Thursday, September 20, 2007

Queen of Collegiality: O'Malley Threatens Karkhanis with Law Suit

Professor Susan O'Malley has simultaneously served as an officer of CUNY's faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress, and also as president of the CUNY faculty senate. In the two roles, which seem to conflict (faculty senate = employer; faculty union = employee representative), Professor O'Malley took a public position on the promotion application of Professor KC Johnson. This seemed to me not only inappropriate, but a breach of her fiduciary duty to Professor Johnson. I raised this issue with New York's Public Employee Relations Board, but New York's PERB was not interested even though the Taylor Law specifically prohibits management-dominated unions.

Professor Johnson ultimately won his promotion on appeal, and he is now probably the best (or one of a few best) known author(s) at Brooklyn College, with his recent book Until Proven Innocent. At the time of his promotion battle Johnson had much better credentials than most of the faculty deciding his case, yet the issue of Johnson's "collegiality" was the academic Babbitts' rallying cry. Professor O'Malley was one of those criticizing Professor Johnson.

One would therefore expect Professor O'Malley to attempt to resolve her ongoing conflict with Professor Karkhanis in a "collegial" manner. Perhaps she might write a letter to Karkhanis; invite him out for lunch; or ask Karkhanis to serve on an academic committee. But no, Professor O'Malley's definition of "collegiality" is: if someone disagrees with you, then try to fire them (Johnson). If that doesn't work, send them a lawyer's letter (Karkhanis).

O'Malley's actions once again demonstrate that those who raise issues of "collegiality" in faculty personnel committees are often vicious liars who aim to deflect their true, defamatory intent.

The website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports that:

"CUNY professor and former chair of the Faculty Senate Susan O’Malley was the subject of a few issues of The Patriot Returns last spring. In the March 12 issue of The Patriot Returns, Karkhanis wrote an article called “MOHAMMED ON HER MIND!,” with the subheading, “O’MALLEY’S OBSESSION WITH FINDING JOBS FOR TERRORISTS.” Karkhanis refers in that issue to O’Malley’s attempt, at a Faculty Senate meeting, to find a job at CUNY for Mohammed Yousry, who was convicted of conspiring in the plot to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993. Citing Faculty Senate meeting minutes, Karkhanis wrote that O’Malley “was not going to rest until she got this convicted terrorist a job.” Karkhanis was not the only one to criticize O’Malley—FIRE Adviser and Phi Beta Cons contributor Candace de Russy blogged about O’Malley’s advocacy for hiring Yousry and about Karkhanis’ coverage on March 26"

The letter alleges that Karkhanis's remarks about O'Malley are defamatory, yet O'Malley is a tenured academic likely nearing retirement who is likely entitled to a hefty, low-tier CUNY pension (the earlier cohorts of CUNY faculty enjoyed much more generous pensions than the later ones). Since there are no damages, the only purpose of a law suit is to suppress Karkhanis's speech and to intimidate him. The law suit threat is not only evidence of O'Malley's lack of collegiality, but her intent to suppress all who disagree with her left-wing views.

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