that made some changes to order to accommodate many of the students who transfer into Brooklyn....Apparently this angered some faculty...the same faculty that attacked Shortell's being elected chair" is simply nonsensical. The Core Curriculum Committee that Shortell chaired (2003-2004) didn't make a SINGLE proposal, much less play ANY role in reforming the Core--which took place some 18 months AFTER Superman left the C. C. C.! Wouldn't it seem reasonable to expect the Chair of the University Faculty Senate and a member of the PSC Executive Committee to at least go through the motions of obtaining the facts before making an appeal to the AAUP? After all, Professor O'Malley has quite a lot of released time on her hands for reading and reflection!

      Ever sensitive to the stresses and strains on our PSC and UFS leadership, we politely suggest that Susan take a quiet holiday by the sea. Manhattan Beach is quite nice this time of year. But its proximity to Kingsborough Community College might be a bit distressing for her. Chairwoman O'Malley may not want to get too close to the classroom or students again. After all, it's not easy being Queen.


      John Adams once observed that "facts are stubborn things". Regretfully, this is not the case in the gloomy halls of the PSC. There, facts easily give way to fantasies, and the truth is tossed aside for ideologically driven ends. A case in point is Barbara Bowen's manic insistence that academic freedom at CUNY is in jeopardy. In leveling this charge, she is joined at the lip with her confrere, Susan O'Malley. Their "big lie" is being told as part of a cynical campaign to defame the university and to deflect criticisms of the New Caucus' inept management of the Welfare Fund and its inability to negotiate a contract.

      Here at The Patriot, we have neither the time nor the patience to rebut every one of the claims made by Barbara in her "Open Letter"--posted recently on the PSC website as "ACADEMIC FREEDOM UNDER ATTACK AT BROOKLY [sic] COLLEGE"--or reprised at the Delegate Assembly's June meeting. We will, however, set out some of her June 3rd statements, compare them to the oft' stubborn facts, and pose a few questions that we would like answered.

Barbara's Statement:
      "In early May, Professor Timothy Shortell was elected Chair of the Department of Sociology in an election that conformed to all the requirements of the University Bylaws. On May 18 the right-wing newspaper The New York Sun reported on views Professor Shortell had expressed in his non-academic writing, and on May 23 this report was repeated in the Daily News. Contrary to the normal procedure following departmental elections, Brooklyn College President Christoph Kimmich responded in a letter to the Daily News on May 25 that he found Professor Shortell's views "offensive" and that he had "convened a committee of high-ranking college officials and asked them to investigate the situation".

The Facts:
      "Normal procedure" regarding election of department chairs is governed by Section 9.1(c) of the CUNY Bylaws, which Pres. Kimmich followed. Surely, Barbara is not suggesting that CUNY presidents should disregard the Bylaws? As for Kimmich's statement, Bowen engages in a bit of selective quotation, since Kimmich began his statement by asserting that Prof. Shortell's "right to express these views is protected". Surely, our Dear Leader is not contending that academic freedom means that a CUNY president must publicly endorse the written views of a prospective department chairman that all religious people are "moral retards?"

Barbara's Statement:
      "On May 31, The New York Sun published a front-page article attacking the teaching of an untenured professor in the College of Education at Brooklyn, Professor Priya Parmar. The article relies on distorted accounts of what Professor Parmar taught-including a confusion between material she assigned students to read and her own views-and on criticisms of the class by two students who admitted to the undergraduate dean that they committed plagiarism in their final assignment. The article not only humiliates and undermines a faculty member, but also creates a climate of intimidation for all faculty at CUNY. There has been no public denunciation by the Chancellor's Office of the attack, and, more important, no indication that the University condemns any attempt to intimidate its faculty".

The Facts:
      The article in question relied on interviews from four students in Prof. Parmar's class, written statements from other students in her classes, the reporter's examination of Prof. Parmar's syllabus and other written material, and statements from critics of "dispositions" theory both on the Brooklyn faculty and elsewhere in the academy. Both Parmar and her immediate supervisor, Professor Barbara Winslow, declined requests for interviews, where they would have had the opportunity to clear up any "distorted accounts". The article did not "attack" Prof. Parmar—it critiqued the use of "dispositions" theory in Education schools.

      As for two of the students interviewed in The Sun article (students who were charged with "plagiarism" one month after they filed a written complaint about Prof. Parmar), our Dear Leader apparently sees no problem in using a public letter about "academic freedom" to violate the students' federally protected rights under the Buckley Amendment, which protects the privacy of most student academic records, guarding against public disclosure by college officials or administrators without permission of the student.

Barbara's Statement:
      "There is nothing innocent about articles such as the one in The Sun on Professor Parmar, especially timed as it was to follow the controversy ignited by The Sun itself about Professor Shortell's election. Nor is there anything coincidental about attacks on academic freedom at the current historical and political moment. Nationally, we are seeing a wave of extremist attacks on academic freedom, often masquerading under such titles as "The Academic Bill of Rights". The attacks are usually on faculty whose views are opposed by right-wing organizations, but they affect us all".

The Facts:
      Unless our Dear Leader has a source inside The Sun to verify her conspiracy theory, this statement is demonstrably false speculation. The article on Shortell was "timed" not by a grand conspiracy but by his election as chair, at a time mandated by the CUNY Bylaws, not by "extremist attacks on academic freedom". Meanwhile, the Parmar story first appeared not in The Sun but in an article for Inside Higher Education that was accepted for publication on May 2—or sixteen days before The Sun commented about Prof. Shortell. In short, the Parmar story didn't "follow the controversy ignited" by the Shortell election—it preceded the Shortell election coverage by more than two weeks.

Barbara's Statement:
      "And there is especially no place at CUNY for attacks that have a racist character. The Sun's screed about Professor Parmar, who is a woman of color, leaned heavily on a mischaracterization of her teaching on Standard English and Ebonics, and treated with contempt the idea that reducing social inequities is relevant to education".

The Facts:
      The Sun article did not identify Professor Parmar's race or ethnicity. The first mention of Prof. Parmar's race or ethnicity came in Bowen's open letter. Surely, Barbara is not saying that if students—including minority students—complain about improper classroom conduct by a minority professor, this is a "racist" act?

      Suffice it to say, there plenty more of this BS to found in the "Open Letter" and in the Brooklyn College chapter's "Resolutions" of June 7th. But we are confident that readers of The Patriot will be able to distinguish between fantasy and fact. Another famous John once promised that "...the truth shall make you free". We fervently pray that that the truth will soon free all of us from the present leadership of the PSC.



      Several of our sources report that the Dear Leader is planning a dramatic shakeup of the New Caucus Slate for the 2006 elections. Not only will "Solidarity Steve" London and Stanley "the Guv'nor" Aronowitz be purged, but the Queen of Released Time may also be dumped from the ticket! Some say that the Queen has become too arrogant in the last few years. She constantly makes statements about matters not of her concern and about which she knows nothing. Her presence on the Board of Trustees as a non-voting member is more of an embarrassment than a help to the PSC and the University Faculty Senate. When O'Malley opens her mouth at BoT meetings, she is ignored or voted down. There is not a single area in which she has accomplished anything for the union or for the faculty. Put simply, the Queen has become a political liability.

      In the Senate, her support has weakened. It is also widely known that she is not liked at KCC, her home campus. Her colleagues find the Queen's "everyone else should teach but me" attitude to be insulting and patronizing. In addition, we believe that Kingsborough' s new president is more interested in supporting faculty who teach than in signing off on endless released time. It's been years since the Queen has been in front of a classroom, and though she won't admit it, she does not like the job.

      In The Patriot's judgement, the Queen should abrogate her throne. She can retreat to the comforts of the worlds of music and radical retiree-dom. She can play her favorite pieces on the cello, and still have time to participate in an endless stream of parades, pickets, and rallies--from New York to San Francisco--for everything under the sun. Maybe Barbara is doing us all a favor. "Hey, hey, ho, ho, O'Malley's got to go!"


      Ever since the New Caucasians took control, the PSC's office staff has been extremely unhappy. Some have left; others are looking to get out. A few have been fired for failing to produce sufficient crowds for the Dear Leader's countless demonstrations. Still others keep watching the calendar and hoping for regime change. Key people, such as the Executive Director, as well as secretaries who worked during the Polishook era, are gone. They've been replaced by people who subscribe to the NC's leftist agenda. If you walk into the PSC offices, you'll notice that smiling, enthusiastic faces have been replaced by sad, sullen visages. To make matters worse, the bickering between Bowen and London has made day-to-day working conditions intolerable. We've heard that the staff is on the verge of rebellion--quite the accomplishment for a "militant" trade union.

      In an effort to placate the disgruntled office workers, Bowen has invited many of them to attend the Delegate Assembly meetings--which are held late at night. For example, the minutes of the May 26th DA indicate that 14 of the PSC's proletariat were present, at a ratio of 1 staff to 5.5 DA members. Why so many from the office staff? What do they do? Please venture a guess. We suspect that they are being paid significant overtime, night differentials and dinner allowances from your dues money. The Dear Leader is using this money to buy off the staff who are unhappy with all the extra work they are asked to do: preparing agendas, making posters, organizing demonstrations--ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING BUT concentrating on the contract and its implementation. Do you know how much a good dinner in midtown Manhattan for fourteen people costs? Do you know how much the overtime pay for these fourteen people will be? Why does Barbara require such a large entourage for the DA? You should ask. It's not her money that is being spent, it is yours.


Sharad Karkhanis, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus

Forthcoming issues of The Patriot may be accessed at the Archived editions are available at http://www.patriotreturns/archive.htm.