To the Editor:
The latest issues surrounding Kean University and allegations that its president falsified his résumé are disturbing. Here is a public institution on a path of transformation—driven by its president's bold vision—that is now again mired in an embarrassing event brought about by impropriety or the perception thereof ("In Narrow Vote, Kean U. Trustees Support Embattled President," The Chronicle, February 15).
What is more offensive than the admitted act itself is the board's statement framing the decision to sidestep the issue. After a delayed review, it declared such past irregularities as immaterial to institutional success and, shockingly, suggested that no light can be shed on the issue, since the university has no written policy on academic integrity. For a board of higher learning (or at least its majority), entrusted with protecting the health and good standing of a public institution, the integrity and dignity of the institution and the community it represents ought to be of highest priority and consideration in such situations. Or is this now open to interpretation?
In this case, the board did not act in the interest of the people of New Jersey. Unfortunately, its behavior adds yet another data point to the long list of integrity problems plaguing the state, causing serious grief to its reputation, to its residents, and to the U.S. higher-education community. We expect an ethical code in this civilized world of ours to trump any illusion of impunity.
The long struggle at the university between the faculty-and-staff union on one side and the president and board on the other lingers. In the attempt by the board and president to win the battle at all costs, perhaps they have lost sight of the critical issues. Rigidity set in; personal agendas and group-think took over; and great, unintended—and often unnoticed—collateral damage was caused. Not unlike civil wars, this has evolved into a losing proposition for all, with, in this case, student learning and institutional well-being as victimized bystanders.
For reasons that can only breed suspicion, the board and president apparently acted in this situation not to accept accountability. They may have committed a strategic blunder that could go on to tarnish whatever progress or success had been gained.
The writer, a consultant, is a former grants and research integrity officer at Kean University.