Jim McGreevey and the China Syndrome
Sad news. Jim McGreevey, X governor of New Jersey, has suffered a chutzpa relapse. Forced to resign in 2004 after a string of corruption scandals and toxic appointments, McGreevey muddied the waters by revealing he was gay. Implying social intolerance had something to do with his resignation. Though some folks far from Jersey bought it, most Garden State residents knew Jim's real problem was political sleaze and monumental chutzpa. The latter manifested itself memorably in his appointment of Golan Cipel as top homeland security advisor.
Golan Cipel was the obscure object of Governor McGreevey's desire. McGreevey met Cipel in Israel. After relocating to New Jersey, Cipel became a publicity flack in the McGreevey administration. He remained an Israeli national. When Cipel was made homeland security guy, his non-qualifications and missing federal security clearance caused a commotion. McGreevey moved Cipel to another public payroll position. Meanwhile, corruption probes and prosecutions were sweeping up McGreevey pals in and around the statehouse.
According to McGreevey, Golan Cipel tried to blackmail him. But McGreevey stoutly refused to be extorted. Instead he publicly confessed "I am a gay American" and resigned. Why he had to go was never adequately explained. Jersey is socially liberal. At the same time, Golan Cipel claimed not to be gay, saying McGreevey repeatedly pressured him into sex. And that he (Cipel) had been planning a sexual harassment suit. Why Cipel accepted career advancements from McGreevey and didn't pursue the lawsuit was never adequately explained. Official efforts to untangle the mess faded away after McGreevey quit and Cipel went back to Israel. Whatever the True Story, the real story was that McGreevey gave his chippy-esque odalisque a top job protecting the public. In a state which lost hundreds of people on 9/11.
Before long McGreevey did the talk circuit. Oprah et al. Dishing his journey of self acceptance. Promoting his book "The Confession". Back home, he pitched his wife a fast divorce: her services as beard were no longer required. On the job front, the donkey wing of the Jersey machine kept Jim humming. State Senator Raymond Lesniak, who reps the 20th district in Union County, got lawyer Jim a gig at the politically powerful firm of Weiner Lesniak. Ray Lesniak is partner at The Firm. Lesniak chairs the state's Senate Economic Growth Committee and Weiner Lesniak co-chaired the Clinton-Gore campaigns in Jersey.
Alas. Conflict of interest issues arose re McGreevey at Weiner Lesniak. The Firm handled public deals in which McGreevey as governor had been involved. Ray had to ax Jim. McGreevey can now be found at Kean University, a public college in Union County. Teaching part time in the graduate business school. Among his courses: Ethics and Legal Issues of Operating Globally. To some, McGreevey teaching ethics is like Dubya teaching the art of war. Then there's the pension thing...
McGreevey receives a mere $17,500 per annum for his tutorial duties. But being on the public payroll lets him remain in the state pension program. Jim has served the people for 19 years in different capacities. Yet when he retires his pension will be based on the annual salary of $157,000 he received during his 3 years as governor. In the meantime, part time teacher Jim lives in the $1.4 million Victorian mansion he purchased with his significant other. Mister Other is Chief Financial Officer for First Spring Corporation, a New York based private investment firm. First Spring, among other things, handles investments for the heirs to the Seagram liquor fortune and is linked to another investment entity, FtG Associates. FtG was jointly created by a branch of the Seagram family, and by Fisher Brothers, one of New York's most prominent developers. FtG has various interests in China. But then-- who doesn't? Even public universities are getting into the act.
When not teaching ethics, McGreevey advises Kean University on its relationship with the Peoples Republic of China. After resigning as governor, McGreevey went to China to represent Kean in their establishment of a campus at Wenzhou University, in the city of Wenzhou in the Zhejiang Province. Though the approval process isn't complete (such things take almost as long in China as they do in New Jersey) the future looks bright. In May 2006, Kean University President Dawood Farahi and a top education official from China signed documents finalizing the Wenzhou deal. High ranking Communist Party officials attended the formal ceremony on the Kean campus in Union County.
President Farahi seems a formal fellow. Last November he sent a letter to Jim McGreevey formally welcoming him as instructor. The letter contained a formal reminder that "university policy prohibits actions by its employees that may involve conflict of interest as it relates to Kean University."*
According to State Senator Ray Lesniak,** President Farahi knew McGreevey as governor.
Lesniak also says Farahi knew McGreevey had contacts in China. Saying: "That's how they got working on that project." New Jersey's current governor, former Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine is working on the project as well. A 05/05/06 press release by the Office of University Relations at Kean cites Corzine signing an agreement re Wenzhou at the statehouse. Quoting Farahi "This initiative is a prime example of how universities can respond to the Governor's call for innovation and new ideas in fund raising. Education is a highly desirable commodity..."
The press release also states that construction of Kean/Wenzhou, plus all costs of operating the institution "will be paid for through tuition and through financing provided by the municipal and provincial government in China". Professors at Kean/Wenzhou will be American. The students, Chinese.
Spurred by globalization, China is eager to acquire foreign educational commodities. Other public universities besides Kean are rushing to set up shop. Including the State University of New York (SUNY). SUNY has established an office in Beijing and Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) about a SUNY campus at Nanjing University, in the southern province of Nanjing, have been signed. The Chinese government, in the form of Nanjing University, will pay for the project. Hopefully, families of Chinese students won't be forced to kick in too much. The crushing cost of tuition is one of the issues spurring mass unrest in China. Along with growing income disparity, public corruption, development-related land seizures from peasants and farmers, brutal working conditions in factories and mines, and harsh repression of dissidents and journalists.
Globalization is also powering a huge push to learn English in China. As is the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics. English speaking foreign teachers are being recruited in droves by Chinese language schools, at times via affiliations with American educational commodities. Some language schools are decent places to work. Others are not.
According to a 2006 report by the U.S. House of Representatives International Relations Committee, issued in connection with an investigation of the 2005 death of American teacher Darren Russell in Guangzhou: "A number of substandard English language teaching mills have sprung up...these institutes have become virtual sweatshops where young, often naive Americans are held as virtual indentured servants". Meanwhile, the United States Embassy reported that complaints by teachers of intimidation, violence and brutal working conditions had increased eightfold since 2004 to an average of two per week. Despite the complaints, U.S. consulates have not always proved a reliable resource for teachers. Possibly because some are staffed largely by Chinese nationals who must be contracted through the Chinese government's Diplomatic Services Bureau.
On February 10, 2007 in Albany, New York, the committee on Human and Civil Rights of United University Professions (UUP) presented a resolution re the treatment of teachers in China at UUP's Winter Delegate Assembly. UUP is the largest higher education union in the nation, representing more than 32,000 academic and professional faculty at SUNY's 29 state universities. The Delegate Assembly resolved that UUP will "communicate to the New York State delegation in Congress and the Senate of the United States, the Department of State and the Department of Labor the importance of U.S. Consulates in China living up to their duties..." And that SUNY's administration be made aware of "the importance of safeguarding civil liberties, human rights and decent working conditions in its programs involving cultural exchanges, development agreements and all other joint ventures in China." UUP was also to "request SUNY to conduct a human rights audit on its programs in China and release its reports."
Speaking of reports, on April 30th Amnesty International issued one about the mass evictions taking place in Beijing, driven by the need to build facilities for the 2008 Olympics. Protestors are being treated to detention sans trial. And despite recent official promises about media freedom reform, a crackdown on reportage is intensifying.
Back to Kean University in New Jersey. Where President Dawood Farahi seems sanguine. Though China will be paying for developing and operating Kean at Wenzhou, "there will be no censorship issues as all matters will mirror those used here in the United States." Sounds as if Kean-Wenzhou will be a tight little island of free Jersey in the sea of China. Still, inquiring minds want to know-- will X Governor Jim McGreevey be advising Kean re security and ethics on the island? If so, for God's sake don't go!
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
Sources include but are not limited to:
"Olympics-China repression worsens ahead of Games-report," Reuters, 04/30/07
"More than 1,000 riot police clash with villagers in southern China," Diamond Cheng, Associated Press, 01/19/07
"Outcry over beating, death of reporter in China," The Peninsula/Reuters, 01/18/07
"A new chief for China project," Danielle Furfaro, Albany Times Union, 08/30/06
"SUNY considers college in China," John Milgrim, Ottaway News Service/Press Republican, 08/10/06
"Western Teachers: Some Chinese Schools are like sweatshops," Audra Ang, Associated Press/Chicago Sun Times 08/06/06
"Social Unrest in China," Thomas Lum, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, 05/08/06
"English-language school boom proves a bust for naive foreigners," Leu Siew Ying, South China Morning Post 06/03/05
Jim and Dina McGreevey Marriage Profile, http://marriage.about.com/od/politics/p/mcgreevey.htm
*"McGreevey's first course as Kean instructor? Ethics." Josh Margolin, Newark Star-Ledger, 04/19/07
**"McGreevey's curriculum," Cynthia Burton, Philadelphia Inquirer, 04/24/07
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