By Rebecca Panico | Published May 10, 2016
A report released yesterday by the university at a Board of Trustees meeting concluded that African American students and employees at Kean are “not subject to institutional or structural discrimination.”
The report comes after a coalition of black ministers led by Rev. Ronald Slaughter of the Saint James AME Church in Newark and Kean’s full-time faculty union – the Kean Federation of Teachers (KFT) — alleged racism on campus last semester and called for President Dawood Farahi’s resignation.
“The findings of this review support that Kean is diverse and provides an environment that furthers equality and opportunity,” said Linda Lewis, chair of Kean’s Board Governance Committee which headed the review. “Is it a Utopia? Is it striving to overcome societal ills that nurtures bias and discrimination? Yes. It is time for malicious defamation and finger pointing to cease, and a cooperative spirit that moves Kean forward to begin.”
The minister’s coalition and others were spurred to action after a former African American graduate from Kean made death threats against black students on campus using Twitter.
Rev. Slaughter called the report “ridiculous” today and pointed out that former state Supreme Court Justice John Wallace should conduct his own, separate report. Wallace was recommended by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) amid concerns regarding Rev. Michael Blackwell, who was hired by Kean to assist with the report and admitted a bias in an interview with The Tower.
“This report is ridiculous and Lewis interviewed no one that would be opposed to Farahi or who have filed grievances,” Rev. Slaughter wrote in an email. “And Justice Wallace isn’t hired to review their report but to conduct his own investigation. I’m not shocked that this incompetent board continues to play games with public money/taxes. Any report from Blackwell and Lewis shouldn’t be taken seriously.”
A university spokeswoman clarified that Wallace has not seen or worked on the report at this point, but it will be forwarded to him, as Farahi agreed to do. Wallace will receive $15,000 for his work, just like Blackwell.
KFT President James Castiglione echoed similar sentiments, though he admitted to just skimming through the report, which is over 100 pages long.
“Former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Wallace must be allowed to conduct his own, unencumbered independent investigation,” he said in a phone interview today.
“Perhaps not surprisingly the report fails to address the fundamental issues that we have been raising, namely that Kean’s majority minority student body has far fewer full-time faculty and staff providing student services then their peers at our sister institutions in New Jersey.”
The report made four recommendations, which included meeting with the KFT to determine if there are any issues facing African American faculty.
“We welcome the university’s stated willingness to meet and we hope that President Farahi will follow through on the recommendation to meet with the KFT leadership,” Castiglione added.
Kean’s Board of Trustees voted to accepted the findings in the report at last night’s meeting.
“The report presented by Ms. Lewis, whose career as a compliance officer gives her expert status in these issues, is an affirmation of the ongoing work of so many in our administration, faculty and student body,” Farahi said in a statement. “We will continue to use best practices to ensure that our community remains richly diverse and that our graduation rates for African American student success outcomes for all students grow stronger each year.”
See below for some of the data provided in the report, or click here to read it in full.
- Kean had the second-highest ratio of African American students enrolled in any four-year public college or university in New Jersey during 2014. Rutgers had the highest number of African American students, but they only account for 10 percent of the overall student population. This information was found in the appendix of the report.
- African American students who enrolled in 2003 — the year Farahi took office — had a nearly 30 percent six-year graduation rate. Caucasian students who enrolled in the same year had a 53 percent six-year graduation rate, while 41 percent of Hispanics in the 2003 class graduated in six years. That information was found in the appendix of the report.
- Twelve percent of African American students who enrolled in 2003 graduated in four years, compared to 23 percent of Caucasian students from the same group.
- The overall trend for graduation rates of African American students has increased since 2003. Seventeen percent of African Americans in the class of 2011 graduated in four years, while nearly 41 percent of African Americans who enrolled in 2009 graduated in six years.
- Nearly 8 percent of Kean’s full-time faculty was African-American in 2015, the report said using data from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Kean was the fourth-highest ranking university in the state in this respect.
- Promotions of African American faculty “lagged” behind the ratio of overall African American faculty on campus, accounting for 4 percent of promotions in the past 10 years, the report said. In the past five years, African American faculty accounted for 6 percent of promotions.
- In the past 10 years, Kean’s non-faculty Caucasian staff gained 53 percent of promotions, the report said using date from their Human Resources department. African Americans earned 21 percent in the same time frame and Hispanics earned 18 percent.
- From 2010 to 2016, less staff were promoted overall when compared to 2005 to 2010. African Americans accounted for 18 percent of promotions in the last five years. Caucasian staff earned 60 percent of all promotions in the same time frame.
- Kean has settled seven discrimination cases brought forth by African American employees over the past 12 years, the report said. By settling, the university admits no wrongdoing.
- The report noted about three other discrimination lawsuits at other New Jersey colleges and universities – though the report was unclear how Kean compares to other universities or colleges overall in this category.
Kean’s Board Governance Committee made four recommendations for improvement to administrators. They are:
- Increase both the African American and overall graduation rates by meeting with the state Equal Opportunity Fund office to explore new initiatives.
- Consider more targeted faculty recruitment strategies, including marketing in such specialized areas as Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
- Review full-time faculty promotion procedures with Kean’s full-time faculty union, the Kean Federation of Teachers, to determine if issues are negatively impacting African American faculty and if those can be addressed.
- Establish job placement tracking research software for Kean University students to ensure more opportunities for success after graduation.