WATCH: Protesters demand Farahi’s resignation at rally

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By: Rebecca Panico | Published Dec. 12, 2015

About 70 people gathered across the street from the S.T.E.M. building at noon yesterday to call for Kean President Dr. Dawood Farahi’s resignation and highlighted alleged discrimination against faculty, staff and students.

Several ministers and representatives from the NAACP, the Kean Federation of Teachers, the People’s Organization for Progress, NJ United Students and state Sen. Ron Rice (D) stepped up to the microphone to say their piece before marching to the Green Lane Building while chanting, “Farahi must go.”

A coalition of ministers, led by Rev. Ronald Slaughter of the Saint James AME Church in Newark, called for Farahi’s resignation last month after threatening Tweets were made against black students during a rally in support of University of Missouri students.

Although Kean graduate Kayla-Simone McKelvey, who is black, was charged in connection to the threats, the coalition continued to call for Farahi’s resignation. 

READ MORE: A timeline of events since rally, Twitter threats on Nov. 17

Yesterday’s protesters echoed similar sentiments: that Kean’s student population, which is about 60 percent minority, are set up for failure as faculty and staff are laid off and tuition and fees increase. Meanwhile, women and minorities are most often those who are terminated, they said.

Protesters demanded an independent legislative investigation which would probe how money is spent on students and look into Kean’s hiring and firing practices.

Farahi recently received support from a delegation of legislators in an open letter signed by state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (Dist. 20), and several protesters questioned the relationship between Lesniak and Farahi.

The university said in a statement yesterday that it supports a dialogue on issues of social justice and equality in society, the workplace and in education, but had harsh words for the protesters.

“The people here today are not our students, that is clear, and they do not reflect the reality of campus life at Kean,” the statement read. “As we’ve said before, those who continue to carry on their campaign against the university president and are threatening to disrupt the lives, livelihoods and education of Union County residents and Kean students are misguided and misinformed.”

One freshman computer science major at Kean had heard about the accusations against Farahi after the Twitter threats and decided to show up to support yesterday’s protesters.

“[Farahi]’s making it harder for students to just live here, go to school here, be educated,” said Wilmond Vano, 18. “I’m sure once this gets more word, more people will join in. I know that there are more people that believe in this.”

READ MORE: State examines use of student fees at Kean, other colleges

Yesterday’s protest came during finals week on campus, and few Kean students showed up. Rev. Slaughter claimed that he received a text message from a girl who works for Kean’s Student Organization which stated that the administration advised student leaders not to show up at the protest.

Although Rev. Slaughter did not name the student “for her own safety,” he did read the text message in question to The Tower verbatim yesterday:

“Unfortunately, no we cannot join the rally after consultation from administration and staff. The school feels it’s problematic to also conduct a student rally for fear that your purpose will be distorted by the media and seen as a student-based rally in the same cause of the NAACP. It was decided that we don’t want to organize students… It will have bad implications on the current school leaders. The choice was being made in the best concern of the progress students have made at Kean. Students will be showing up individually, but we were told not to gather and walk with respects to the progress that has been made with the MLK initiative. We don’t want to bite the hand that feeds us.”

When reached for comment after the protest, Student Org. President Nigel Donald — who advised students to stay at home after last month’s threats — said that he and other student leaders had met with administrators recently and that “they actually endorsed the fact of going out there.”

“I don’t know where that would come from,” he stated, referencing who had sent the text. He added that he’d look into the matter.

READ MORE: Diversity panel discussion ends in chaotic scene

Donald, who is black, stated he “would have definitely loved” to be at yesterday’s protest, but had to work. When asked if he thought there was an environment of racism or discrimination on campus he responded:

“The faculty, I can’t speak for. But amongst the students I don’t think so. Is there a question of understanding diversity and understanding where we come from? Yes.”

This is the second time organizations have called for Farahi to resign since his tenure as president in 2003. In 2011, the university’s full-time faculty union, the Kean Federation of Teachers, called for Farahi’s ouster after several inaccuracies were found on his resume.

Rebecca Panico may be reached at Follow The Tower on Twitter@KeanTower. Find The Tower on Facebook.

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