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The controversial president of Kean University is facing questions from faculty members about the veracity of academic records dating back almost 30 years.
There are probably a few academics who have looked up old journal articles by their universities’ presidents to get a sense of their leaders’ intellectual development. But at Kean University, the archive search is far from an academic pursuit.
When he applied for a faculty position in the master of public affairs program at Kean in 1983, Dawood Y. Farahi, now the New Jersey public institution’s president, claimed that an article he wrote was accepted for publication by a major academic journal in his field, but a representative from the journal said it has no record of accepting or publishing his work.
In the 1983 résumé, Farahi claimed that the article "Patterns of Administrative Efficiency" was accepted for publication by Management Science in 1981. In December, Gerard P. Cachon, the journal’s editor and a business professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, responded to a request by Kean faculty members, saying the publication had no record of the article.
"Management Science publishes everything we accept," Cachon wrote in a letter provided by faculty union leaders to Inside Higher Ed and confirmed by Cachon. "There is a delay from the 'accept' decision to the article appearing in print because of the typesetting and production process. I have been told that we have no papers in that stage which were accepted more than 1 year ago."
Faculty members at Kean say the the 1983 résumé is one of several examples they have found of erroneous claims of publication and other misleading statements on what they claim to be six additional résumés by Farahi, beginning in 1982 and spanning almost 30 years, that they obtained through a combination of open-records requests and searching university records and reports.
The faculty union has brought its concerns over Farahi’s academic record to the university’s Board of Trustees, which is currently investigating the president. "The Executive Committee of the board has employed independent counsel to review and research this matter in a thorough and comprehensive manner, and to report back to the Executive Committee with its findings," said board chairwoman Ada Morell in a statement. "I am hopeful this work will be completed shortly."
Farahi declined to comment on the faculty members’ allegations to Inside Higher Ed, but he recently told The New Jersey Star-Ledger that several of the errors – particularly those on three résumés prepared for accreditation reports – were made by university staff, not by him. Matt Caruso, a spokesman for the university, said he could not speak to the accuracy of claims in five of the six résumés given to Inside Higher Ed by faculty members. The only résumés the university has on file, Caruso said, are Farahi’s 1983 application for employment – not one of the six résumés obtained by faculty members – and his 2002 application for the university’s presidency, which is included in the faculty’s list. Caruso said he could not verify that the other résumés were produced by Farahi, but that they were part of the board’s investigation.
Caruso also said he could not comment on the article listed in the 1983 résumé because it was part of the board’s investigation.
Faculty members, who have been fighting with the president over various reforms since he took office in 2003, said the president has a “win-at-all-costs” attitude that is threatening the university’s academic reputation. In July, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education warned the university that it could lose its accreditation if it did not establish better systems for tracking whether students or the institution as a whole were meeting goals, and in September, a National Collegiate Athletic Association investigation found that the university violated rules regarding scholarships.
"What we’re talking about is a pattern of questionable and fraudulent claims that clearly lays out an intent to deceive," said James Castiglione, an assistant professor of physics and chemistry at Kean and president of the Kean Federation of Teachers, the university’s faculty union, which is associated with the American Federation of Teachers.
Questions about Publications
Bert Wailoo, a professor of accounting, was the first Kean faculty member to look into Farahi’s background. Wailoo, who has been at Kean as long as Farahi has, said recent decisions by the president measuring faculty performance that have upset faculty members drove him to look into his longstanding suspicions about Farahi’s record.
He said he obtained two résumés by checking reports the public administration department filed with the national accrediting body, the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration. He said the rest were obtained by searching university records. Farahi’s 2002 application for the university’s presidency, which the university has acknowledged as an official record, was provided in response to an open records request. That résumé does not list specific peer-reviewed publications. The university would not comment on the veracity of the other résumés obtained by Wailoo.
In the résumés dated 1990 and earlier that were gathered by Wailoo and that the university declined to comment on, saying they were not official résumés and were part of the board’s investigation, Farahi claims that several of his articles were accepted for publication or published in Administrative Sciences Quarterly (this is an apparent typo for Administrative Science Quarterly), Management Science, Administration and Society, and Public Administration Review between 1981 and 1982:
- A résumé dated 1982 lists “Patterns of Administrative Efficiency, accepted for publication in Administration and Society.”
- A résumé dated 1985 lists “1981: ’Patterns of Administrative Efficiency,’ accepted for publication in Management Science.”
- A résumé dated 1990 lists “1982: ‘Fiscal control & Budget Policy,’ Administrative Sciences Quarterly” and “1982: ‘Determining Your MIS Needs,’ PAR”.
In responses to inquiries by faculty members at Kean, editors of these journals said they have no record of publishing the articles and all said they do not accept articles they do not publish.
“ASQ has never published an article by Dawood Farahi, nor have we ever accepted an article by Dawood Farahi that has not yet been published,” wrote Linda Johanson, who has been managing editor for Administrative Science Quarterly since 1980.
In some of these résumés, Farahi also claimed that a textbook, “Strategic Management: A Decision-Making Framework,” had been accepted for publication by Franklin-Watts in 1982. That textbook was never published.
In some of the résumés, including the 1983 résumé the university has on file, Farahi lists these and other articles as "submitted for publication." Other résumés simply list the title of an article followed by a journal, such as " 'Fiscal Control & Budget Policy,' Administrative Sciences Quarterly." Representatives from the journals said they do not keep record of articles that are submitted but not accepted.
The articles in question are not listed in résumés dated after 1990, though the most recent résumé, which faculty members said is dated 2008 and was compiled for accreditation with the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration, states that Farahi has "Over 50 technical articles in major publications." The university has not acknowledged this résumé as official, and said Farahi has not claimed to publish any peer-reviewed articles or a textbook.
But Farahi did comment on the résumé and two others to the Star-Ledger, and he told the paper that they were prepared for him. In addition to claiming the publications, those résumés claim that Farahi served as acting academic dean at Avila College, where he was previously employed, from 1976-1981. There is no record of him holding this position. "I did not create the data sheet," Farahi told the Star-Ledger. "I did not see the data sheet. Had I seen it, I would’ve corrected those errors. And as you can see, the errors are multiplying over time."
Farahi does not use a standard form of bibliographic formatting in any of the resumes. In library and database searches, faculty members at Kean said they have not been able to find a single peer-reviewed article by Farahi.
Faculty members said they have repeatedly asked the university to provide evidence for the academic publications in question, which the administration has not done. “At this stage, what we’re saying is this: If he has publications, let us see them,” Wailoo said. “They are not supposed to be secret. If he has them and he can produce them, I will be the first one to stand up and apologize.”
Faculty members at Kean have also raised questions about the formatting of the résumés, many of which list the aforementioned academic papers alongside non-peer-reviewed consultant reports without noting a distinction.
Caruso, the university spokesman, pointed out several inconsistencies in the resumes provided by faculty members. A two-page résumé from that faculty members claim to be from the 1994 NASPAA report appears to be missing a second page, and lists dates after 1994 on one of the pages. Faculty members said the error is the result of conflating two of Farahi’s résumés, one from 1994 and one from 2001. They note that the error does not detract from the claims they are making.
Caruso also said the résumé that faculty members claim to be from a 2008 NASPAA report is not in the copy the university has on file. He declined to provide a copy to Inside Higher Ed, saying it was part of the Board of Trustee’s investigation.
While the publication lists raise significant questions, the résumés also contain a number of other inconsistencies. The title of Farahi’s dissertation title changes between his résumés. The actual title, "Economic Growth & System Stability: An Empirical Investigation of the Effects of Rapid Economic Growth on Political Stability," can be found by searching the library of the University of Kansas, where Farahi did his graduate work.
In three résumés, the application for employment in 1983, one containing dates through 1984 and another through 1989, Farahi lists his dissertation title as "Coordination and Control: A Cybernetic Approach to Study of Organizational Effectiveness." In a résumé dated to 1994, the dissertation is listed as “Administrative Efficiency and Information Systems.”
The dates and descriptions listed in the résumés for Farahi’s master’s degree and doctoral degree also vary between the résumés. University of Kansas records state that Farahi received his M.A. and Ph.D. in 1974 and 1980, respectively, both in political science.
In three résumés dating between 1982 and 1990, Farahi lists that he received a master of arts in political science from the University of Kansas in 1974, which conforms to the University of Kansas records. But in three later resumes, dating between 1994 and 2008, he states that he received a master of arts in public administration in 1975, which is neither the correct concentration nor the correct date.
None of the résumés list the correct date for his Ph.D. All but one state that Farahi received a Ph.D. in political science in 1979. The résumé dating to 1994 states that Farahi's degree was in public administration, which is the wrong field.
Farahi’s Academic Background
While his degrees are in political science, Farahi’s primary academic career has been in public administration, specifically the use of information technology systems by county and municipal governments, a field that was relatively new as an independent discipline when he was applying for a job at Kean in the early 1980s.
He applied for an open position in public administration at Kean twice, once in 1982 and once in 1983. The public administration program, which at the time was only a couple of faculty members, was housed in the political science department. Administrators were eager to grow the program, specifically the program’s focus on information technology.
Charles P. Kelly, a faculty member in the political science department at the time Farahi applied and was hired, said the relative lack of understanding at Kean about the public administration and information technology fields, the lack of academics nationwide focusing in this area, and the way Farahi’s background lined up with the job description might have contributed to the department's failing to check Farahi's publication record when he was hired.
A year before Farahi’s tenure review came up, Kelly said, faculty in the department suggested that he look for employment elsewhere and that his request for tenure would likely not be granted. Kelly, who was on Farahi’s tenure committee, said the committee – made up of mostly political scientists – recommended against granting Farahi tenure after he was in the department for about seven years. The recommendation was overturned by administrators and Farahi was granted tenure. A spokesman for the university could not confirm details of the tenure process, only that the board approved Farahi's tenure in 1988. The political science and public administration departments were split in the late 1980s.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Farahi’s work primarily focused on working with local government officials to put information technology systems in place and train civil servants on how to use them. This led to numerous consulting opportunities with local governments, through which Farahi was able to bring in additional revenue. The majority of his academic work also came out of these partnerships. The majority of papers listed in his résumés are reports Farahi wrote for government agencies in Kansas, where he began his teaching career, and New Jersey, rather than peer-reviewed papers.
The faculty members critical of Farahi said the work he has done with counties is not bad work, nor is it wrong for an academic to pursue such activities. The problem, they say, is that the résumés make it appear that Farahi is passing off some of this work as peer-reviewed publications in major journals.
A Controversial President
Farahi was hired as the president of Kean in 2003 after serving in various administrative roles, including special assistant to two different presidents and chairman of the public administration department.
His tenure at the university’s helm has not gone smoothly. After a major expansion – the student body grew 46 percent between 2006 and 2010, and the physical campus has grown, too – the university, like most public universities, has faced budget shortfalls. In May 2010, Farahi announced that he was restructuring the university, eliminating traditional department heads, individual departments, and majors, to bring the budget in line. A few months later, 83 percent of the faculty voted no confidence in Farahi.
More recently, Farahi has instituted measures that he says are designed to hold faculty members more accountable, such as increasing class loads, asking them to spend more time on campus, and requiring that they fill out time cards
The university received a warning from the Middle States Commission in June 2011, which said the university did not have adequate systems to assess whether students and the university were meeting goals. The university also canceled postseason play for three sports after the NCAA found that a "disproportionate number of academic scholarships were awarded to scholar-athletes over the past five years.” As a Division III institution, Kean cannot grant athletic scholarships, and the number and value of academic scholarships given to athletes must be comparable to the average for the student body as a whole.
In September, Peter Pezzolo, a professor of philosophy, produced a set of open letters to the campus questioning Farahi’s leadership and asking him or others to supply documents that would verify the claims he made the resumes.
"Indeed, the president’s claim that he has 'Over 50 technical articles in major publications' does not sound like he is embarrassed about that," Pezzolo said, referencing a line in the resume faculty have dated to 2008. "Rather, he sounds very proud of it. So, his unwillingness to share a bibliography of his publications with his faculty is, shall we say, puzzling."
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