Thursday, July 10, 2014

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St. John's University President To Step Down

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Father Donald Harrington is stepping down as president of St. John's University after 24 years, an announcement that comes amid fraud allegations at the school. NY1's Mahsa Saeidi filed the following report.

Some students relaxing at St. John's University's campus in Queens Friday said it wouldn't be possible without their longtime president, Father Donald Harrington, who's credited with transforming St. John's from a regional commuter school into a diverse national institution.

"I'm from Philadelphia, so I wouldn't have even gone here if it wasn't for Father Harrington. He's built this school up to that point," said Ian Hurley, a senior at St. John's University. "But at the same time, I feel like it's inexcusable what happened."

Harrington resigned Friday, reportedly amidst a corruption investigation that also involved his Chief of Staff, Rob Wile.

New York Magazine's Steve Fishman wrote a series of articles exploring the relationship between Harrington, Wile and disgraced dean Cecilia Chang.

Back in November, Chang committed suicide during her federal fraud trial.

"Cecilia Chang was somebody who was flagrantly corrupt, and Father Harrington, the president, along with his chief of staff, were the people who were supervising her," Fishman said. "So the question always was, how could she have been so corrupt for so long, for decades, and others really not have known?"

Fishman said that Chang gave expensive gifts to both men, but most disturbing of all, he said Harrington allegedly recommended Wile, his secret business partner, for hundreds of thousands of dollars of no-interest loans from the university.

"It's the kind of conflict of interest that would never be permitted in the corporate world," Fishman said.

St. John's has hired an outside law firm to look into the case.

Meanwhile, on campus, feelings about Harrington were mixed.

"I just think he could have at least apologized for what happened," said Kristiana Nelsen, a freshman at St. John's. "I don't think he ever really did that, and he never really acknowledged it to us.

"So to say that he's resigning because it's his fault or he feels some kind of blame for the Chang incident is entirely presumptive," said Kyle Taylor, a junior at St. John's.

The students did agree on one thing. They're ready for a new chapter for their beloved school.

Harrington's resignation takes effect July 31. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP