Wednesday, March 17, 2010

O'Malley v. Karkhanis Settles, Higher Education in Turmoil

Two and a half years ago the now-defunct New York Sun reported that a Kingsborough Community College (KCC) professor, former head of CUNY's faculty senate and a union official, Professor Sue O'Malley, was suing her colleague, Professor Emeritus Sharad Karkhanis. Karkhanis writes a satirical newsletter, Patriot Returns, which is e-mailed to 13,000 people associated with CUNY. Patriot Returns had frequently ridiculed O'Malley's zero-courses-taught schedule (due to released time associated with her extensive bureaucratic duties) and the tendency of CUNY's faculty, including O'Malley, to support terrorists. CUNY's performance in the latter regard has been much in line with other universities, as a review of David Horowitz's The Professors will confirm. Karkhanis frequently called O'Malley "the Queen of Released Time", an appropriate appellation if there ever was one, and his newsletter was good for a once-a-month laugh.

In an article in Frontpagemag in November 2007 Phil Orenstein wrote that:

"...Professor Susan O’Malley, a member of the PSC executive committee, former chair of the University Faculty Senate and professor of English has been a regular target of Dr. Karkhanis’s irreverent discourse. Past issues of TPR have exposed O’Malley’s pleas to find a teaching position for convicted terrorist conspirator, Mohammad Yousry. TPR documented her protests against the firing of imprisoned Weather Underground terrorist Susan Rosenberg and her attempts to find Rosenberg a job at CUNY. Also, past issues attacked O’Malley’s support for anti-religious Professor Timothy Shortell’s bid for chairmanship of the Sociology Department of Brooklyn College. He is noted for his claims that all religious people are 'moral retards' and 'an ugly, violent lot,' and statements, 'Christians claim that theirs is faith based on love, but they'll just as soon kill you.'"

In his newsletter Karkhanis asserted that the "Queen of Released Time" (quoted in Orenstein's article):

"is recruiting naive, innocent members of the KCC faculty into her Queda-Camp, to infiltrate college and departmental Personnel and Budget Committees in her mission - to recruit terrorists in CUNY."

O'Malley apparently believed that hiring an attorney to sue Karkhanis in response to his satirical newsletter would exemplify her interpretation of the concept of "collegiality" upon which she and her fellow union officials supported an attempt to crucify one of my Brooklyn College colleagues, Professor KC Johnson. Apparently, O'Malley thought that readers and her colleagues on the university senate really did believe that O'Malley was running an al Qaeda camp at Kingsborough.

In the Sun article O'Malley was quoted as saying "It's all very, very silly" but the suit has involved dickering over several years.

In the current issue of Patriot Returns, released yesterday, Karkhanis publishes a statement of his lawyer, Mark Jakubik about the settlement of the case:

"First, as noted in the publisher's statement, the settlement did not involve an admission of liability or wrongdoing by Dr. Karkhanis. To the contrary, as is clearly iterated in the statement, we continue to believe that none of the material published in The Patriot Returns that was at issue in the lawsuit was defamatory or otherwise actionable for any reason. Second, there is no financial aspect to the settlement, and Dr. Karkhanis is not required to make any payment whatsoever to Dr. O'Malley or anyone else. Third, Dr. Karkhanis remains free to publish The Patriot Returns without prior restraint. In sum, we believe that, given the terms upon which Dr. Karkhanis agreed to resolve this matter, the settlement represents a significant victory for free speech and academic freedom, and The Patriot Returns will continue to stand as an unabashed defender of those values."

Mr. Jakubik's response to O'Malley's cause of action states that Karkhanis did not defame O'Malley and notes that:

"Yousry and Rosenberg were terminated from their positions at CUNY because the university administration was concerned about their possible involvement with individuals involved in terrorism related activities."

Karkhanis agreed to make the following statement:

"We do not believe Professor Susan O'Malley to be a terrorist, and deeply regret if she, or any of her associates, understood us to have labeled her as such. We are sorry if anything published in “The Patriot Returns” has been interpreted in such a way. We do not believe that anything published in The Patriot Returns has exceeded the bounds of permissible speech, but express our profound sorrow if Dr. O'Malley sustained any damage to her reputation or suffered any emotional pain or suffering as a result of these statements."

Note that Karkhanis does not apologize for calling O'Malley a terrorist. Rather, he apologizes for the misunderstanding of any of her associates who may have thought his satirical newsletter to be serious. Of course, no one with common sense would have thought O'Malley actually is a terrorist.

Inside Higher Education ran an article about the case today and I posted the following comment.

>I appreciate this mostly accurate article but the title is misleading. No one thought that "Sue" O'Malley was really a terrorist or ran an Al Qaeda training camp, so in saying that he is sorry that anyone concluded from Patriot Returns that O'Malley really was a terrorist and did run an al Qaeda training camp Karkhanis is not apologizing. Nor should he. The Professional Staff Congress is dismally run, and, if anything, Karkhanis did not go far enough.

You contradict yourself with respect to Karkhanis's calling Mohammed Yousry a terrorist. In the third paragraph you correctly state that Yousry was convicted of abetting terrorists, but then a couple of lines later claim that Karkhanis dubbed Yousry a terrorist. Someone who associates with and abets terrorists in effect demonstrates support for terrorism. Conviction of association with terrorism, which was demonstrated by abetting it, is what dubbed Yousry a terrorist. If you want to take issue with Yousry's conviction, you might demonstrate your doubts with a few shards of evidence. You won't find much evidence from the extremists who, you state, call the conviction unfair.

In the concluding paragraph you quote Professor O'Malley as saying that she hopes that the case might create some good case law. I showed that statement to a couple of my undergraduate business students who happened to be visiting me and they started laughing because they know from their undergraduate business law class that settled cases do not create case law. I told them not to laugh just because a senior faculty member is less knowledgeable than they are. After years as an officer of the CUNY faculty union O'Malley might be thought to have picked up some sense of the real world. My students are planning to initiate a class discussion on this in my elementary management skills course next year.


Phil Orenstein said...

Here's my comment that I left on IHE:

"O'Malley claims victory because she was able to see peace and quiet after she sued. However, quite the contrary, it happened immediately following her lawsuit against Karkhanis that the notoriety soon began with her name making headlines and the news of the "It's all very, very silly" lawsuit was featured in newspapers, on-line newssites and the blogosphere. Enduring the satirical publicity perhaps on 6 or 7 separate occasions in The Patriot Returns, she was having a very peaceful life as the "Queen of Released Time" since her important bureaucratic administrative duties released her from the mundane task of teaching. But she, like the leftwing bellyacher she and her cohorts are, who feel justified in using lawfare or any means necessary to silence dissent or opposition to their holy pursuit of revolutions of yesteryear, she shot herself in the foot. Well, the verdict is in, that O'Malley lost because dissent will not be quashed nor silenced, from Karkhanis or anyone else, who have the right to their free expression of speech and conscience in condemnation of her depraved yearning to bring convicted and formerly imprisoned terrorists into the classroom to teach and serve as a model for our youthful generation."

Mitchell Langbert said...

Good Phil. I thought the IHE piece was somewhat biased toward O'Malley. In particular, there was no discussion of how law suits might be used to suppress dissidents.