Monday, August 25, 2008
“A number of my Brooklyn College colleagues were profiled in a Chronicle article discussing their protests against the treatment of Syed Fahad Hashmi. Hashmi, a 2003 Brooklyn College graduate, is currently being held without bail, awaiting trial on charges of providing material assistance to Al Qaeda.The petition, alas, seems unlikely to achieve its stated intent. Given the Bush administration’s record on terrorism cases and civil liberties, it’s plausible to believe that Hashmi’s civil liberties have been violated. Yet the petition’s presentation of the case is so one-sided—and its comments about the case’s effects on the academy so off-the-wall—as to make any undecided reader less, rather than more, likely to embrace the signatories’ position.
The Chronicle appropriately describes the case against Hashmi as “murky.” And political science professor Jeanne Theoharis, the statement’s author, has said that the signatories take no position on the merits of Hashmi’s guilt or innocence. Yet their petition and the remarks of the petition’s two chief sponsors (Theoharis and political science professor Corey Robin) read as if cribbed from a defense brief.It’s not clear how a one-sided presentation of the facts of the case will rally support for the signatories' claim that Hashmi’s civil liberties have been violated. (Such a strategy, it seems to me, only undermines the credibility of the petition's broader assertions.) In their commentary about the case’s possible effects on free speech and the academy, however, the signatories cross over from one-sided to merely bizarre.Affirm the signatories, “The prosecution’s case against Hashmi, an activist within the Muslim community, threatens the First Amendment rights of others. While Hashmi’s political and religious beliefs, speech, and associations are constitutionally protected, the government may attempt to use them as evidence of his criminal intent."
Well, yes: for instance, the government may point out that Hashmi’s praise of John Walker Lindh (the American Taliban) provides insight into his state of mind. Similarly, in the 1960s, it was perfectly appropriate for federal prosecutors in trials of KKK members to use their (constitutionally protected) racist statements or memberships to provide insight into the Klansmens’ mindsets. There isn’t anything particularly unusual about such a trial strategy, and it’s absurd to say that such an attempt “threatens the First Amendment rights of others.”(By the way, I assume that each of the signatories is committed to advocating the repeal of all hate crimes laws—since such legislation is based on the premise of using “constitutionally protected” “political and religious beliefs, speech, and associations . . . as evidence of . . . criminal intent.”)
The statement’s authors stretch credulity even further when they discuss the case’s alleged effect on the academy.Theoharis: “It’s particularly significant in a moment when we are seeing the criminalization of Muslim students. I think that he is a devout and practicing Muslim who is very political. If he can be treated like this, it sends a message to other young people, particularly other Muslim young people, that you know you are not protected. I think it is crucial in terms of students thinking they can be who they want to be and espouse the politics that they want to espouse.”
Robin: “The classroom is supposed to be a kind of sacred space where students can express their beliefs, and faculty are obligated to push them. It’s chilling to me to think that that whole process, which is the essence of what it means to be an educated person, could suddenly become an item of scrutiny in a court of law.”The signatories present no evidence that the government intends to use at trial (or has even investigated) Hashmi’s utterances in the “sacred space” of the “classroom,” or that the government intends to make the classroom “an item of scrutiny in a court of law.” Nor do the signatories present any evidence to suggest a pattern of “the criminalization(!) of Muslim students.”
That hundreds of professors could sign a statement associated with such claims says more about the academy than any violations of civil liberties by the government.Two individual signatories particularly raised eyebrows. By all accounts, Hashmi is an extremely religious man. Yet the list of signatories included would-have-been Brooklyn Sociology Department chairman Tim Shortell, who had previously branded all religious people “moral retards.” It’s not clear if Shortell considers Hashmi a “moral retard,” too."
And among the signatories of this petition? Our very own “Sue” O’Malley. At the same time that she is taking Sharad Karkhanis to court for suggesting, in an albeit sarcastic manner, that she has in the past been a prominent advocate for convicted criminals at CUNY, she is making Sharad’s case by standing behind Syed Hashmi! Far be it from us to question O’Malley’s exercise of her First Amendment rights. But how she can join in the cause of Hashmi while suing Karkhanis for making statements of fact is well beyond our ken.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
At about the same time, Brooklyn professor Mitchell Langbert's blog was inactive, having been reported to Google as a "spam blog."
We're sure that it's only a coincidence that two blogs highly critical of plaintiff Susan O'Malley were shut down at the same time, for the same bogus reason.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Despite the suspicious timing of the contract ratification process—in the dog days of summer—many of our colleagues have pleaded for a free, frank and full discussion of the contract before it is approved. But true to form, the leadership has dismissed their objections and denied them access to modes of communication paid for by their own dues.
The PSC’s curious, but characteristic, insistence on conformity and censorship has now been noticed in the pages of Inside Higher Education:
Revolt in the Adjunct Ranks
“When the current leaders of the faculty union at the City University of New York were elected in 2000, they ousted their predecessors with a vow to be more activist and to deliver more for faculty members, including part timers. Since then, the union leaders have indeed been activist and politically vocal, drawing regular criticism from professors who would prefer to see the Professional Staff Congress take a more moderate stance.
But in an unusual reversal that points to some of the tensions in academic labor over how to balance the needs of full-time and part-time professors, the union (affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers) is facing intense criticism from those whom it pledged to help: the part timers who lack the pay or job security of those on the tenure track. Some part-time professors are organizing to urge the entire union membership to reject a contract recently negotiated by the union.
The dissident part timers charge that the contract — by failing to achieve anything in the way of job security for most part timers and by calling for the same percentage increase wages for most full-time and part-time professors, even though the former enjoy much higher salaries — effectively adds to the inequality between those on and off the tenure track. Adding to the controversy is anger from part timers who say that the union’s leaders are blocking them from communicating their concerns to the union’s full membership.
The union leaders told the critics of the contract that they could not distribute their views in the union newspaper (it was too late for the deadline, they said) or use e-mail to the entire membership because the union leaders have voted to endorse the contract, making that stance official policy even before the membership votes.
Because adopting a contract is one of the union activities that requires a membership vote, this has infuriated many adjuncts and some others — even some who think the new contract was the best the union could hope for. Some critics have noted that they are shocked that the union would block its own members from sending e-mail to the union’s list of member names, when union leaders boasted that one of their contract gains was the right to do union business on CUNY computer networks.”
Despite the bully-boy efforts of Steve London, the PSC’s First Vice-President, and his henchman Peter Hogness, censor-in-chief of the union’s newspaper The Clarion, the dissidents have been able to get some media coverage. The most welcoming, and best circulated, venue for alternate views has been The Patriot Returns! Little wonder, then, that Barbara and “Sue” have been trying their best to shut Sharad Kharkanis and his newsletter down. Heaven forbid that faculty members could disagree with these “dear leaders.”
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
The Professional Staff Congress and Revolutionary Unionism
"The temperate, prudent, courageous, just and of course virtuous Sharad Karkhanis has written an excellent issue of Patriot Returns. Karkhanis named his newsletter after our Patriot missles, which shot down Iraqi Scuds in 1991. With a circulation of 13,000, Karkhanis's newsletter aims to shoot down the Scuds of the perverse CUNY faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) and hopefully blow the PSC leadership back to Cuba, although I doubt that even Castro or his brother would want them. Maybe North Korea's Kim Jong-il would welcome them since they seem to aim to give the CUNY faculty a North Korean-style wage-and-benefit package, but even he might find them tiresome.
In the early twentieth century there were alternative models of unionism being proposed. The mainstream AF of L, created by Samuel Gompers and Adolph Strasser, advocated a form of unionism that labor scholar Robert F. Hoxie called business unionism. Business unionism does not question the underlying assumptions of the capitalist economy and resorts to political gamesmanship only in order to "reward friends and punish enemies". Its emphasis is improving wages, benefits and working conditions, not changing the world. Gompers expressed the pro-capitalist essence of business unionism when someone asked him: "What does labor want?" Gompers responded: "More". Like any profit-maximizing capitalist, and any red-blooded American, business unionists aim to advance themselves economically. In contrast, models of unionism that were prevalent during the early twentieth century included the Industrial Workers of the World (the Wobblies) and the communist unionism of the Socialist Labor Party's Daniel de Leon's Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance and others. American workers rejected what labor scholar Hoxie called revolutionary unionism in favor of business unionism. The gulf between the "New" Left and the business unionists reached a crescendo during the Vietnam War in 1965 when AFL-CIO president George Meany announced his support for the Vietnam War.
Inverting the historical pattern, the PSC leadership has rejected business unionism in favor of revolutionary unionism. Its repeated calls for demonstrations; the anti-Iraqi War protests several years ago; the endless radical rhetoric that has alienated New York's political establishment (social democratic thought it be); and the utter contempt with which the PSC's leadership treats economic and workplace issues all suggest that the PSC does not operate as a mainstream union. The low contract numbers that Karkhanis decries result from the PSC's leadership's strategic choice to favor revolution over selfish gain, or even selfish keeping your head above water and avoiding the bankruptcy judge.
Perhaps the the PSC leadership does not need to worry about electric, heating, gasoline and food bills. Perhaps like Professor Ros, they live in high rent apartments on six figure incomes. Perhaps they can afford to contribute $5,000 to the Obama campaign.
If so, isn't it time to get back to reality and rocket this crew back to Cuba via one of Karkhanis's Patriots?"
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
In one respect, Susan O’Malley’s lawsuit against Sharad Karkhanis is a deadly serious assault on a basic tenet of academic freedom—the right of professors, at a publicly funded university, to publicly criticize their elected faculty leadership. In another respect, however, the lawsuit could best be compared to a bad Country Western song—“The Ballad of 'Thin-Skinned Sue',” the professor who seemed to stand for election to every faculty post under the sun, and who then struck back at one of her most caustic critics by filing a lawsuit that she herself described as “very, very silly.”
It seems as if “Thin-Skinned Sue” has managed to find herself an equally thin-skinned lawyer. In a posting on his website recently forwarded to us by a reader, attorney Joseph Carasso lashed out against the authors of this blog. In a line that doesn’t indicate judicial temperament, he fumed, “It is scary to think that young impressionable students are taught by people who not only are cowards and lack honor, but misinform and lie with ease.” He further labeled us a “coward” for refusing to “proclaim their identity to the world.”
In the blog’s founding statement, we addressed the question of our posting pseudonymously. As we noted, “Lest we, too, be subject to a lawsuit from the PSC leadership, this blog is published pseudonymously by CUNY faculty members.”
In that respect, we concede that the O’Malley/Carasso lawsuit already has had something of a chilling effect. As full-time faculty members at CUNY, we have suffered through the last seven years of ineffectual leadership by the faculty union, as O’Malley and her cronies in the leadership have focused on international causes and their base among the adjuncts, while avoiding the pressing problem of low salaries for full-time professors. As a result, we simply don’t have the money to hire competent counsel if O’Malley should decide to drop one of her “very, very silly” lawsuits on us.
In our post about Carasso, we cited a trade website to note that Carasso was a literary agent for ARP. In his posting, Carasso denies any association with ARP. Despite his ad hominem attacks against us, we accept him at his word, apologize for repeating the trade website’s error, and have corrected the original posting.
The rest of Carasso’s screed is all huff and no substance—a little like O’Malley’s lawsuit itself. In our original post, we observed that Carasso has “advertised himself as providing ‘low-cost legal advice for independents.’” We linked to a column in Filmmaker Magazine by Carasso himself. The article was subtitled, “Joseph Martin Carasso on low-cost legal advice for independents.”
Carasso now claims, “I certainly never advertised for low cost legal services.” Is he now asserting that he, in fact, never wrote the linked column? If so, his beef would seem to be with Filmmaker Magazine, which claimed that he did, not us. Or is he asserting that Filmmaker Magazine reached out to someone with no knowledge in the field to pen an article on “low-cost legal advice for independents”? Again, if so, his beef would seem to be with Filmmaker Magazine, not us. Or is he suggesting that he falsely advertised himself to Filmmaker Magazine as an expert on “low-cost legal advice for independents,” even though he knows little about the topic?
Whichever of the three arguments Carasso is presenting—his post is wholly unclear on the matter—there’s nothing he has offered that rebuts our original post.
Carasso’s rebuttal doesn’t even attempt to challenge our suggestions that he isn’t exactly a word-class attorney with expertise on academic freedom issues. As we noted in the original post, Caraaso is “a graduate of the William Mitchell College of Law (not an institution many would confuse with a Tier-I law school), [and] Carasso’s Lexis/Nexis entry lists his specialties as entertainment litigation and personal injury matters.” He doesn’t deny the description.
Indeed, had we been so inclined, we could have provided more detail in our original post about Carasso’s apparent mediocrity, such as the peculiar fact that this veteran (26-year) attorney lists on his website a grand total of one reported decision. His client in that case? None other than . . . Susan O’Malley, in an ugly lawsuit described in the following manner by the ruling: “This personal injury action arises out of an accident involving five teenagers, some illegal drugs, and a paintball gun.”
Despite the insinuations of his posting, Carasso has been rather cavalier with facts in his own work. In his filing against Karkhanis, Carasso—who describes “computer and software technology” as one of his firm’s “areas of practice”—stated that Karkhanis’ IP address is Patriotreturns.com. Patriotreturns.com is a domain name, not an IP address—a basic fact with which, we would think, an attorney who specializes in “computer and software technology” would be aware.
Finally, our post also mentioned that Carasso served as a consultant to a film called, “How Do You Spell Murder?” Carasso responds not by challenging the point in any way, but by terming himself “proud” of his work. The filmmakers, he adds, have also produced such high-quality intellectual fare as “ELVIS ’56.”
In the name of free speech, we think it’s best to let Counsel Carasso’s pride speak for itself.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
“More on Fantasizing "The New McCarthyism"
I continue to deal with the contentious themes of “guilt by association” and the imaginary new sacred cow, “the New McCarthyism” in response to a comment on FrontPage Magazine's reader forum.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article on my experience at a CUNY Forum titled, "Academic Freedom and the Attack on Diversity at CUNY” which was published on FrontPage Magazine, posted here on Democracy Project, Campus Watch, and also picked up on Daniel Pipes’ blog, demonstrating the urgency of these issues. The CUNY forum featured the panelists, Deborah Almontaser, founder and former principle of the Arabic language public school, Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA), and CUNY faculty union official Susan O’Malley who filed a $2 million defamation lawsuit against Professor Emeritus Sharad Karkhanis.
There were a few interesting comments on FrontPage Magazine's reader forum one of which I chose to respond to online. The writer challenged my “obsession” with “guilt by association” which is basically similar to the accusations at the CUNY forum leveled at such awesome figures as Daniel Pipes, Dr. Karkhanis and CUNY Trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld. They charged that a vast rightwing campaign of Islamophobia which they call “the New McCarthyism” is spreading throughout the nation “attacking” Arabs, Muslims, college professors and Senator Barack Obama as well, based upon the false premise of “guilt by association.”
In my article I argued that such allegations are pure fantasy that has risen to a new level of hysteria, with wild accusations of “racism” and “Islamophobia,” which has precluded any rational discussion about national security threats and sober concerns about stealth Islamic infiltration into government, education and academia. The title of my article initially was to be “Guilt by Association and Recruitment” but was changed by the editors of FrontPage Magazine. My original intent was to report on one of the panelists, Susan O’Malley who has endorsed and made efforts to recruit convicted terrorists for teaching jobs at CUNY. My interest was primarily in the lawsuit against Dr. Karkhanis, the real victim in all this furor, for having the courage to blow the whistle on O’Malley’s dubious activities within the CUNY system. The intent of her lawsuit was to bully and silence her critic, and trample his constitutional free speech rights in order to protect herself from scrutiny.
Slandering a good man from the auspices of a CUNY forum, and arguing on the merits of her case against Dr. Karkhanis is a disgrace and embarrassment to the entire CUNY system. O’Malley, a long-standing academic public figure had the gall to sit piously on the panel and use the forum for her personal agenda to paint a far-fetched portrait of lies as the victim of 13 years of “attacks” by a “crazy man” who has plagued her with false accusations of guilt by association similar to those directed at Muslims, Arabs, Ms. Almontaser, and Senator Obama. Susan O’Malley and company, who hold respectable positions of authority in academia as tenured professors and public officials, unsurprisingly want to deny the significance of their associations and support for criminals and terrorists, in order to avoid scrutiny and accountability for their actions. Regrettably, due to their status and authority, such paranoid fantasies as “the New McCarthyism” and frantic denials of “guilt by association” have trickled down into the body politic to become some of our latest sacred cows.”
"....Ms. Vera is dreadfully confused about the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” let me attempt to enlighten her about the legal system of the United States and basic civic duties of citizens, of which she seems to be sorely misinformed. The "presumption of innocence" is a basic doctrine of criminal law in which the government is required to prove the guilt of a criminal defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. For public service responsibilities, however, the process is the other way around. The people, not a government court of law must make critical judgments and informed choices in selecting the people who will serve them, and there is no presumption of innocence in this public domain. The burden of proof is on the individuals or institutions that aspire to public service, whether they’re public school principles, CUNY union officials or president of the United States. It is the civic duty of the citizens in a democracy, to judge their fitness to serve, and to continue to hold them accountable while in office. The “guilt” we’re talking about here, is their fitness for the job, not whether they’re good or evil people. Ms. Almontaser was the principle of a public school and O’Malley is a CUNY public figure, in both cases municipal positions paid for by taxpayer monies. The best way to judge public figures is by the company they keep, not just sugar-coated promises. They are working for you and me and their resumes must include good personal references, in order to be hired with our tax dollars. If they have numerous shady associations and dealings in their past, I wouldn’t hire them. I certainly wouldn’t hire someone with radical Islamic connections, or who endorses convicted terrorists."
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Fantasizing “The New McCarthyism”
By Phil OrensteinFrontPageMagazine.com 5/22/2008
"After the lengthy front page tribute in the New York Times treating Deborah Almontaser, founder and former principle of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA), as the later day Mother Theresa, I thought the public forum she would be addressing later that evening, alongside her embattled sister in solidarity, City University of New York (CUNY) faculty union official Susan O’Malley, would be thronged by numerous admirers and reporters. But there were no such crowds or media. Wandering the endless corridors of the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan, I bumped into the panelists Susan O’Malley and Ms. Almontaser, who were just as lost as I was, looking for the classroom where the public forum, “Academic Freedom and the Attack on Diversity at CUNY,” was to be held.
A little more than 20 people including CUNY faculty, students as well as the speakers showed up. The poor attendance may be due to the fact that the CUNY Senate Forum email list received the announcement on Sunday after 10 PM, the day before the event. I was the only person at this “public” forum sponsored by the Middle East Student’s Association (MESO), who attempted to speak up to dispute the cunning agenda and break through the monolithic conformity of the group.
Billed as an important forum to address the issues of Islamophobia at CUNY, the email announcement stated: “Around the country, Islamophobic and Anti-Arab attacks on professors have increased, most notably at Columbia and Barnard. This movement to attack and discredit dissent has been called "the New McCarthyism" – shutting down reasoned debate on important issues….. Ms. Almontaser will appear on this panel along with CUNY Professor Susan O' Malley and others working to expose the attack on academic freedom across the nation…There is some urgency here as these attacks are one tip of a vast ideological iceberg that is also threatening to impact the current election campaign.”
Although the issue of the “anti-Arab attacks” at Columbia and Barnard was not broached in the forum they were most likely referring to the recent public uproar of Columbia and Barnard alumni over the ill-advised tenure decision of Professor Nadia Abu El-Haj granted by virtue of her unimpressive scholarship of one book Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society based on flimsy evidence and hearsay, which purports that the historical origins of the State of Israel are fictitious.
What I witnessed was a closed forum dedicated to a veiled radical agenda, riddled by hysterical paranoia, name-calling, slanderous accusations against prominent scholars and city officials, and strategies for their ouster, where the panelists professed that “attacks” against Arabs and professors are a coordinated right wing smear campaign launched by Daniel Pipes, CUNY trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld and their ilk, which they dubbed the “New McCarthyism.” But Mr. Pipes and company whom they demonized with such venom, have simply exercised their First Amendment rights of critical journalism and free speech, civilly exchanging opinions and information in online magazine articles, speeches, op-eds and blogs, where all sides of the issues were often given a fair hearing in the media.
I was confused as to the reasons for their excessive paranoia. How are Pipes and company threatening their academic freedom? The so-called “New McCarthyites” have been vociferous, no doubt, but they demonstrated nothing resembling the violent student mob attacks at Columbia University on Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist, because he expressed disagreeable views. Mr. Pipes and a few opinionated bloggers, including myself, are not U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy. What is this “vast ideological iceberg” that is “threatening to impact the current election campaign” of which the so-called attacks on academic freedom are only the tip?
....I waited until the end of the forum and approached Ms. Almontaser civilly and asked her a number of questions. I said to her that I am opposed to the KGIA, because public schools in the U.S. funded by the taxpayers, should not teach students in Arabic or in any one particular language other than English. She answered that there are dual language public schools that focus on Spanish language, or Chinese so there ought to be a school which immerses the student in Arabic language study, especially since there is such an urgent need for Arabic translators and diplomats. I replied that public schools should offer Arabic, Spanish, French and other languages as electives, but only English should be the standard in American schools. But she countered that the elective program is not good enough. We need a more comprehensive language program.
I asked her why she placed Muslim imams on the school’s advisory board and why was everyone involved so secretive. The difficulty of obtaining inside information to keep the academy transparent to the public was naturally a cause for concern. The names of the clerics, on the advisory board for instance, were only later revealed in a letter to the New York Sun. She blamed the Department of Education for the lack of transparency and claimed she was always forthcoming about the curriculum, the books, and the teachers, but DOE never put it on their website. However, sources from STM claim that queries submitted to the DOE suggest that there was no indication on Almontaser’s part that she was seeking transparency concerning the curriculum.Regarding the imams on her board, she answered that when she was designing the school she was seeking advice from her friends in the community and these imams were eager to offer help. Anyway, as Almontaser declared, the board has already been disbanded by the Department of Education. But Imam Abdur-Rashid, a board member who has written in a radical vein “on the way white Americans "robbed" Africans and Muslims of their heritage,” hasn’t heard the news of the board’s demise according to Andrea Peyser of the New York Post.
A bystander listening to our conversation interjected that rabbis and reverends were on the board as well as imams – all the major beliefs were represented. I replied that I am opposed to having any religious clerics, of any faith sit on a public school’s advisory board. It’s illegal, unconstitutional and breaks the separation of church and state. It’s fine for a private Yeshiva, Christian or Islamic school to employ religious figures, but not in a public school. I asked Ms. Almontaser why not launch a private school to immerse the student in Arabic language and culture, or a public school with a better Arabic elective program? She answered that she was no longer a principle and cannot make decisions. I thanked her for her open and honest answers and mentioned that I would investigate further.
What was most disturbing about the whole issue of the Arabic themed school, was the total lack of any American themed plans for a school where pride in country, patriotism and respect for our flag would be instilled in our youth. Instead of focusing on cultural immersion into balkanized entities of Arabic, Chinese or Spanish traditions and languages, the most pressing need today is teaching our children about the greatness of our common American heritage. The focus of education should be imparting a first-class knowledge of United States history. The history of America is the history of all people, all races, ethnicities and religions. The people of numerous cultures and national origins that immigrate to our shores in order to share in the bounties of the great American experiment must assimilate to American culture first, rather than the other way around. The moral rot of multiculturalism dictates that the assimilation process should proceed the other way around. They want to tear apart our country into disconnected identity groups, which will ultimately bring our nation to ruin. Instead of using the classroom to teach minority students and new immigrants that Western Civilization is the villain and they are its victims, teachers should be imparting the basic principles of assimilation into the fabric of American society. Teach the core values and ideals of America – courage, honor, honesty, religious freedom, individual rights, civics education, free enterprise, work ethic, etc. It is imperative for teachers to respect the flag, respect our country and be proud Americans. The heart of the problem in education today that is poisoning our next generation is that too many teachers and academics are just the opposite. That travesty was demonstrated in every spoken word at the forum and that is why the KGIA is such a dangerous idea that must be stopped.
....The third and final panelist was CUNY faculty union official Susan O’Malley, who has filed an ongoing $2 million defamation lawsuit against Professor Emeritus Sharad Karkhanis, for his audacity to state that it’s not appropriate to place convicted terrorists, Mohamed Yousry and Susan Rosenberg on the CUNY payroll. In his introduction, the moderator stated O’Malley has been “attacked” as a “so-called terrorist sympathizer” as he listed her credentials. She defended herself with the same cries of Islamophobia and racism as Almontaser but only O’Malley’s persecution came from a “crazy man” and his conservative allies. She cried that in her case, for at least 13 years she has been “attacked by a crazy man named Sharad Karkhanis.”
To explain the methods Karkhanis and his friends used to “attack” her, she expounded on the “craziness” of guilt by association that was used to smear KGIA and its founder, Ms. Almontaser. The same strategy is being used to attack Senator Obama, by associating him with controversial figures, Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, the unrepentant former leader of the Weather Underground. The method is to take something irrelevant out of context and repeat it over and over again until it is cited as established fact. This leads to the “establishment of lies” which inadvertently appear in everyday conversation, as people rehash them as household words. That is how she was smeared by Karkhanis and she proceeded to tell her tale of anguish.
Karkhanis put out a newsletter, The Patriot Returns, which he distributes to 13,000 CUNY faculty, in which she’s been “red-baited, lesbian-baited and everything-baited,” called “a terrorist” and a “friend of terrorists,” and even declared that she was “at an al-Qaeda training camp.” She claimed to have endured “about 50 attacks” from the various issues of the newsletter. He doesn’t do it alone, she explained. It’s an effort of a group of rightwing conservatives, probably including Daniel Pipes, from whom she’s received emails. Jeffrey Wiesenfeld was also closely “connected with these attacks.”
O’Malley continued, saying he put out these “attacks” over and over, for such a long period of time that everywhere she went, even up in Albany, “people knew her as the butt of this person’s attacks” and were afraid to associate with her. The attacks became such a nightmare and she “started really freaking out.” She feared boarding an airplane one day and being turned away because she’s a terrorist. She said she would have loved to respond to his accusations, but it was just impossible, so she had her lawyer friend send a letter to Karkhanis asking him to “please stop attacking her, and he said he would not.” She wanted it to stop, she wanted quiet and since she was no longer head of the CUNY University Faculty Senate (UFS), she filed a libel suit against him.
She continued in defense of her actions to try to hire Mohamed Yousry and Susan Rosenberg. She explained that the “attacks” on her became most virulent after 9/11 when Yousry, an adjunct at York College was removed from the classroom without discussion or due process rights, after he was convicted for aiding terrorism. As UFS chair she was in a position to protect faculty, especially adjuncts whose “academic freedom and right to due process were limited.” After calling her UFS office in desperation since he couldn’t find work, she tried to find a teaching position for him since his academic career and his life were destroyed after his dismissal. She knew Yousry to be “very fine teacher” and a “man of stature.” She rationalized that he should be considered “innocent until proven guilty which is part of the law in this country.”
Essentially, Ms. O’Malley is either unfamiliar with the U.S. legal system or is feigning ignorance as a cover for her actions in her capacity as CUNY union official. Yousry was convicted along with co-conspirator Lynne Stewart in federal court and found guilty as charged for providing material support for terrorism and defrauding the government. How could a man with a terrorist conviction be “a man of stature?”
O’Malley conveniently forgot to mention a few things about Mohamed Yousry. He was removed from his adjunct position only after he was indicted, but was paid salary for the entire semester. O’Malley should also be grateful that Yousry did indeed receive contractual and legal rights of due process as his grievance followed all the proper channels from “step one” at the college level all the way up to arbitration with all expenses paid by dues paying union members. Mr. Yousry lost his case. This was all spelled out in plain English in The Patriot Returns 35.4. What makes her think that “the CUNY administration was going to roll out a welcome mat in CUNY for this terrorist and put him back on the payroll after his conviction in Federal Court and after CUNY prevailed in arbitration?”
She has yet to answer the following question raised in the same issue of The Patriot Returns: “Has Queen O'Malley ever made a "Job Wanted" announcement like this for a non-convicted, non-violent, peace loving American educator for a job in CUNY? There are hundreds of qualified people looking for teaching jobs. Why does she prefer convicted terrorists who are bent on harming our people and our nation, over peace-loving Americans?”
In a similar fashion, O’Malley sought to help find employment for former John Jay College adjunct Susan Rosenberg who was a Weather Underground terrorist convicted as an accomplice in the murder of two police officers and a security guard and for her role in the 1983 bombing of the United States Capitol and was imprisoned for a 58 year sentence for the possession of 700 pounds of dynamite and weapons. She served 16 years of her sentence until she was pardoned by President Bill Clinton.
However, the fact is that out of a total of 40 issues of The Patriot Returns, Karkhanis published over a 15 year span, only nine actually mentioned Susan O’Malley by name, and nowhere did Karkhanis state that she was a “terrorist” or that she was “at an al-Qaeda training camp.” He simply reported the facts and voiced his objections, often satirically, regarding her compulsive efforts to find teaching jobs for convicted terrorists, in her capacity as UFS/CUNY chair, Trustee ex-officio and PSC Executive Committee member. He exposed O’Malley’s letters to the New York Post and the Daily News defending Rosenberg’s right to teach, her postings on the CUNY /UFS Discussion Forum seeking teaching opportunities at CUNY for Yousry and Rosenberg, her appeals to the staff at a UFS Plenary Session for CUNY to hire Yousry, and other indications of her obsession to employ convicted terrorists. In their defense she downplayed the gravity of their convictions arguing in Yousry’s case, “it's becoming increasingly clear that he really did just about nothing.” In Rosenberg’s defense she argued in her letters from the standpoint that rehabilitation is one of the goals of the U.S. criminal justice system. Susan Rosenberg, having served her time, and having been “evaluated satisfactorily by her department,” should now “be integrated back into society” with a suitable teaching assignment as planned by John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
The Patriot Returns focused on numerous CUNY union officials who had a penchant for idolizing criminals and terrorists, of whom O’Malley was a mere lightweight. The few times Karkhanis wrote about O’Malley, he would typically engage in collegial satire referring to her as the “Queen of Released Time” for seeking way too many CUNY leadership positions in lieu of teaching assignments. In the “Rumor Column,” he wondered whether the “Queen” would abdicate her throne to take the Harvard presidency after Larry Summers resigned. Typically, The Patriot Returns expends the most ink excoriating the PSC leadership for spending the faculty member’s union dues on inappropriate political causes while they repeatedly failed to deliver a beneficial contract. While they were actively mobilizing the CUNY membership to march against the Republican Party, organizing anti-war campus teach-ins after 9/11, donating the member’s dues money to support the legal defense of imprisoned terrorists Lori Berenson and Sami al-Arian and a host of other radical causes too numerous to mention here, the member’s health and welfare fund of $15 million dwindled to just about nothing. PSC/CUNY, of which O’Malley is an Executive Committee member, issued a Delegate Assembly Resolution donating $5000 and demanding the immediate release of Lori Berenson, currently serving a 20 year prison term in Peru on terrorism charges.
O’Malley had plenty of opportunities to take on Dr. Karkhanis and refute his accusations. She could have responded in the Clarion, the CUNY faculty union newspaper or the UFS faculty newsletter, which at one point she was an editor. Instead she chose to hire a lawyer and sue Karkhanis in New York State Supreme Court in order to silence his critical tongue and shut down The Patriot Returns. The poor retired professor, Dr. Karkhanis’s First Amendment rights have been threatened more than anyone of the fakers in the room.
Meanwhile, Prof. O’Malley continued to lecture on the “New McCarthyism,” the vast movement targeting her and her comrades through email harassment, blogs and other forms of “bullying through the internet.” This vast movement holds an ideology that seeks to destroy rather than talk. She then directed her venom toward CUNY trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a STM advisor whom she described as so anti-Muslim that it’s a contradiction for him to be on the CUNY board. She mentioned her discovery in the New York Times article that he worked for the FBI. While she knew that “he has been very, very conservative,” this was the “hole in his career” that she didn’t know about, in trying to “piece together his life.” She had spent a number of years as the faculty representative on the CUNY Board of Trustees and debated with him constantly. A number of panelists and people in the audience broke into an emotional discussion about the CUNY board and why they should remove Wiesenfeld. One person said Wiesenfeld was behind the “attacks” on KGIA and as part of “a vigilante squad, a hate group” agreeing with O’Malley that his anti-Muslim credentials make it a contradiction for him to be on the board. Another described the makeup of the board as mostly conservative, having been appointed by a Republican administration, and therefore doesn’t care too much about the students. Naturally, Wiesenfeld is the loudest. They continued to demonize Wiesenfeld, reciting a laundry list of character faults and random insults without an intelligible word about the substance of what he had to say. His “devious personal attacks make any kind of constructive debate impossible,” as he “screams louder than you,” to show he is “more powerful than you.”
Later on the discussion came back to Wiesenfeld, as someone in the room requested that they return to their favorite topic, how to get him off the CUNY board. This person said she wrote to the CUNY board about Wiesenfeld regarding a “vile interaction” she observed between him and someone else in what was a “major, major attack,” that was “really outrageous.” They basically denied it saying “he didn’t do it in his capacity on the Board of Trustees.” She described being “shocked” meeting him. “He walked by me, pushed me, and cursed me out.” She questioned “if it is so difficult to get him off the board” and “what more is there for us to do,” to speak out as a community, that “we won’t stand for it.” The room then launched into a brainstorming session for Wiesenfeld’s ouster. Some suggested writing letters, a good article in Inside Higher Ed, or local press. One said that the only way would be through the chair, Benno Schmidt since Wiesenfeld was appointed by the governor and has to finish out his term. O’Malley added that Wiesenfeld and the rest of his coordinated movement have been making the rounds of the Republican political circuit, speaking out against Muslims and the KGIA, honoring Dr. Karkhanis as Educator of the Year, and controlling the microphone and media. As they strategized how to take back the microphone and the press, they conveniently forgot to mention the sympathetic article in the morning New York Times, and the knee-jerk reaction of eight million New Yorkers to venerate anyone who paints themselves as a victim of intolerance and hatred. Hopefully, as one person mentioned, the new governor David Paterson could remove CUNY chairman Benno Schmidt and their group could become more active in the vetting process for trustees. Perhaps Paterson would help their cause and bring back CUNY to its original mission, returning to the policies of open admissions and affirmative action to serve all New Yorkers regardless of their racial status or aptitude. This last comment received a generous round of applause.
Actually, trustee Wiesenfeld is a hero to many New Yorkers for his efforts in bringing higher academic standards to CUNY. As a result of abolishing the failed policies of open admissions and remedial education that turned the once great academic institution into a worthless “diploma mill,” CUNY now is experiencing a wonderful renaissance, where even minority enrollment is up and their diplomas have real value.
At one point in the discussion the true condescending nature toward “people of color” slipped out accidentally. Almontaser described the KGIA as a school that caters to children of Arab descent immersed in their own culture, but welcomes students of all backgrounds and ethnicities as well. But only a dozen of the 60 students presently enrolled are Arab. Her dream that this school would function as a home to Arabs and Muslims was shattered, and now regrettably the school caters mostly to non-Arabs. One person in the audience said that mostly African Americans and Puerto Ricans enrolled their kids at KGIA because they think it would lead to a great job as a translator, as others in the room seemed to agree and chuckle quietly. How telling that they should look down their noses at the very people they claim to protect and defend, for attempting to rise above their surroundings and strive to build valuable marketable skills.
While posing as the paragons of diversity and multiculturalism, Ms. Almontaser and Prof. O’Malley betray a patronizing nature that they try to conceal. They demonize their critics in order to bully them into silence, while posturing as hapless victims of a hateful “vigilant squad” of anti-Muslim “attacks.” The same type of scrutiny that they christen “guilt by association” that is used to vet politicians running for the highest offices must be utilized to examine the actions of lesser public officials.
No one who chooses a leadership role is immune from scrutiny. Echoing the sentiments of President Harry Truman, Hillary Clinton admonished Senator Obama: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” If a public official were to associate with David Duke, participate in Stormfront rallies and condone the message of “White Pride” T-shirts, there would be universal condemnation and justified public outrage. Whether this person was a public school principle, a CUNY union official or Barack Obama, he or she would summarily be toast. Any teacher will tell you that a student caught hanging out with troublemakers would be severely reprimanded. These lesser public officials likewise should continue to be rigorously vetted and judged by virtue of the troublemakers they associate with and recruit. Any attempt to thwart the process of freedom of criticism via the courts or any other forms of intimidation or censorship, will be viewed as a direct threat to the First Amendment rights of all and a danger to our national security at a time of global crisis and Islamic terrorism."
Give 'em hell, Phil! And keep it coming!!
Monday, May 19, 2008
Three opponents of a Brooklyn public school that teaches mandatory Arabic filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the school's founding principal, Debbie Almontaser, claiming that she had defamed them by saying that they stalked her.
The women, Sara Springer, Irene Alter and Pamela Hall, are members of the Stop the Madrassa Coalition, a group that has protested the Khalil Gibran International Academy, which opened in Boerum Hill last fall.
The plaintiffs, who filed the lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, are seeking punitive damages.
In a firestorm of controversy, Ms. Almontaser stepped down as the school's founding principal last August after an article in The New York Post stated that she had "downplayed the significance" of T-shirts bearing the slogan "Intifada NYC." Ms. Almontaser said that her words were distorted by The Post and that she was forced to resign by the mayor's office.
The lawsuit against Ms. Almontaser references, among other things, a public statement she made on the steps of City Hall on Oct. 16 in which she said, "Members of the coalition stalked me wherever I went and verbally assaulted me with vicious anti-Arab and anti-Muslim comments." The lawsuit cites a nearly identical statement in a complaint filed by Ms. Almontaser against the mayor's office and the Department of Education last fall.
Ms. Almontaser said she could not comment on the lawsuit, and her lawyer was unavailable.
"They picked this whole fight from day one," said Rabbi Michael Feinberg, a member of Communities in Support of KGIA, a group devoted to having Ms. Almontaser reinstated as the school principal. "I don't know if they stalked her or not. But they have been absolutely relentless in the campaign of lies, distortions and calumny to shut down the school and have Debbie step down as principal."
Ms. Alter denied this. "It's a criminal offense to accuse someone of stalking," she said. "The reality is we've never done that. So we are quite upset."
It is not clear to us at this stage if Professor O'Malley will be filing an amicus brief. But surely "Sue" could recommend a good defamation/libel lawyer for Dhaba. They do spend a good deal of time together these days, after all.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
“….Since last September the Editor, Dr. Sharad Karkhanis has been fighting a $2 million defamation lawsuit filed against him for daring to express disapproval of PSC-CUNY union official Susan O'Malley's attempts to find teaching jobs for convicted terrorists within the CUNY system. It's a sign that TPR is still chock-full of its acclaimed spit and vinegar and Dr. Karkhanis is prepared to go the distance to fight a frivolous lawsuit that aims to silence him and shut down TPR, the only insider's watchdog of the dangerous antics of the PSC.
There has been no response from the O'Malley camp since early March, when Karkhanis's attorneys filed an answer to all accusations in the formal legal complaint, O'Malley v. Karkhanis denying every single charge and concluding that O'Malley has no case whatsoever. Dr. Karkhanis resolutely denies having published any material in TPR that was defamatory and refutes the claims that O'Malley has suffered damages and her reputation has been harmed. The answer to O'Malley's complaint states:
The Defendants' utterances here at issue are expressions of opinion that pursuant to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States are not actionable. The defendant's utterances here at issue are legally protected satire.
The publication of political satire is a First Amendment right. Criticism of Susan O'Malley, a public official who has been trying to place terrorists on the CUNY payroll, is a free speech issue in a free market of ideas and opinions, not slander or defamation of character. American colleges have become so backward that Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Abigail Thernstrom lamented, they have become "islands of repression in a sea of freedom." Now they seek to utilize the courts to legalize their repressive status quo in order to permanently silence critics and watchdogs. In order to continue the fight until all the charges of defamation are dropped, friends of Dr. Karkhanis have set up a legal defense fund in the name of The Patriot Returns, Inc. to help defray the cost of current legal bills and to fight all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary. They ask for your donations to help fight the battle for free speech not only for Dr. Karkhanis, but other faculty and students whose First Amendment rights are likewise being infringed by repressive campuses.
The Patriot Returns has been doggedly exposing the fanaticism of a PSC union leadership more absorbed with fomenting workers revolution against capitalism and American imperialism, than securing a good contract for the membership, and for his exemplary work, Dr. Karkhanis is being sued for $2 million. Their irregular behavior has recently manifested in numerous PSC political resolutions proposed at the 2008 NYSUT Representative Assembly opposing the "U.S. Policy of Permanent and `Preemptive' War," supporting the "Jena 6," extending "Solidarity to Peruvian Teachers," opposing "U.S. Expansion of the War into Iran," and scarcely any resolutions advancing the welfare and working conditions of the CUNY faculty membership.
The PSC has introduced resolutions in support of striking teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico at the bi-annual American Federation of Teachers convention in Boston and the 2006 PSC Delegate Assembly, which were passed without dissent. PSC also organized a couple of demonstrations at the Mexican Consulate in Manhattan to show solidarity with their comrades in Oaxaca. They widely promoted rallies on campus for their "brothers and sisters" in Oaxaca and more recently the militant striking teachers in Puerto Rico. They made CUNY campuses their base of operations, organized faculty and students and employed such tactics as "tabling, roving the cafeteria, faculty distributing flyers to their classes, getting signatures and donations in department meetings" in order to build a mass movement for international worker's struggles.
The hard work of the PSC on behalf of international striking teachers has garnered laudatory reviews on the pages of Challenge, the revolutionary communist blog of the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) which boasts that it will smash capitalism through armed revolution.
PLP is now teaming up with the PSC, bringing the lessons home to CUNY campuses of the ongoing struggle against capitalism taught by the striking teachers in Oaxaca and Puerto Rico. With their rallying cry, "Lucha s¡! Entrega no!" (Struggle yes, surrender no!) and enthusiastic support from the PSC, they have organized recent CUNY PLP forums, and are planning future conferences, rallies and a Party newsletter at CUNY, in order to advance their violent communist objectives and win new believers. Heaping praise on the PSC, they show their affection to their dear comrades in arms:
comrades in the PSC know we must intensify our efforts amid these kinds of struggles to build the Party itself at CUNY. The Party is the essential weapon to win, not reform demands to be reversed by capitalists' state power, but win all workers' liberation - communism.
We must not allow this frivolous lawsuit to shut down political speech and silence TPR, or for that matter any other free press watchdog committed to exposing the dangerous machinations of the PSC on CUNY campuses.”
Well put, Dr. Ray!
Sunday, May 4, 2008
"David Seidemann just e-mailed me that he has defeated the Professional Staff Congress's (PSC), CUNY's faculty union, in a federal court law suit, Seidemann v. Bowen, in federal district court. This case is of national importance because it establishes standards of disclosure for agency fee bargaining units. An agency fee arrangement occurs where the union agreement compels non-members to pay dues even though they elect not to belong to the union. Agency arrangements differ from union shops in that under agency arrangements members are permitted to refuse membership in the union (unlike union shops), but they are compelled to pay dues nevertheless.
CUNY has an agency shop. A number of faculty, myself included, do not belong to the union but are compelled to pay dues. Professor Seidemann's law suit concerned the PSC's failure to accurately disclose the portion of dues that the PSC devotes to political contributions unrelated to the PSC's collective bargaining and higher education activities. The PSC is an unusually ineffectual union that has failed to win wage increases one half of what New York City's modestly paid teachers (in comparison with teachers in neighboring municipalities and suburbs) have won. The teachers won 16 percent over three years and the PSC won six percent over three years for CUNY's faculty. The PSC has repeatedly refused to represent faculty in grievances. At the same time, the PSC has served as a conduit for political contributions to various extremist causes. Before Sharad Karkhanis's and David Seidemann's protests, the PSC was sending Iraqi War literature to the CUNY faculty almost daily, even as it failed to represent faculty in collective bargaining and grievances.
According to Professor Seidemann, the federal court ruled by summary judgment* that:
1) the PSC violates the First Amendment rights of agency fee payers because it fails to provide them with sufficient information to gauge the propriety of the union's agency fee expenditures;
2) the PSC unlawfully charged objecting non-members for some of the union's political activities by inaccurately characterizing them as contract-related activities. Among the activities that the PSC improperly claimed were contract-related was a forum on an anti-war resolution. The PSC also improperly charged fee payers for public rallies, picket lines, concerts, letter-writing campaigns - all political activities - under the category "office supplies". (How does one confuse a paper clip with a picket line?)
3) Further, the District Court enforced a ruling in Professor Seidemann's case made by the Second Circuit in August 2007 that held as unconstitutional the PSC's requirement that non-members annually renew their objections to political expenditures. (The Second Circuit ruling applies to all public unions in New York, Vermont, and Connecticut.)
*The Court finds that plaintiff is entitled to a declaratory judgment that defendants' notice to fee payers for the years at issue violated plaintiff's rights under the First Amendment. Plaintiff is entitled to injunctive relief and defendants are enjoined and prohibited from requiring nonmembers to file an annual objection or to identify the percentage of the agency fees in dispute in order to file an objection. Defendants shall send plaintiff and all nonmembers a notice that complies with Hudson and the Second Circuit's Mandate as set forth herein. Defendants shall provide the financial [*37] information necessary for fee payers to gauge the propriety of the agency fees, either by mail or by posting on the union's website, at least thirty days prior to the start of the fee payer objection period. The financial information PSC provides to fee payers shall set forth the basis for the allocation of both the chargeable and non-chargeable expenses."
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
"Academic Freedom & The Attack on Diversity at CUNY — An Urgent Conversation
Debbie Almontaser, Professor Susan O Malley, Mona Eldahry...Adem Carroll...
Monday 04/28/2008; 6:00 - 8:00 pmRoom: Social Lounge (5414)CUNY Grad School 365 Fifth Avenue (34 St)...
Around the country, Islamophobic and Anti-Arab attacks on professors have increased, most notably at Columbia and Barnard. This movement to attack and discredit dissent has been called “the New McCarthyism” –shutting down reasoned debate on important issues. Unfortunately this hurtful trend is also significantly represented at CUNY at its Trustee level, in the person of Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, who is also head of the Stop the Madrassa Coalition....
With no factual basis, Wiesenfeld’s STM coalition has been waging a relentless attack on Brooklyn’s Khalil Gibran International Academy, a dual language public school, depicting it as an “Islamist vocational school…with an Arab supremacist mindset in the mold of KGIA’S principal Dhabah Almontaser.” Forced out of her job by right wing tabloids & with no push back from the Bloomberg Administration, Founding Principal Debbie Almontaser has been fighting for her rights. She has been defended by educators, community groups and parents in coordination with Communities in Support for the Khalil Gibran International Academy...
Ms. Almontaser will appear on this panel along with CUNY Professor Susan O’ Malley and others working to expose the attack on academic freedom across the nation:
PLEASE JOIN US: There is some urgency here as these attacks are one tip of a vast ideological iceberg that is also threatening to impact the current election campaign. What does this mean for CUNY students and faculty?
Co-sponsored by MESOMiddle East Students Org:
CISKGIA:(Communities in Support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy)
For more info contact http://kgia.wordpress.com/
Zeeshan SuhailWeblog: http://ZeeshanSuhail.blogspot.com/"
Here at the Free Speech at CUNY blog, we are not quite sure what a "vast ideological iceberg" would look like--due, perhaps, to the effects of global warming. We are quite sure that Professor O'Malley, Ms. Almontaser and company have First Amendment rights to warn about it, however, and to criticize such critics of the troubled Khalil Gibran International Academy as CUNY trustee Wiesenfeld. We'd prefer that their tone be a little less shrill and a lot more civil, but this is a matter of taste, not law. Free speech isn't always decorous, after all.
Nor should it be dangerous. Thus we continue to marvel at O'Malley's ability to denounce Sharad Karkhanis' exercise of his First Amendment rights as libel, while at the same time attacking her political and ideological opponents with unabashed glee.
Karkhanis Blasts Professional Staff Congress
Sharad Karkhanis, who has been attacked in a Professional Staff Congress (PSC)-related law suit, has just released his latest newsletter, Patriot Returns. Karkhanis offers brilliant coverage of David Seidemann's case, about which Candace de Russy and I have blogged. The Chronicle of Higher Education has also covered the case. Karkhanis notes:"Convinced that the PSC had treated agency-fee payers unfairly, David Seidemann, a Yale educated full professor of Geology at Brooklyn College, has been patient and tenacious in seeking justice. Since 2002, he's amassed voluminous documentation, collected and examined all relevant information and legal precedents, and pursued the PSC with the tenacity and conviction of an irate faculty member. Seidemann sensed that there was some hanky panky going on with his and your hard-earned dollars. The 1% of our gross salary that goes to union dues or agency fees should be spent for our benefit rather than being diverted to further the New Caucasians' political agenda."Karkhanis asks:"Our question is, although permissible in the eyes of the law for the union to spend monies to march, parade and shout out loud to bring pressure on the management on behalf of the dues paying members, how germane is it for the PSC to spend dues money on excessive participation in such activities?"See the entire blog here. The PSC leadership has spent its time on anti-Iraqi War crusades while neglecting its function of representing faculty. Barbara Bowen and her colleagues have failed CUNY's faculty.
Posted by Mitchell Langbert at 2:13 PM
Labels: David Seidemann, higher education, professional staff congress, PSC, sharad karkhanis
Struggle Si, Surrender No!
The leading article in the latest issue of The Patriot Returns was one of the funniest pieces I’ve read in a long time. The faculty union of the City University of New York (CUNY), the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) is at it once again, and TPR satirizes the revolutionary zeal of the leadership and their myriad political crusades, this time standing in solidarity with the Mexican teachers on strike in Oaxaca. This current issue demonstrates that the TPR newsletter hasn’t lost its satirical cutting edge. Since last September the Editor, Dr. Sharad Karkhanis has been fighting a $2 million defamation lawsuit filed against him for daring to express disapproval of PSC-CUNY union official Susan O’Malley’s attempts to find teaching jobs for convicted terrorists within the CUNY system. It’s a sign that TPR is still chock-full of its acclaimed spit and vinegar and Dr. Karkhanis is prepared to go the distance to fight a frivolous lawsuit that aims to silence him and shut down TPR, the only insider’s watchdog of the dangerous antics of the PSC.
There has been no response from the O’Malley camp since early March, when Karkhanis’s attorneys filed an answer to all accusations in the formal legal complaint, O’Malley v. Karkhanis denying every single charge and concluding that O’Malley has no case whatsoever. Dr. Karkhanis resolutely denies having published any material in TPR that was defamatory and refutes the claims that O’Malley has suffered damages and her reputation has been harmed. The answer to O’Malley’s complaint states:
The Defendants' utterances here at issue are expressions of opinion that pursuant to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States are not actionable. The defendant's utterances here at issue are legally protected satire.
The publication of political satire is a First Amendment right. Criticism of Susan O’Malley, a public official who has been trying to place terrorists on the CUNY payroll, is a free speech issue in a free market of ideas and opinions, not slander or defamation of character. American colleges have become so backward that Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Abigail Thernstrom lamented, they have become “islands of repression in a sea of freedom.” Now they seek to utilize the courts to legalize their repressive status quo in order to permanently silence critics and watchdogs. In order to continue the fight until all the charges of defamation are dropped, friends of Dr. Karkhanis have set up a legal defense fund in the name of The Patriot Returns, Inc. to help defray the cost of current legal bills and to fight all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary. They ask for your donations to help fight the battle for free speech not only for Dr. Karkhanis, but other faculty and students whose First Amendment rights are likewise being infringed by repressive campuses.
The Patriot Returns has been doggedly exposing the fanaticism of a PSC union leadership more absorbed with fomenting workers revolution against capitalism and American imperialism, than securing a good contract for the membership, and for his exemplary work, Dr. Karkhanis is being sued for $2 million. Their irregular behavior has recently manifested in numerous PSC political resolutions proposed at the 2008 NYSUT Representative Assembly opposing the “U.S. Policy of Permanent and ‘Preemptive’ War,” supporting the “Jena 6,” extending “Solidarity to Peruvian Teachers,” opposing “U.S. Expansion of the War into Iran,” and scarcely any resolutions advancing the welfare and working conditions of the CUNY faculty membership. The PSC has introduced resolutions in support of striking teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico at the bi-annual American Federation of Teachers convention in Boston and the 2006 PSC Delegate Assembly, which were passed without dissent. PSC also organized a couple of demonstrations at the Mexican Consulate in Manhattan to show solidarity with their comrades in Oaxaca. They widely promoted rallies on campus for their “brothers and sisters” in Oaxaca and more recently the militant striking teachers in Puerto Rico. They made CUNY campuses their base of operations, organized faculty and students and employed such tactics as “tabling, roving the cafeteria, faculty distributing flyers to their classes, getting signatures and donations in department meetings” in order to build a mass movement for international worker’s struggles.
The hard work of the PSC on behalf of international striking teachers has garnered laudatory reviews on the pages of Challenge, the revolutionary communist blog of the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) which boasts that it will smash capitalism through armed revolution.
PLP is now teaming up with the PSC, bringing the lessons home to CUNY campuses of the ongoing struggle against capitalism taught by the striking teachers in Oaxaca and Puerto Rico. With their rallying cry, “¡Lucha sí! ¡Entrega no!” (Struggle yes, surrender no!) and enthusiastic support from the PSC, they have organized recent CUNY PLP forums, and are planning future conferences, rallies and a Party newsletter at CUNY, in order to advance their violent communist objectives and win new believers. Heaping praise on the PSC, they show their affection to their dear comrades in arms: comrades in the PSC know we must intensify our efforts amid these kinds of struggles to build the Party itself at CUNY. The Party is the essential weapon to win, not reform demands to be reversed by capitalists’ state power, but win all workers’ liberation — communism.
We must not allow this frivolous lawsuit to shut down political speech and silence TPR, or for that matter any other free press watchdog committed to exposing the dangerous machinations of the PCS on CUNY campuses. With this as a background, here then is the article in the current issue of The Patriot Returns. Please enjoy...
AN OPEN LETTER TO OUR NOBLE BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN OAXACA, MEXICO
Dear Valiant Oaxaquenos:Once again we stand by you in complete Solidarity during your great struggle against those who would enslave us all, the Imperial Corporatist NeoLiberals, or as we call them, the NeoConservatives. While we may say potato, and you say patata, we both understand that these groups are one and the same. These Dark Lords will not rest until they extinguish all the major centers of worldwide revolutionary activity, and that makes our PSC-CUNY Union the biggest target on the planet. Read more...
— Phil Orenstein Apr. 14, 2008 12:36 AM
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Susan O’Malley’s recent complaint reveals a very different Susan O’Malley than many around CUNY have encountered in the last decade. Sometimes, it seems as if O’Malley’s chief problem is with the historical record rather than with Sharad Karkhanis. But, of course, it’s not possible for her to obtain $2 million from the historical record.
The complaint: “SUSAN O’MALLEY has always conducted her professional duties with dignity and grace.”
The record: How, then, to explain O’Malley’s unfounded allegations against a CUNY trustee? Reported Inside Higher Ed, “Susan O’Malley, a professor of English at Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York, said that CUNY’s trustees tried to prevent an adjunct at her campus from teaching the novel The Scar of David. CUNY officials could not be reached for comment, but press accounts suggest that the book was in fact taught.”
Unfounded allegations are inconsistent with someone who “has always conducted her professional duties with dignity and grace.”
The complaint: “SUSAN O’MALLEY found the position of UFS chair to be a demanding, high-stress, nerve-wracking position.”
The record: As far as can be determined, no one forced O’Malley to serve multiple terms as UFS chair. Or to stand for election to the PSC executive committee. Or to serve as executive director of the MLA’s Radical Caucus. Or to issue repeated public comments on higher education issues.
Perhaps O’Malley, for some reason, has regularly placed herself in “high-stress” and “nerve-wracking” situations. Or perhaps she enjoyed the power and influence that flowed from her myriad high-level elective positions, regrets that she has been voted out of office (UFS) or demoted (PSC), and is looking for someone to blame for her political setbacks.
The complaint: “During her term as UFS chair, SUSAN O’MALLEY worked a minimum of 5 days per week, 8 hours per day, and often worked into the evening, on weekends, and during the summer.”
The record: This claim is a bold one indeed. But though the complaint filed by O’Malley attorney Joseph Martin Carasso contained a number of exhibits, it did not include timecards or any other items that would corroborate this assertion. Apparently, O’Malley believes that not only everyone should take her word for how much time she worked as UFS chair, but this uncorroborated assertion should help her obtain $2 million from Karkhanis.
The complaint: “SUSAN O’MALLEY has always conducted her professional duties with dignity and grace.”
The record: “Dignity” and “grace” are not two words that immediately spring to mind to describe O’Malley’s performance in the KC Johnson tenure case. After going out of her way to identify herself as UFS chair, O’Malley published a statement, sent to all CUNY faculty, that misrepresented both Johnson’s publication record and the process through which he received tenure.
Erin O’Connor of Critical Mass blasted O’Malley’s performance in the case, which O’Connor described as that of a powerful senior professor seeking “to libel those junior faculty [she and her allies] seek to fire.”
The complaint: “SUSAN O’MALLEY likes and enjoys teaching and, in fact, defines herself as a teacher as well as a scholar. During her four years as UFS chair, she missed her students.”
The record: However much O’Malley “missed” her students, it evidently wasn’t enough to set aside her ambitions to hold elected office within the CUNY governance structure.
Moreover, on at least one occasion, O’Malley used her position to directly harm her community college students. Chancellor Goldstein created funds for 200 new community college hires, to be assigned to liberal arts departments. O’Malley, however, wanted the lines to go to more easily politicized skills instruction. Her response to the Chancellor’s proposal: “We must change this."
Trying to stop the hiring of 300 new tenure-track faculty members doesn’t sound like behavior associated with someone who “likes and enjoys teaching and . . . missed her students.”
The complaint: O’Malley “never politicked to be reassigned from teaching.”
The record: O’Malley’s initial election as UFS chair—and the released time from teaching that the position provided—was very tight. She now appears to be claiming that she never “politicked” for that position—and that this assertion should help her obtain $2 million from Karkhanis. This line of reasoning doesn’t pass the laugh test.
Who, then, is the real Susan O’Malley? The complainant demanding $2 million from Sharad Karkhanis, on the grounds that she “has always conducted her professional duties with dignity and grace”? Or the Susan O’Malley who made unfounded allegations against a CUNY trustee and an untenured CUNY professor; who tried to block the hiring of 300 new professors; who politicked to win election as UFS chair; and who seemed to revel in her power as UFS chair and ex oficio CUNY trustee?Publius
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
No one—not even Susan O’Malley—would deny that during her time as UFS chairperson, she advocated the continued employment at CUNY of Susan Rosenberg and Mohammed Yousry. Most people (although perhaps not O’Malley) would agree that Rosenberg and Yousry were convicted of terrorist-related activities. Much of O’Malley’s lawsuit against Sharad Kharkanis appears to be based on her claim that it was defamatory—to the tune of $2 million—for Kharkanis to assert that because O’Malley demanded the continued CUNY employment of Yousry and Rosenberg, she wanted to see terrorists employed at CUNY.
O’Malley concedes that—as UFS chair—she criticized the decision not to reappoint
How did O’Malley reach this determination? Her complaint doesn’t say. Did she take a poll of the John Jay faculty? Did she spend several weeks on campus to ascertain grassroots opinion? Did she speak to a handful of her cronies on campus?
It would seem, in short, that O’Malley has a flexible interpretation of “duty.”
Her explanation of her behavior in the Mohammed Yousry affair was even more tortured. Yousry was the former
O’Malley admits that she criticized the decision to suspend and then not reappoint Yousry. Why? Again, she cited her “duty” as UFS chairperson. “The faculty at
Some people might argue that if the faculty at
The complaint concedes that O’Malley took the highly unusual decision to announce “at a UFS meeting that she heard that Yousry was looking for a job.” Neither O’Malley nor her attorney, Joseph Martin Carasso, reveal how many other times O’Malley used her position as UFS chair to announce the availability for hire of a potential adjuncts.
Nonetheless, asserts O’Malley, she wasn’t envisioning KCC extending an offer to Yousry—as Karkhanis suggested—because she had no influence over the KCC personnel process.
This assertion is laughable on its face: the chair of the UFS—the elected head of the faculty university-wide—takes the all-but-unprecedented decision to announce from the Senate floor that a politically controversial adjunct is looking for a job at CUNY. And it’s attorney Carasso’s claim that such a move couldn’t influence decisionmakers in O’Malley’s own academic department?
But take O’Malley at her word: she had no personnel influence, even as UFS chair. Even so, how could anyone possibly claim that Kharkanis--or anyone else--demonstrated bad faith by asserting that the head of the UFS likely had influence over her colleagues? At any university in the country (apart, evidently, from KCC during the O'Malley tenure as UFS chair), the elected leader of the faculty has influence over his or her colleagues.
O’Malley tries one other argument—but unfortunately, she just couldn’t override her ideology, even to advance her lawsuit. Carasso informed the court that O’Malley “does not support [Yousry] in his alleged ‘terrorist’ activities.”
“Alleged”? Yousry has been tried and convicted.
So, O’Malley’s basic position is this:
- Yes, she criticized
’s non-reappointment. Rosenberg
- Yes, she criticized Yousry’s non-reappointment.
- Yes, she took the extraordinary step of announcing Yousry’s availability for a job from the Senate floor.
- No, even now, she can’t bring herself to admit that Yousry was convicted of aiding terrorism.
And based on those facts, she’s contending that because Sharad Kharkanis wrote that she favored the employment at CUNY of Yousry and Rosenberg (people convicted of terrorist-related activity), he should pay her $2 million? Most people would consider such a claim—as O’Malley herself admitted to the New York Sun—“very, very silly.”Publius
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
In her lawsuit against Sharad Karkhanis, Susan O’Malley claims that she “has lost the esteem and respect of her colleagues and members of the KCC and CUNY Community.” For this development, she blames Karkhanis, to the tune of $2 million.
Of course, O’Malley’s complaint also asserts that she “has acquired and retained a high standing and reputation among the CUNY academic community.” [emphasis added]
How O’Malley has simultaneously “lost the esteem and respect of her colleagues” and “retained a high standing and reputation among the CUNY academic community” neither O’Malley nor her attorney, entertainment law/personal injury specialist Joseph Martin Carasso, chose to reveal.
Leave aside, for a moment, this seemingly fatal intellectual contradiction in the O’Malley complaint. Few would challenge the assertion that the former UFS chairperson/PSC executive committee member is best known on her home campus,
Kingsborough professors, in short, know Professor O’Malley well. If the O’Malley complaint had any merit, presumably KCC professors—the people who know her best, because of her “long service” to the institution—would have seen through Karkhanis’ allegedly defamatory falsehoods. Indeed, if O’Malley had been subjected to a campaign of defamation worth $2,000,000, she might even have benefited from a surge of sympathy on her home campus.
This past fall, Kingsborough featured a campuswide election for two seats in the University Faculty Senate. Professor O’Malley chose to run for one of the seats. But while 105 ballots were cast, O'Malley tallied only 30 votes. (Voters could select two candidates on their ballot.) Donald Hume and Gary Sarinsky were elected instead.
It’s easy to understand how this embarrassing outcome—the former president of the UFS not only failing to win a seat in the body over which she once presided but losing by a greater than two-to-one margin to Hume and just under that margin to Sarinsky—would constitute a crushing blow to a figure who has stated that her “life has been dedicated to teaching, scholarly research and governance at KCC.” And it’s also easy to understand that a figure so decisively repudiated by the colleagues who know her best would seek to lash out at her critics.
It surely is easier for Professor O’Malley to believe that she was defeated because of a $2 million campaign of defamation, and not because the people who know her best made a reasoned judgment that her agenda isn’t good for Kingsborough or CUNY. Unfortunately for O’Malley, being a sore loser doesn’t usually qualify as grounds for a favorable judgment.
Monday, January 7, 2008
In a city teeming with attorneys, it might have been assumed that Susan O’Malley could have found a First Amendment or libel law specialist to file her $2 million lawsuit against Sharad Karkhanis.
Instead, the former UFS chairperson/PSC executive committee member turned to a 54-year-old entertainment attorney named Joseph Martin Carasso. A graduate of the William Mitchell College of Law (not an institution many would confuse with a Tier-I law school), Carasso’s Lexis/Nexis entry lists his specialties as entertainment litigation and personal injury matters.*
Carasso also served as consultant to a 2003 film called How Do You Spell Murder?, which “documents the L.I.F.E. literacy program at the New Jersey State Prison, one of the few inmate-run literacy programs in the United States.” He also has advertised himself as providing “low-cost legal advice for independents.”
It’s not clear how any of this experience—or, presumably, his personal injury lawsuits—prepared Carasso for filing what Brooklyn College professor Mitchell Langbert has termed a case “consistent with the long-observed deterioration of universities’ willingness to tolerate dissent,” which “may suggest an extension of this deterioration to universities’ use of the courts to suppress external criticism.”
In an interview with the New York Sun, O’Malley termed her cause of action “very, very silly.” Perhaps that’s why she had to turn to an entertainment and personal injury lawyer to get an attorney willing to file the suit.
*--corrected, in light of Carasso's subsequent denial of an association with ARP
Friday, January 4, 2008
Among the oddest of the many odd claims in Susan O’Malley’s $2 million lawsuit against Sharad Karkhanis is the following item:
“Plaintiff fears that people who only know her through [The Patriot Returns] . . . will harm her.”
Why? Because Karkhanis noted (correctly) that O’Malley had supported the employment at CUNY of people convicted of or charged with terrorist-related activity.
The inclusion of this clause suggests the close coordination between the former PSC executive committee member’s lawsuit and the PSC leadership: PSC spokesperson Deborah Benz, asked for a comment on the suit, replied, “Free speech, however, has limits . . . in a post-9/11 world.” (This is from the same union leadership that said it was OK for Brooklyn College’s Tim Shortell to term all religious people—including his religious students—“moral retards.”)
One major problem with O’Malley’s claim: the law—at least to date—doesn’t allow paranoid musings to be offered as evidence. And O’Malley appears to have no other grounds to substantiate her claim.
The former UFS chairperson says that she’s afraid people “will harm her.” Has she received any threats of harm? The complaint mentions none.
Has she filed a report alleging threats with the Brooklyn Police? Or with CUNY Security? Again, the complaint mentions no such action.
In recent years, critics of neoconservative theorists have contended that the neocons’ theories have actually promoted rather than combated terrorism. By O’Malley’s reasoning, each and every person who has made such a criticism of the neocons (including some of the PSC upper leadership) has opened themselves up to a $2 million lawsuit. Surely the neocons have as much reason to fear that people “who only know them through” the anti-war criticism that their policies have promoted terrorism “will harm them” as O’Malley does to fear people who only know her through The Patriot Returns.
We no longer live in 17th century