Monday, June 24, 2013

Open Letter from the Department of Business Management and Finance

Over the last several months president Gould has intervened in the governance of several departments including Accounting, Modern Languages, and Business Management and Finance. Some other departments and programs are also expressing concerns about the role of Deans and the President in the internal governance of their departments.

While the President has the right to overrule the selection of a chair by a department (subject to approval by the Board of Trustees), this right has typically been reserved for extreme situations where a department is completely divided or otherwise unable to manage their own governance. President Gould‘s more recent interventions do not fit this pattern. In the case of Business Management and Finance, the department voted unanimously to reelect Robert Bell as Chair. When they were told that that selection was unacceptable to the President, for reasons that have yet to be stated, the department unanimously supported a second candidate. Despite this, the President continues to insist on bringing in a new chair from outside the college.

Below is an open letter from the members of the Department of Business Management and Finance, who are fighting the President’s decision. We will be posting additional information about the situation in several other departments and programs in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Open Letter from the Department of Business Management and Finance

On Wednesday, May 22, a meeting was called by Brooklyn College President Karen Gould with members of the Department of Finance & Business Management to “discuss future departmental leadership.”  Upon our arrival the department members were told that President Gould would not accept the department’s election of Dr. Robert Bell, who was unanimously re-elected as department chairman for the fifth consecutive time on May 7. Instead, President Gould mandated that an acting Chair be appointed for the 2013-2014 academic year, during which a nationwide search for a permanent Chair would be conducted. President Gould “graciously” allowed for members of the department to submit emails to her expressing their individual preference for acting Chair, but left no doubt that the ultimate decision would reside with her. This week, President Gould announced that she has appointed Professor Clifton Clarke, who has the support of the department.

President Gould’s meeting with the department was almost completely one-sided and violated her contractual responsibility to consult with the department before overturning the democratic decision of the department. President Gould has also failed to make a case for why she feels this decision is necessary, making it very difficult to engage in any kind of good faith consultation with her. In addition, the department has made it clear that it is willing to discuss any problems she sees in the administration and direction of the department or its place in the School of Business . She has not engaged the faculty about any of these issues. The department has even indicated it is willing to consider an alternate chair of the Department’s choosing if the President were to articulate some compelling reason why Robert Bell is not the best choice to lead the department. No such case has been made.

Our department is not divided or unable to make decisions for itself, and sees no need for either an acting chair or an outside chair to be appointed by the president. While we are happy to have Prof. Clarke be the interim chair, we see no reason why either he or Prof. Bell could not serve as the actual elected chair of the department.

In response to this failure to consult, the PSC filed a formal grievance. The college has acknowledged their error and a new meeting has been scheduled. While we hope this will result in a more substantive conversation, we are concerned that the President’s mind is made up and that the will of the faculty will be ignored. We continue to assert that Prof. Bell is the unanimous choice of the faculty to lead the department.

It is impossible to argue with Dr. Bell’s academic credentials, and the international prestige he has added to Brooklyn College . He is a world renowned recognized expert on investments in green energy and conflicts of interests in energy transition. He was invited to give the keynote address at the 2d Universal Ethics Summit of the G20 in Seoul , Korea and the International Real Estate Congress in Cannes . He has also written several books including The Green Bubble, which was published in both English and French. He is currently co-authoring with a French former Minister of the Environment (and current Member of the EU Parliament) a proposal to both the EU Parliament and the French government-- Project Volt Gas Volt, a comprehensive solution to the global warming crisis and to energy independence.

Dr. Bell has presided as chair since 2002.  During that time the department experienced incredible growth so that it now stands as the single most popular department at Brooklyn College , boasting approximately one-thousand-eight-hundred majors. Under Dr. Bell’s guidance the department has consistently upgraded its standards with an explosion of new courses encompassing an interdisciplinary approach, including Electronic Commerce, Ethnic Marketing & Multicultural Business, Green Business, Small Business Management & Minority Entrepreneurship, and Global Financial Management.

Dr. Bell is also enthusiastically committed to the pursuit of AACSB accreditation for the Brooklyn College School of Business.

President Gould’s attempt to deprive the Department of Finance & Business Management’s right to democratically determine its own leader is in direct contradiction to the spirit of collegiality and harmony that has been the trademark of this department since Dr. Bell assumed the reins as Chairman more than ten years ago. Her plan to impose an outsider to lead the department has been detrimental to faculty morale and could seriously delay the AACSB accreditation process.

President Gould has failed to make a case for why Dr. Bell is not qualified to lead the department or why the department is incapable of managing its own affairs. She has also failed to meet her contractual obligation of a meaningful consultation with the department before making such a decision. Accordingly, we, the members of the Brooklyn College Department of Finance & Business Management, stand together in unanimous opposition to the unilateral rejection of Dr. Robert Bell as Chairperson of our department and demand his reinstatement in that role.


  1. It should be noted that several faculty members testified last Monday, at the CUNY Board of Trustees Public Hearing, about this and other matters.

    We hope and pray that the trustees have heard us and will stop this heavy handed madness at BC.

  2. The information that you provided was thorough and helpful. I will have to share your article with others agf.

  3. I was Professor Bell's student many years ago and he is THE professor who made the difference in my college experience. I could still probably pass a quiz on his lectures. Why? He helped prepare us for the world beyond our required textbooks and encouraged his students to think outside given dogmas while respecting the differences in others. I took a chance with a term paper, agonizing over the choice of playing it safe. He rewarded me with extra credit.

    He listened. He really listened. When I would have an appointment in his office, he would sit down (not so common)and I would feel his complete presence and focus on what I was saying. At the end of our appointment, he could be relied on to say, "Anything else?" He was the only professor who took and interest in how I was doing outside of the classroom. I found him to be nonjudgmental, understanding and despite his credentials, willing to relate to his students as if we were on the same level.

    This is why his was the only class where I would look at my watch, hoping that his lecture would not be over soon. I used to feel like a horse ready to run out of the gate in some of my other classes. This is why, when I became a mother of small children and lost touch with the business world, I purchased a copy of "The Green Bubble" and looked up some of his work online.

    I do not know why the president would not allow Professor Bell to continue in his position, despite being elected by a group of his peers or why this was done to other departments. I hope this is resolved in favor of Professor Bell soon and I hope he never second guesses that his leadership is in the best interest of the students of Brooklyn College.

    If you come across this article, please take the time to publish a comment or make a phone call in support of Professor Bell.

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