Wednesday, January 9, 2008

O'Malley Rationalizes Yousry and Rosenberg

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.

Rosenberg, it’s worth recalling, was convicted of armed robbery in a Weathermen attack that left two policemen dead. She nonetheless was hired as an adjunct at John Jay after Bill Clinton commuted her sentence; when the John Jay president elected not to reappoint her (as was his right), she became a cause célèbre of the Barbara Bowen-led PSC top brass. That, of course, included then-PSC executive committee member Susan O’Malley.

O’Malley concedes that—as UFS chair—she criticized the decision not to reappoint Rosenberg. Why? In her filing, she asserted that she had a “duty” to represent the opinions of the faculty, and there was “outrage” at John Jay over the decision not to reappoint Rosenberg.

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 York adjunct who was suspended after being brought up on federal charges related to aiding lawyer Lynne Stewart get around federal guidelines designed to prevent convicted Egyptian terrorist Sheikh Abdul Rahman from communicating with his followers. Yousry was subsequently convicted on all charges.

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 York College . . . did not understand [Yousry] he was removed from the classroom in the middle of the term and forbidden to teach there again.”

Some people might argue that if the faculty at York College did not understand why it was not a good idea to have someone charged with serious federal crimes as an adjunct faculty member at their school, it was O’Malley’s “duty” as UFS chair to explain the situation to them.

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 Rosenberg’s non-reappointment.
  • 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.”


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