The American Dissident: Literature, Democracy & Dissidence

Fitchburg State College (Fitchburg, MA)Free Speech in Peril

When I started teaching 10 years ago, I thought universities were the quintessential market place of ideas. I was so naïve, and so, so wrong.  It’s not an open market place of ideas—I hope we can get back to that notion because our society desperately needs places where we can have truly free discussion. I just can’t say I see that in the American university today.

—Richard J. Peltz, law professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock


A Case Study in Corruption—Actual Documents
Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Massachusetts State College Association refuse public access to the arbitration and grievance-file evidence of corruption maintained in their archives. This policy makes it impossible for the public in Massachusetts to verify just how corrupt the public colleges may be.  As opposed to the sunshine state, Florida, which possesses state Freedom of Information legislation, Massachusetts is the cloudy state with a century's old tradition of cronyism, patronage, and general public corruption (as underscored by the Big Dig and William Bulger scandals). This of course is surprising, considering the incredible number of institutions of higher learning operating in the state. How can such a high concentration of professors result in such a piteous state of cloudy affairs?
     The transcripts of the editor's particular arbitration hearing at Fitchburg State College underscore the intellectual depravity of both professors and administrators on the public salary and pension doles. Professor Emeritus Harry Semerjian, for example, looked so bad during that hearing that the college president Michael Riccards finally decided to offer me a cash settlement.  Part of that settlement prohibits me from revealing the cash amount paid out not by the corrupt administrators and faculty of Fitchburg State but by the taxpayers of the state of Massachusetts.   What an aberrant provision.  How can it be legal in the state?  Yet be assured it is likely legal.  Riccards did not have the inner integrity to challenge Semerjian, who, by the way, was on the committee that hired Riccards. 

FSC1.  Excerpt from the 200-plus page arbitration transcript (above on the right) taken from SLONE vs. FITCHBURG STATE COLLEGE. It was obtained from my union-appointed lawyer Lee Weissinger, whose only concern was closure, not justice. The page bears witness to the nonsense that can flourish behind the scenes in a public institution of purported higher education. The college lawyer grilling me in the transcript is Harvard-trained Mark Peters, also in concerned more with closure than with justice. This was the only piece of the transcript I was able to obtain without signing a form that would have legally prevented me from exposing it in public. Massachusetts does not possess Freedom of Information legislation like Florida and other states.   Democrats, who constitute the state's large majority, could give a damn about TRANSPARENCY!  The excerpt concerns my showing a French-language commercial for Old Nick Rum, filmed in Martinique, during one of my French classes.  It was shown because the class was studying Martinique, rum is the principle export of Martinique, and the nudity depicted in the commercial emphasized a difference in cultures.  Note how attorney Peters turns the truth upside down, dumps it into the garbage bucket, and pitifully attempts to convince the arbitrator that I was trying to get college students to buy RUM.  Bravo Harvard lawyer Mark Peters!  

2.  Writ of no trespass (to the right).  Fitchburg State College doesn't fool around when it wants to 'destroy' professors. This writ of no trespass, still in effect today, was issued to me because I'd simply told Professor Jeannette Scharf (now dead) that I did not appreciate her less than honest behavior regarding my faculty evaluation. She immediately had a private lawyer threaten me with an absurd charge of anti-semitism. Criticize a corrupt Jewish person... and you're a Jew hater? Imagine, even if I had hollered my brains out and threatened her, which I did not do, there should have been a fair hearing. Instead, there was immediate eviction and gestapo-like hearing in front of the Austrian Vice President of Academic Affairs Franz Nowotny (now living in Florida on public pension) and the Dean of Students Shirley Wagner. To deprive me of liberty in the public space of McKay campus without a FAIR hearing is a Bill of Rights violation. Did the Fitchburg State College faculty care? Not at all. Did the MSCA/MTA teachers union care? Not at all. Would the student newspaper, The Point, print notice of my eviction? Not at all. By the way, it costs about $100,000 to hire a Boston trial lawyer to contest Bill of Rights violations! 

Note I was never even informed what it was I had done. My assumption was the Scharf conversation. The writ simply stated: "As a result of your actions at Fitchburg State College..."

The second page of the "Writ" sums up the sham hearing. Note "Confidential" stamped on the letter. Everything corrupt academics do in public institutions is ineluctably stamped CONFIDENTIAL. Note the nonsense language used: "restructuring collegiality and return a professional interaction between college faculty." The First Amendment is ineluctably held hostage to the elusive "collegiality" criteria reducing professional interaction to bowing and curtseying, polite, empty, and heatless discussions of nothingness. In academe, collegiality has sadly come to mean NOT blowing the whistle on corrupt colleagues and administrators.



3. The  First Ad Hoc Evaluation Committee Conclusions were clearly favorable.  The committee was composed of three professors, who were supposed to present an independent evaluation (whatever that might imply) of my job performance.  I'd requested the Ad Hoc because of my chairperson's sudden change of heart with my regard.   
4. The  Second Ad Hoc Evaluation Committee was created a year later and composed of three different professors. It also clearly substantiated my being a "good" professor. Yet it was so pressured to produce a negative report by the intellectually corrupt Vice President of Academic Affairs Franz Nowotny, Honorable Degree recipient from Fitchburg State College (Imagine a college awarding such degrees to its very bosses!), backed by successive presidents Vinny Mara (also recipient of such a degree) and Michael Riccards, that its conclusions were at times incomprehensible. Ex-marine (semper fi!) Professor Howard Thomas, who chaired the committee and was chosen by Nowotny to serve on it, determined it could not counter chairperson Semerjian's conclusions because the committee could not go back into time to verify my performance at the very same classes the chairperson had observed. Yet his committee was supposed to provide an independent evaluation.  The last page of the report clearly indicates a favorable evaluation. Yet the Vice President of Academic Affairs Franz Nowoty was so angered by those conclusions that he purposely indicated on his report that those conclusions were unfavorable (see next document). In any case, the decision to terminate an untenured faculty member rests entirely on the whim of the college president.  See report below (5 pages). 

5.  Report of the Vice President of Academic Affairs. Note the fraudulent interpretation of the last page of the aforementioned Ad Hoc Evaluation Committee conclusions. How can such blatant fraud be tolerated? Yet I'd brought the matter up to the entire faculty at Fitchburg State. Only one professor proved concerned. 

6.  Letter of Recommendation from the Dean of Continuing Education  (see right, two letters).
7.  Letter of Recommendation from the Director of the Academic Advising Center. Interestingly, Joan Niehaus, the Director of Advising, told me the Dean of Students, Shirley Wagner, her direct boss, told her to refuse to update the letter of recommendation. Both Wagner and Niehaus could care less about their helping to destroy my career and livelihood. 

8.  Updated Letter of Recommendation from Full Professor Jeanne Moore (on the right).

9.  Classroom Evaluation Effected by James Colbert (9 pages). Colbert was Acting Chairperson, appointed by good friend Harry Semerjain, despite the fact that the union contract stipulated acting chairpersons be elected by department members. Semerjian took a sabbatical leave of absence. Considering Colbert's close ties to both DeCesare and Semerjian, he gave me a surprisingly good evaluation. He does mention, however, that although my Spanish was certainly good enough to teach the levels I was teaching, it did have some flaws. Note that I was hired only as a French professor. Also, note how Colbert, just like his predecessors DeCesare and Semerjian, omitted highly pertinent information in his report. In this case, he omitted mention that I had been studying Spanish in Spain and Mexico for three straight summers at my own expense in an evident effort to improve. As part of the effort of retaliation, the college refused to help pay for those courses. Yet it readily reimbursed other professors for courses they took. 

For proof of my graduate work in Spanish, consult the transcripts (graduate-credit courses). Note also there was no mention of my excellent, near native grasp of the French language. Colbert was and is an excellent example of an academic coward. He knew damn well I was quite competent as a professor, but did absolutely nothing to try to end the corrupt policies of the department chairpersons DeCesare and Semerjian. Massachusetts will also treat Colbert quite well when he ends up pensioned.

10.  Rebuttal of Harry Semerjian Classroom Evaluations.   

11.  Classroom Evaluations Effected by Professor Emeritus Harry Semerjian. Prior to my decision not to frequent DeCesare's home, Semerjian gave me a highly positive evaluation. Then his evaluations became highly negative, full of omission and evident desperate attempt to prove me incompetent. Rather than note the many scholarly articles I'd been publishing, he hunted in microfiche for an old letter to the editor published in The Chronicle of Higher Education prior to my being at Fitchburg State. He faulted me because I'd listed it as an editorial, not as a letter to the editor. He also made a big deal out of one student complaint. Yet that student declared in a letter that Semerjian had essentially coerced her to write the letter. The complaint was wholly unfounded. The instances of his deception are almost innumerable. They are detailed in my rebuttal (see next document). 

12.  Richard DeCesare Classroom Evaluations. DeCesare initially gave me a favorable evaluation as seen here. Then when I rebuffed his desire to see me on weekends at his home, the evaluations became recommendations to terminate. 


14. Rebuttal of Richard DeCesare Classroom Evaluations.


16.  Director of Personnel Mary Scott's Conclusions RE my Sexual Harassment Complaint (14 pages). 

15. Rebuttal of Director of Personnel Mary Scott's Conclusions (23 pages)


23 pages not yet posted.

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