Email from Lisa White to Binghamton Social Work Department
December 22, 2008
From: Lisa White [REDACTED]
Sent: Monday, December 22, 2008 9:24 AM
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Subject: Binghamton University Social Work department retaliates against Andre Massena, after national embarrassment
Dear Professor Debbie Oliver, Nancy Frank, and MSW Students:
I decided to write this email because as a person, as a social worker, I'm tired of seeing how this program has been treating students, especially Andre Massena. I took the time to investigate and look at every piece of documentation that was available on this situation. I'm left with nothing but disgust and shame with what I read, and, personally experienced, as a student in the program. I apologize for such long email. This crisis can't be made silent anymore.
I am one of the students who know well what's been going on with professor's unethical behaviors, bullying students in the program. After sitting in your class all semester, watching how you treated Andre after the department suffered national embarrassment, for falsifying so many charges against him, for pointing out what the Social Work department was doing wrong, I got fed up. After Andre went through all he did and won his case, Professor Debbie Oliver actively started a process of retaliatory actions against him. You completely started ignoring him in class when he raised his hands to ask questions or make comments, while sitting directly across from you. You would call on students sitting next to him but ignored him. I noticed while his hand was up, you went back to students that previously had their hands up and you asked them "did you have a question?" Some students were laughing because you made it so obvious that you were going to shut him down. All the way to the very last day of class, you never called on him. This kind of shit going on in a professional institution, a Social Work department, is a new low for the university.
Every paper, presentation, and assignment Andre did in your class, he received above 90 grades on all of them, but suddenly you gave him a score of 28 on the "Intervention Comparison Paper?" I could not believe how much ink you wrote on his paper. My paper had mistakes on it and you ignored many of them. The confusing thing is all semester, you gave him above a 90, meaning you were more than content with his papers. Suddenly things changed? You're not the only professor trying to fail him out of the program, every professor is doing this. He is either failing or barely passing classes.
Yourself and every other professor in both the MPA and MSW department have either asked or sent him emails for electronic submission of his papers so they can run it through Turnitin for plagiarism. I and other students I spoke to did not have this requirement. Isn't that clear discrimination?
To make matters worst, you sent him an email telling him clearly, in the affirmative, that he passed your class, but, you actually recorded a failing grade for him in the system. As a graduate professor, I'm not going to excuse you in saying you thought a grade below a B is passing. It's pathetic if you don't know as a professor that graduate students have to maintain a B or 3.0 to pass and maintain enrollment in graduate school (attached you will find email exchanges Andre sent to me to confirm this exchange). Maybe you thought he deserved a passing grade and the department made you change your mind...just a thought.
Professor Nancy Frank also failed Andre giving him a C+ for the class. How do you fail him for participation when he came to class almost everyday, having contributed more than most students in the class? I didn't contribute as much or even read class readings, as he did, many times quoting materials when he spoke....and I did much better than a 50 out of 100 for participation. There are 10+ students in the class who can testify to this but none will probably say anything because they are afraid of going through what Andre is experiencing.
I sat in Cassandra Bransford's class last year where Andre, once again, talked about issues in the community that needed attention, challenging the Social Work department and professors to be more progressive and increase their involvement in bettering the community. The consequences of that, challenging the program to live up to its mission, got him a C- grade. After he successfully argued his case to you, you apologize for retaliating and changed his grade to an A (See email attachment with grade change)
Andre has received every major honorary scholarship the university offered he applied for, won competitive Graduate Assistantships (2 years in a row), and finished almost every semester either honor roll or on the President's list. Every degree he earned has honors distinction. How are you guys going to explain his failing or barely able to pass classes now? If he wants to pursue his education and get his doctorate degree, keeping in mind the academic requirements, you know you're destroying his chances right?
Nancy and Debbie should not be allowed to teach Social in this school anymore. What you two did was not only shameful but out right vindictive. After Andre went through all he did, Gail Glover simply said, "Due to regrettable procedural misunderstandings, we are no longer pursuing this case" meaning clearly the university has a vested interest in making him pay for what he has done fighting embarrassing the university.
When the department tried to kick my friend out, I had to watch helplessly. At first when she told me crying she was going through "Advancement Procedures" to be "Advanced" out of the program, I thought it was a promotion. What a fucked up term to use in a social work program that is supposed to be strength-based. She challenged the status quo so they told her she was "insubordinate" and "not ready" for the profession of social work, like you guys told Andre. We all know once you cross Brian Flynn, especially Jennifer Marshal, you will either redo field work over or get kicked out the program. Asking other staff for help or Laura is completely useless. We asked Francine Montemurro for help, and she turned a deaf ear. In the meantime, our tuition is set to go up next semester, while, she is getting paid six figures to do shit for students.
Ever since Andre started the program fall of 2006, he advocated for students like me who was afraid and didn't know how to defend myself. While we were taught to do what our masters wanted and not challenge professors, Andre did not only bring our issues forward but he openly spoke of them in class boldly and respectfully. When students were being abused in the MPA program by a professor, he organized with them to get the Dean's Husband, Stanley Barret fired. Only he can tell you the hell he has gone through for doing that in the department. As a community activist, he saw the poor, disabled, elderly, and people of color in the community suffer many forms of discrimination, including evictions leading to massive displacements from Binghamton Housing Authority. After he notified the department, they ignored him and tried to hide the situation because that guy they hired, David Tanenhaus, to teach us social work, is the Director of BHA, allowing those evictions. When Andre, his field instructor, and other students notified the department about his reputation in the community, no one listened. When a number of students, including myself, signed petitions to boycott his class, Laura basically told us we're either going to take his class, or, take our assess to Marywood School of Social Work if we wanted to graduate. Many people don't know his true character but he is nothing but a snake. He treated my friend like shit as a tenant of BHA before he found out she was in the program. After investigating for myself, looking at eviction records from BHA, what I found was nothing but a crime against the vulnerable in our community taking place.
From 2002-2208, Binghamton Housing Evicted close to 1300 families, including the elderly, disabled, and mostly minorities. That means over 100 families per year; over 20 per month!! Why are so many families evicted and who is advocating for them? The records show over 90% are labeled "JD" (default Jurisdiction). That means they had no representation facing the system. What pained me so much is that most of them are evicted for falling behind on rent on average of $50-$300. Many were lower than $50!!! Many agencies in town, including DSS (mandated) could have provided the funds to keep them from being evicted. All these families needed to save them from their crisis was social worker to guide them in these processes. 2008 is not even over yet and BHA already has a turnover rate of 144. This is so indicative that the already vulnerable will suffer even more when economic times get harsh. After this situation received national exposure in October, BHA went from over 20 families evicted per month to only 3 families for the month of November (1of 20 pages from the eviction records is attached. This is public information that can be F.O.I.L).
Since the university is already down town, with plans in mind to build a new law school, maybe this means the poor in the community are going to be in competition with the university, especially when it comes to housing. Is it not a major conflict of interest that Tanenhaus has ties to Newman Inc, the biggest private housing developer in Binghamton, who has a $65 million dollar student housing project in the works, while, simultaneously providing housing to the poorest and most vulnerable in our neighborhood? Some professors objected to hiring him because of the serious conflict of interest, but, we all know how politics go.
The media and the press were contacted about these issues...and even university newspapers. They all ignored it. They have clearly shown that the poor and vulnerable in our community will not have the crimes committed against them be heard. Only the Binghamton Review locally decided to take on this story (see page 8 of attachment). Isn't that a shame? When you type Binghamton University Social Work department in any search engine, most of the pages include Andre Massena's story.
When Andre Massena brought these crimes against humanity to the social work department, and the Mayor's Office, who hired Tanenhaus, and others in the community, they started a campaign to destroy his life and drive him out of town. The Social Work department, MPA Department, University Ombudsman, Affirmative Action, campus police, all started a process of falsifying charges or actively supporting his dismissal. After a 3 month period, Andre had over 20 charges/complaints to respond to. I even listened to the hearing audio tape from his appeal in which the Chair of the Social Work program is telling Andre she has records of investigative reports from not one, but 3 police/security personnel that questioned him about his actions and he "lied" to them. One of the officers, Officer Rossie Matthew wrote an email to Andre in which he stated that he never investigated nor spoke to him. She even said he harassed professors and students in the program sending them "sexually explicit" comments. Is it not a crime to lie on the police and falsely charge someone with sexual harassment? How the fuck can someone like that still be Chair of a program teaching us the values of professional and ethical behavior as social workers? The MSW program is a crime seen that should be under heavy investigation. It is nothing but a modern day Nazi Camp.
As a privileged white person raised middle class, I have to admit I never knew what true injustice was and the plight of people of color and the vulnerable. I am so ashamed to be part of a social work program that is actively trying to destroy a student's life for doing the work they should be doing.
This program has failed its mission miserably. They are teaching students to be afraid and not challenge the status quo, which is exactly what social workers should be doing to bring change. Not one professor in the department, in their professional capacity acted or did anything for Andre. They are giving students a clear message that "We have power and you don't challenge us because every single one of us will gang up on you to protect ourselves." On the other hand, Instead of investigating, most students ignored the situation or simply thought he was lying. Now that this is national news and the facts are out, I know 3-4 who have taken a stand, in hiding. Isn't it a shame that I had to create a secret email to speak my mind? This is because I don't want to lose my job or go through what Andre went through.
This is the kind of fear the department is reinforcing in students. After they graduate as MSW s or licensed social workers, how many of them you think will know what to do if their superior or institution they work for is fucking a client over, or, simply abusing them? Can you imagine the liability this program is creating? If a client files a lawsuit or brings them up on charges for neglect or failure to act, we can't use excuses like we were afraid or wanted to keep our job. A police officer or a doctor has an oath to fight crime and help the sick. Saying you didn't act when crime was committed or help the sick because you were afraid or might lose your job is unacceptable in a court of law or in front of any ethics committee as a professional. We have a department with over 100 social workers and they are mostly afraid or maybe simply don't care, ignoring this crime taking place. For the many of us who don't know about this situation, it just shows how out of touch we are as social workers. As social workers we don't have a choice to ignore and not act when injustice is done in our community....or in the program, according to NASW Code of Ethics, we have to act!
The worst injustice that took place here is not what they did to Andre and other social work students in the program; the worst act is us as social workers choosing to be silent in the face of injustice. As future social workers and leaders, this is how incompetent we are. This special treatment is not reserved for Andre alone; we're all subject to the same agenda as students in this university.
The shame about the department's failure and student's inability to advocate or uphold the fundamentals of social work is already national embarrassment. Students throughout campus have written letters, protested, and even talked about organizing marches; social activist throughout the community were all over this issue. Andre even organized students from other universities and other states around his cause for justice. What has the social work department or the student's in the program shown in terms of leadership or professional commitment to the field of social work, having a specific charge to champion the fight for justice? Sadly, we have not done anything.
This letter is not written on behalf of Andre Massena or to get anyone to fight for him. He has successfully fought the Social Work department, MPA department, Mayors office, false police records, University Ombuds...and now, we have petty Debbie and Nancy bringing the department and the university to a new low. I am quiet optimistic taking care of this one is going to be easy for Andre. You guys made it too obvious the intention is to fail him out the program. Andre is quiet capable of fighting for his rights and that of others, this email is about us as a department failing the basic principles and values that we are taught to uphold by NASW as social workers. I wouldn't trust anyone in the department to advocate for me if I was abused like these people Andre is fighting for in our community. One, they taught us to be afraid, and two, we don't know how to begin at all advocating in a climate such as this. They teach us that society has a people problem, not a systematic problem. All we talk about in class is working with people and fixing people. How can the fight for change work if we don't know the tactics of challenging institutions, how to organize communities, rally people, set up protests? History an the great leaders of the pass teaches us clearly those tools are fundamental in bringing about change, highlighting the true strength of democracy, making it most effective.
As an example, the students who went to New Orleans last year presented on the lack of the program profoundly to me. They told us how they listened to families, heard their stories, played games with their children, and did activities with them. Is that going to empower the people of New Orleans and better their community? Or, maybe, what these people really need is support in helping them organize their communities; organize a march to City Hall to protest the injustice they are living; write massive letters to their constituency for change. What about organizing massive petition drives to send to their representatives, or teach them the tactics of how to fight institutional racism? After we made them feel "good", what change has that accomplished without doing those things---is that empowerment?
After seeing this shit and what Andre went through, my friend walked out of the program last semester. Now I am walking out of this program to go to a better school where I can learn true social work. The school will only do the right thing when exposed in the media, so before I leave, I will take my time over the break to send this email to every department in the university and every social justice group around this county.
Since university leadership is not doing anything about this situation, taking a back seat, I will send emails to the state, every licensing board, putting every accreditation agency on notice about how the university is being run by a bunch of thugs and hoodlums with Masters Degrees and PhDs that should not have them. Before I leave this program, I want every penny I invested in it back. If I don't get it, I will file a major lawsuit against the department. The university is already losing the case against my friend. We don't need lawsuit number two. Before I leave this school, I will do my part to make it better and it starts with making sure the following names are accountable for their unprofessional behavior:
Josephine A. V. Allen, Professor
Cassandra Bransford, Assistant Professor
Laura Bronstein, Associate Professor, Department Chair
Dennis Chapman, Assistant Professor
Sunha Choi, Assistant Professor
Brian Flynn, Director of Admissions and Student Services
Paul Gould, Faculty Field Instructor/HPPAE Coordinator
Youjung Lee, Visiting Assistant Professor
Jennifer Marshall, Director of Field Education
Diane Wiener, Assistant Professor
Amy Edwards, Secretary
Nancy Frank, Adjunct,
Debbie Oliver, Adjunct
Links to story online:
National Association of Scholars:
Freedom Fighter Radio: