Depending on how one looks at it, I either resigned under duress or was forced out of my job as an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Felician University (Lodi, New Jersey) on May 15, 2020 after thirteen years at the university, and twenty-six years in higher education. I left or was forced out after I uncovered significant malfeasance that the University wanted covered up. The cover-up began with George Abaunza, the Dean of Students, and eventually extended to Sylvia McGeary, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Anne Prisco, the President, and in a less substantial (but still substantive) way, Ronald Gray, the Dean of Students. Unsurprisingly, every one of these individuals has left Felician for other institutions, presumably in the hopes of “putting the past behind them.” But to paraphrase Faulkner, the past isn’t so easily buried. Not if I’m the one writing it up.
Though I’ve often been advised to let bygones be bygones, I’ve taken a very different tack, not just engaging Felician’s administration in the ongoing equivalent of a bureaucratic guerilla war, but actively attracting both current and former Felician people with grievances against the University to tell me their stories and talk through strategies to confront Felician in the adversarial forum of their choice.
Perhaps the biggest challenge here is the sheer turnover that’s taken place at FU: it’s common knowledge to virtually everyone at the University that Felician is a “sinking ship.” The minute you deal with one member of the administration, he or she leaves, and you’re obliged to start the process from scratch with someone willing and able to play dumb about everything that’s happened before their accession to office. And so it goes, an endless game of blind man’s bluff with administrators and lawyers willing to put out their own eyes to avoid confronting, much less speaking, the truth.
Almost everyone in Felician’s administration, faculty, and staff knows that FU is disintegrating, and yet no one at the university can say that out loud. The pressures to keep silent don’t stop people from taking appropriate action: every few months brings news of the departure of another major administrator or faculty member; meanwhile, the PR machine keeps turning, conveying the impression of success, excitement, and growth. How wonderful can it be if everyone seems to want to leave? It’s the great unanswered question, but precisely the kind of question that a newcomer would never think to ask. It’s the question I want to get would-be students, faculty, and staff, as well as higher ed journalists, accreditors, legislators, and regulatory officials to start asking.
The whole school is a fraud, one I intend to expose here in excruciating detail, not just with respect to cases I was involved in, but with respect to people who have given me permission to narrate (and given me cringeworthy documentation of) what happened to them. It makes for harrowing, sobering reading. Stay tuned.