Please place me on that jury

Ripped this week from the headlines: “Fired professor sues Williams.” This one is really a pip. It turns out that the visiting professor in question — Ernest B. Moore — had worked under different names and has admitted in federal court to major criminal fraud.

Quite appropriately, Williams College fired him and — big surprise — he is now suing for “wrongful dismissal.” Talk about chutzpah! Would I ever like to be on that jury.

According to The Eagle, the gentleman in question faces up to 41 months in prison. At a college where I once taught, it came to the attention of the college president that one of her professors had testified against another professor that they had set up a drug factory.

As part of the deal, professor number two, who turned on professor number one, was assured by federal authorities that he couldn’t be fired. My courageous college president fired the professor, who admitted to selling drugs to students on his campus, among other things, and basically dared the feds to go public with the case.

The Williams professor of several names is suing the college because they cut off his COBRA rights. COBRA is the continuation of health benefits that employers have to offer you after you have left the job. You have to pay for the health care yourself, but the law says that the employer is obligated to offer you this benefit.

In other words, the guy may be a crook, but COBRA is COBRA and our fraudulent professor wants his rights, and, by the way, also wants “$1.3 million for wrongful dismissal.” Wrongful dismissal! If you can’t fire an untenured professor for having pled guilty to being a crook, what can you do? Of course, Williams is going to have to spend money defending itself against this nonsense. Our professor of different names pleaded guilty plea Nov. 9 in federal court in Washington, D.C., to one count of student aid fraud, one count of bank fraud and one count of Social Security representative fraud.

So, how did this happen? How could Williams College, one of the most important and prestigious institutions in the country, have hired this guy in the first place? Not only did they hire him, but they made him “W. Ford Schumann ‘50 Visiting Professor in Democratic Studies.” For the record, Google tells us that the aforementioned W. Ford Schumann is very generous and the endowed chair was apparently set up to demonstrate that Williams College is a diverse place.

Things get even wilder. According to The Eagle, our fired professor has a doctorate from Howard University and a master’s from Claremont College, but no undergraduate degree. He is African American and the Williams College community wants that diversity as part of their campus, for which they are to be admired. I have served on several university hiring committees and we take our jobs very seriously. We make a lot of phone calls. We check references and reach out to people who may not be listed references but might be in a position to know about the candidate.

Those of you who are reading this in disbelief might think this is an aberration. In fact, it is not. When I taught at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, something much like this happened and while the horses were out of the barn, we all had to show up with our framed diplomas to prove that we had indeed earned our degrees. At yet another college, it was discovered that a very senior professor had falsified a great deal of his academic record. At least one union official said that it was the university’s fault that they hadn’t been more assiduous in checking credentials. Unbelievable.

Wrong is wrong and Williams did the right thing in firing the guy. My bet is that in future, the administration will be a lot more careful about its hiring practices and more thorough when checking up on people who are coming to work for them.

On yet another subject, I am very concerned about Tiger Woods. I think this whole story is representative of how dumbed down America has become. In a week when the president addressed the nation about bringing troops to Afghanistan, all people can talk about is sex and the Woods family. I say, leave it to Tiger and Mrs. Tiger.

Originally Published in The Berkshire Eagle, 12/05/09

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One Comment on “Please place me on that jury”

  1. littlebangtheory Says:

    How the hell, two weeks later, can I be the first to comment on this???

    Perhaps it’s because I’m a Massachusetts guy with tenuous ties to Williams, and thus care about this stuff.

    I find it interesting that Williams, widely known as the snootiest institution in the world, finds themselves with doo-doo on their nose over a case of academic malfeasance.

    It’s too bad, on accounta we plebes need idols to worship.

    As for Tiger, I agree – it’s personal and ought to be treated as such.

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