Congresswoman Yvette Clarke says she and other black elected officials are asking CUNY administrators to respond to charges being made by Joe Wilson. He’s the black political science professor who says he was the victim of a vicious smear campaign by a “Gang of Five” white professors and by Brooklyn College President Karen Gould.
Three years ago Brooklyn College accused Wilson of enriching himself with income not authorized by the college when he was head of the college’s Graduate Center for Worker Education. The center, based at 25 Broadway in Manhattan, continues to offer classes, but Brooklyn College has completely recast the make-up of the faculty, as well as the focus of the center, which previously had what its backers called a progressive working-class and minority-focused agenda.
On Saturday, March 21, at Medgar Evers College, about a dozen black elected officials – holding city, state and federal offices – listened to Wilson as he made his case against the college and CUNY. The group, calling itself the Central Brooklyn Black Elected Officials, meets periodically. Clarke is the unofficial head, or “convener.”
“We feel compelled to look,” Clarke said in a phone interview from Washington this week. “This has ramifications for the constituents we represent,” she said, referring to the changes at the Graduate Center for Worker Education, which was largely composed of black and Latino students seeking graduate degrees.
Clarke’s Congressional district includes the campus of Brooklyn College.
Clarke said a letter to CUNY Central administrators is being drafted. The Congresswoman noted that CUNY’s Central administrators signed off on the actions taken three years ago against Wilson by Brooklyn College President Karen Gould. Clarke said she and other elected officials thought it appropriate to go to CUNY, rather than to Brooklyn College, for an initial response.
Clarke said she and the other officials also are concerned about Wilson’s allegations of broad race discrimination throughout Brooklyn College and the wider CUNY.
“The case he (Joe Wilson) made is very concerning,” Clarke said.
She added, “We’ve only gotten one side of the story.”
Brooklyn College has been saying that as head of its Center for Worker Education Wilson drew tens of thousands of dollars in income not approved by college authorities.
Wilson vigorously asserts his innocence and says the college’s circulation of those charges, first through CUNY and then in a New York Times article last year, has caused him enormous pain. He says that he has suffered professionally and personally.
Wilson maintains further that the attacks on him, while having racial bonding as an underlying factor, involve jealousies and resentments having to do with past positions taken by Wilson in department matters. (The lawsuit contains repeated references to an all-white “Gang of Five” who targeted him and made complaints that went up the ladder to President Gould – who sided forcefully with the Wilson opponents.)
Wilson says Brooklyn College trampled on his First Amendment rights. In his federal lawsuit, filed by attorney Colin Moore, the professor says that Brooklyn College President Gould barred him from entering the campus after he spoke to New York City Councilmembers two years ago. He said he had told the legislators that Brooklyn College has been racially discriminatory in its policies toward black and Latino faculty, as well as in the admission of minority freshmen. Wilson said very few black males are admitted to the college as freshmen. (Both CUNY and Brooklyn College have so-called male initiatives that deal with challenges faced by black and Latino males. Brooklyn College's program is referred to here.)
Brooklyn College has declined to comment when asked in the past to respond to Wilson’s charges.
CUNY and Brooklyn College asked the State Attorney General’s office to look into the Wilson matter, but the office has been declining to public make statements about the case and has taken no action against Wilson.
On a personal note, I’ll say that I have spoken with Joe Wilson a number of times (by phone), and I have asked several faculty members whom I trust about him. No one I’ve spoken with has accepted the claims that he’s a thief.
It seems to me that if Wilson is right and that he was the target of a smear campaign carried out for petty political reasons, with underlying racial biases, then a prosecutor ought to be looking into this case, with Wilson as the main victim and witness.
(I need to point out that as an Associate Professor in the Journalism Program of the English Department at Brooklyn College I have filed numerous complaints over the past several years, asserting that there have been patterns of racial bias in that department.)
See here a previous Brooklyn Ron post on the Wilson topic: “The Case of the Black Professors Who Vanished From Brooklyn College.”
Prior to that there was a post reporting I had been told by President Gould that she would recommend I not be reappointed to teach at the college beyond August of this year. (That post is here.) (Since that time I received a note from the President saying she granted my appeal and would recommend my reappointment.)