The American Dissident: Literature, Democracy & Dissidence

Fitchburg State University (Fitchburg, MA)—Free Speech in Peril

When one reviews the corruption pervading the American academic intellectual world in the 1990s with regards teaching and research, the political corruption, the personal corruption, the institutional financial corruption—it is difficult not to believe in a destructive force at work, a fatal hubris. The one thread that seems to link all these corruptions is the intellectual arrogance of the players, their sense of being superior, their tendency to view others with disdain. That thread is a shameless breaking of the ordinary rules of society, as if, somehow, the breakers of the rules were earthly gods, incapable of being called to account...
           —Martin Anderson, Imposters In The Temple


Michael RiccardsA Case Study in Corruption
FACT:  Fitchburg State College (today, Fitchburg State University) issued me a settlement check for an extra year's salary.  If its professors and administrators were not guilty of wrongdoing, why then did it pay a settlement? 

The American Dissident was created as a direct result of corruption experienced first hand at Fitchburg State College, the so-called "Leadership College."  The following is a detailed and documented account of that corruption.  The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Sentinel & Enterprise, Fitchburg Sentinel, and Chronicle of Higher Education refused to report on any of it, despite my persistent attempts.  Even more sadly, the student newspaper, The Point, refused and refuses to this day to publish anything with its regard.  A student newspaper should never operate in service of the college administration and faculty as a mere organ of PR.   Instead, it should operate in service of vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy.  Clearly, Fitchburg's English and Mass Communications professors have been failing to educate students in the principles of democracy, though they've been doing a good job at indoctrinating them in the principles of political correctness.


When I taught at Elmira College (NY), the Octagon, the student newspaper, served as a wonderful example of democracy and the free press.  Kudos to the Octagon!  As mentioned, however, The Point, failed miserably in that endeavor.  And sadly, it appears nothing at all has changed.  Its website tends to be a mere advertisement for Fitchburg State, nothing more, nothing less.  Not one controversial item appears on it!  Faculty members ought to be ashamed.  Instead, they simply boast on the student newspaper website that "Fitchburg State College and its education programs have received accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)," a dubious organization in itself (see Robert "K.C." Johnson's article).

“The accreditation recognizes the professionalism, competence and tremendous effort put forth by our faculty and staff,” noted Elaine Francis, dean of education at Fitchburg State. “It shows that our faculty are well-qualified and have excellent experience in their field.”  Sadly, "professionalism" and "well-qualified" have come to include, in academe, expertise in teaching students the business of academe, including the castration of the press into a mere organ of PR, as opposed to teaching student editors to embrace vigorous debate and expose uncomfortable truths, including with regards the college and faculty.   


Where are the English and Mass Communication professors who would encourage the student editors to do a story on the RED LIGHT rating (the worst possible rating) accorded to Fitchburg State by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education?  "A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech." Silence!


Corruption Magazine morphed into Corruption Massachusetts

Scanned documents and essays.  These documents form a precise case study.  The faculty evaluation documents alone should prove fascinating to anybody interested in academic corruption. They illustrate how arbitrarily and capriciously professors are and can be evaluated by corrupt-minded administrators, not to mention colleagues. The sole criteria of "collegiality" (a devious and highly subjective personnel-management tool which essentially designates the degree of ones obedience and subservience to power, as well as ones willingness to remain silent in the face of colleague corruption) can often make or break a professor irrespective of his or her teaching ability and accomplishments. In my case, egregious omission of achievements and false statements (lies) constituted the modus operandi of my two successive chairperson evaluators, Drs. Richard DeCesare and Harry Semerjian, both designated today as professor emeriti of Fitchburg State. Vice President of Academic Affairs Franz Nowotny and presidents Vinny Mara and Michael Riccards, in evident disregard for truth and justice, willingly and happily backed the fraudulent evaluations. With the exception of one professor, the entire Fitchburg State College tenured faculty, obsessed with monetary issues and apathetic to intellectual ones, also proved indifferent to truth and justice.

The corruption examined on this website, which essentially destroyed my career and livelihood, though helped form me as an independent thinker and ardent dissident, was generally of a retaliatory nature and began with my decision, after three months of being pursued by my department chairperson (Richard DeCesare) in the beginning of my first year, to no longer call or visit his home on weekends as he'd continuously requested. Because of his evident infatuation with me (my colleagues thought he was probably a closet homosexual), he'd failed to do a background check on me when hiring me, especially regarding Elmira College, my previous job position.  Another chair might have done that and decided not to hire me because I had been an open critic, something that is clearly (and shamefully) taboo in academe. 


The consequent sexual harassment complaint I filed against the chairperson because of his sudden turn from a positive to a negative evaluation evidently angered administrators. Points of corruption illustrated by my case include due-process violation, fraudulent faculty evaluations, fraudulent sexual harassment complaint procedures, nepotism, cronyism, prevarication, secrecy, as well as “kept” student newspaper editors.

No doubt, corruption will continue thriving in public higher education in Massachusetts due largely to the bulk of indifferent and contented professors. It will also continue thriving because of institutionalized secrecy and will likely surface sporadically in the media.  Unfortunately, no ombudsperson exists to deal with it. The American Dissident would like to assume that responsibility.  I've offered Fitchburg State College a free subscription, but its library refuses to respond. 
It has been impossible for me, a mere citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, to determine the extent of corruption in the public colleges because the Massachusetts State College Association faculty union, thanks to its Faustian contracts, will not permit public access to its public college records, including arbitration hearings and grievance complaints.

Public Citizen has been publishing a list of questionable doctors. In vain, I've requested that it also publish a list of dubious professors and college administrators. After all, public higher education shapes the very soul of the nation. At Fitchburg State College, a list of those apathetic to truth and justice ought to be topped by presidents Riccards and Mara, Dean Shirley Wagner, Emeriti Semerjian and DeCesare, former Director of Personnel Mary Scott, former Director of Academic Advising Joan Niehaus, former Dean of Continuing Education Michele Zide (who had been evaluating her teaching husband, a local judge), Professors Nan Wiegersmeier, Charlie Hetzel, Jane Fiske, Louis Lorenzen, Robert Champlin, Robin Dinda, Carol Sickul, James Colbert, Walter Jeffco, Richard Glidewell, and Maria Jaramillo. The list ought also include the lawyers and administrators of the MSCA professors' union (part of the all-powerful Massachusetts Teachers Association, which is part of the National Education Association), The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, The Sentinel, The Concord Journal, The Worcester Telegram, Thought & Action, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Adjunct Advocate, Lingua Franca, Academe, College English, as well as former Poet Laureate of the US Congress Robert Pinsky and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, both Fitchburg State College graduation speakers who preferred collecting their big taxpayer-paid speaking fees to responding to my correspondence regarding the corrupt administration inviting them. 

Secrecy of all public college and university records and absence of state freedom of information and whistleblower legislation have resulted, indubitably, in unabated behind-the-scenes corruption in all public Massachusetts colleges and universities. Intellectual and moral corruption, known euphemistically, that is comfortably amongst the corrupt, as politics, mismanagement, or in-fighting, plagues public institutions of higher education throughout the country and, especially, in Massachusetts. It is rampant, unchecked, and encouraged by senior administrators, faculty and politicians, and most of all appears to be well-accepted by the media. It has been fostering the growth of a corporate-functionary mindset of self-censorship, happy-face positivism, and absolute obedience to authority amongst the citizenry, to the grave detriment of hardcore critical thinking, which is imperative for a thriving democracy.
In his introduction to The Iron Heal, H. Bruce Franklin notes how Jack London foresaw, amongst other things, “the deliberate economic subversion of public education in order to spread illiteracy and ignorance” and “the government conspiring in witch hunts aimed at dissident labor leaders, professors, and authors." My case serves to illustrate the subversion of public higher education in Massachusetts, where ignorance of or indifference to the current system of injustice, prevarication, cronyism, nepotism, self-censorship, and general diminished free speech and expression. It underscores the conspiracy of silence and inaction on the part of the state government, media, the Massachusetts State College Association (MSCA-MTA) faculty union and the Council of College Presidents.

Blind institutional patriots such as the large majority of college professors will evidently not be convinced of any assertions made on this website. Unfortunately, academics generally tend to prefer silence to action when corruption festers in their midst, no matter how egregious. Finally, periodic reminders of Lionel Lewis' Scaling the Ivory Tower (1975), Charles J. Sykes' Profscam (1988) and Martin Anderson's Imposters in the Temple (1992) are desperately needed, for it is essential that the corrupt be reminded that some of us do not fear them and continue to bark implacably at their iron heel of iniquity. Let this web site serve as one of those reminders and let the author/editor be, as Sykes termed it, one of those “voices crying in the wilderness” from hence change may eventually occur. “Help is on the way” was Sykes' closing statement. But over a decade later, I don't see help anywhere at all.

Review JournalRead this rare instance of honesty from the mouth of a college president. 
Nepotism, or What Makes Massachusetts, Massachusetts.  This is an article the editor wrote some time ago on the subject and tried in vain to get published. 
Salem State University corruption. This newspaper account of a sexual harassment scandal at Salem State College, part of the Massachusetts state-college system like Fitchburg State, helps illustrate how public-college faculty and administrators operate.