By Rev. Ronald Slaughter | Published Dec. 9, 2015
As the chairman of a coalition of black ministers calling for the resignation of President Dawood Farahi, I would like to offer our reasons for demanding a change in leadership at Kean University.
First, let me say that our position to call for President Farahi’s resignation solidified long before an anonymous Twitter user sent messages threatening to shoot black students on November 17.
But we felt it was important to go public with our call for him to step down at the time because we believe the way the Farahi administration handled the situation demonstrated a callus disregard for black students and epitomized a culture of structural racism at the university.
President Farahi clearly failed to grasp how this death threat unnerved many black students on campus when he refused to cancel classes the next day and dismissed the seriousness of the threat by urging students to “continue in your normal routines.” This doesn’t change even knowing what we know today about the alleged perpetrator.
President Farahi’s tone deafness sheds light on his colossal failure to grasp the very different experience of minority students on campus.
It might seem counterintuitive at first to say racism exists on a campus as diverse as Kean’s. In its public relations response following the incident, the Farahi administration pointed out that Kean is among the most diverse campuses in the United States, with a student population that is 20 percent African American and 30 percent Hispanic.
The implication in touting such statistics is that racism cannot possibly exist on a campus that is so diverse, where whites make up only 31 percent.
But such faulty reasoning belies the ways in which the structural racism that permeates the university under the Farahi administration hurts minority students at Kean in ways that they may not even realize.
Under the Farahi administration, operating funds have been diverted from the classroom to build vanity projects that most students are not allowed to use and that sit largely vacant. To pay for these projects, the faculty size has been dramatically cut, college advisors were eliminated, and funds for critical academic and student support services have been reduced.
President Farahi’s policies mean that Kean’s students don’t receive the same quality of education that students get at our sister institutions such as Montclair State University.
In the last decade, the number of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty dropped 36% from 384 to 244 even as student full-time equivalents increased from 9,405 to 10,103.
These full-time faculty have been replaced by adjuncts and lecturers who lack the advanced degrees required of full-time faculty and who have no job security. Between 2002 and 2015, adjunct numbers more than doubled from 455 to 1100, while lecturer numbers went from 0 to 67.
Several years ago, President Farahi eliminated the academic advisors based in the colleges as a cost savings measure. The number of tutors in the Center for Academic success has been reduced, especially in the sciences while Career Services has been reduced to one employee.
In 2011, President Farahi laid off 12 professional staff members from offices providing student support. Now, he threatens to lay off dozens more concentrated in offices serving our most vulnerable students: the library, the Center for Academic Success, and the Educational Opportunities Center, which houses the EOF/EEO program.
Many of Kean’s students, especially minority students, come from disadvantaged backgrounds. It’s clear all these cuts in academic support disproportionately impact minority students.
We believe minority students at Kean deserve better. If you agree, please join our rally at noon on Dec. 11 on Morris Avenue to call for the ouster of President Farahi.
The Rev. Ronald Slaughter,
Senior Pastor, Saint James AME Church