Former state Supreme Court Justice to review Kean report

Kean University President Dawood Farahi, center, sits with Board of Trustees members Ada Morell, left, and Linda Lewis at the Trustees meeting on March 7. Credit: Rebecca Panico

Kean University President Dawood Farahi, center, sits with Board of Trustees members Ada Morell, left, and Linda Lewis at the Trustees meeting on March 7. Credit: Rebecca Panico

By Rebecca Panico | Published March 31, 2016

A former state Supreme Court Justice will review Kean’s report investigating claims of institutional racism after the university faced increasing pressure from lawmakers across the state.

“The Kean University Board of Trustees has already agreed to forward the Governance Committee report to Justice John E. Wallace, Jr.,” Kean University President Dawood Farahi said in a March 18 statement. “Once it is completed, I will recommend Justice Wallace be retained to review and assess the report, and prepare his impartial evaluation for the Board of Trustees.”

The university hired Rev. Michael Blackwell to investigate the university’s employment practices after claims of institutional racism were made by a coalition of ministers led by Rev. Ronald Slaughter of the Saint James AME Church in Newark last year.

The coalition also called for Farahi’s resignation after a black Kean graduate was accused of posting threats against black students on Twitter last November in an alleged hoax.

WATCH: Protesters demand Farahi’s resignation at rally

Rev. Slaughter called the president’s decision “a step in the right direction” but emphasized that “we still have a long way to go! Don’t close your eyes just yet” in an email. On Twitter, he stressed that he still wanted Wallace to do his own report.

The president’s statement noted that Kean’s student body — which is about 60 percent minority – and faculty “deserve the truth.”

“Kean has been named by DiversityInc. as one of the top five most diverse universities in the nation, and placed on President Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for five years running,” Farahi said in statement. “We are confident the facts will speak for themselves.”

Last month, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney urged the university’s Board of Trustees to use Wallace rather than its own auditor in a letter written by the senate majority leader.

“Utilizing members of your Board of Trustees and an individual handpicked by the University,” the letter read, “would only serve to further nurture an environment of mistrust and skepticism, especially if the investigation unequivocally validates the actions and atmosphere at Kean University.”

In response, Trustees Chair Ada Morell wrote that the Board Governance Committee, which was working with Rev. Blackwell on the report, had already obtained its own auditor and initially declined the senate president’s suggestion.

The coalition criticized the university’s decision to hire Rev. Blackwell too, since he admitted a bias in an interview with The Tower, saying that the coalition accused people at Kean of things he doesn’t “think they’re guilty of.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Sweeney organized a closed-door meeting between Rev. Slaughter, Farahi, and other lawmakers last year. The university would not confirm or deny that all parties agreed to use an auditor recommended by the legislature.

Now, Farahi stated the university would provide its full cooperation to Wallace in his statement.

“The University pledges its full cooperation to Justice Wallace and will provide any necessary information he may need to finalize his evaluation,” Farahi said in a statement. “Senate President Stephen Sweeney has been consulted on this course of action.”

Rev. Blackwell completed his review on March 7, the same day that the Board Governance Committee gave a summary of his report at the Trustees’ meeting.

That announcement of his completed review came less than a week after The Record reported that Rev. Blackwell was convicted of crimes ranging from domestic violence against a woman and writing a bad check.

Questions were also raised by The Record regarding his educational credentials and his time served in federal prison in the 1990s, relating to a bank robbery.

The Board Governance Committee’s full report will be made at the next Trustees meeting on May 9.

Rebecca Panico may be reached at Follow The Tower on Twitter@KeanTower. Find The Tower on Facebook.



  1. See Kean Who’s Who:

    2012 Kean student groups uniting to remove Farahi “Occupy Kean University” and “Take Back Kean” The student groups may have moved on but their legacy continues


  2. Minister Mike Cunningham says:

    I continue to support Reverend Blackwell and I am appalled at the contuance of the reporters wanting to mention over and over a federal crime the Reverend served time for and happened over 20 years ago. My question is since he was hired in his record of compliance successes what does anything else matter. For all of you who have used Plumbers, Electricians, Contractors to name a few, did you do criminal background checks on the company owners and the persons doing the repairs or did you hire them based on their capabilities, a recommendation or both. Truth is if the stats are correct all of us have had former inmates, ex cons an ex offenders in our houses, we are at the stores with them, we go to Church with them. “There’s non righteous no not one”!!! So please do us all a favor and quit with the repeating Reverend Blackwell’s past failures for which he has paid his debt. He didn’t get a life sentence from his Judge so who are we to give him one. Who are we to Judge him unless we Judge ourselves! I am net rested in his reported findings at Kean University, I stand with the committee that hired him, they saw his record they saw his references. I guess May 9th if the report is favorable for Kean it will be something else to complain about.


  3. John Doe says:

    The news has resently brought out issues at Wm. Paterson claiming racism with one of the African American Professors, Essex County which is right up the street from St. James AME has suspended its President for wrongful use of funds but all we hear about is Kean University. Rev. Slaughter it would appear needs to look down the street from his church for something to protest and since Wm. Paterson along with other NJ University’s fall under the Higher Education Comittee and Senator Cunningham need to start any investigation in to Systemic Racism from Trenton. if it’s in one it must be in all as the word symbolizes a System of Racism. 3 people out of a politically connected Church cannot be evidenced as Systemic. This whole fiasco smells of Politics with the head double agenda being the Senate President who is canvassing for votes even now. Rev. Blackwell’s report will either expose a corrupt system of practices prevalent in all NJ Universities or it will vindicate Kean University from the accusations made by an group of rebel rousers who have major Social ills in their own County, Federal Monitors over the Newark Police, Lead in the Water of the School Children, the murder of a 19 year old Woman in front of her Family in broad daylight adding to a climbing number of homicides in the City. Judge Wallace can only co sign the sterling record of Diversity Kean University has accomplished. Numbers don’t lie and after reading about the many large compliance jobs the Reverend has done, I am placing my bet that his conclusions and his Summary will stand.


    • Everyone is looking at Kean University from the outside – try reading about what goes on inside the administration. When you have a president who falsified his resume for over 30 years with over 50 publications, spends $300M on empty buildings for students and taxpayers to pay, cutting student services and the Board of Trustees continue to support him that should be a huge red flag.

      Slotting in former bursar, Faruque Chowdhury as 2003 HR Dir without any experience so he can fire minority employees at will when they speak out then hire family and cronies, the list goes on at the KEAN FIEFDOM. Ask Farahi and Chowdhury what happened to all the african-american females that used to work in HR or Admissions etc?

      Occupy Kean University was created in 2012 by Kean students and continues to be a repository of opinions, media articles and documentation. The students have all moved on but the Farahi history will continue to follow him and his supporters.
      Follow FB Occupy Kean University


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