A former head of the faculty senate at the City University of New York is suing an emeritus professor for $2 million for accusing her of recruiting terrorists to teach at the university and campaigning for administrative positions to avoid teaching classes herself.
Susan O'Malley is accusing professor Sharad Karkhanis of libel and defamation for writing in a widely distributed anti-union newsletter that she was "obsessed" with finding jobs for terrorists at the university. Mr. Karkhanis, a former professor of political science at Kingsborough Community College, wrote that Ms. O'Malley was "recruiting naïve, innocent members of the KCC faculty into her Queda-Camp to infiltrate college and departmental Personnel and Budget Committees in her mission — to recruit terrorists in CUNY."
Mr. Karkhanis made the claim last spring after Ms. O'Malley, a professor of English at the Brooklyn college and an officer of the faculty union, proposed to rehire Mohamed Yousry, an Arabic-language translator convicted of supporting terrorist activities. He was fired from York College.
"Given the opportunity, she will bring in all her indicted, convicted, and freed-on-bail terrorist friends" to the university, Mr. Karkhanis wrote in the newsletter, the Patriot Returns.
Mr. Karkhanis also criticized Ms. O'Malley for defending the right of an adjunct lecturer at John Jay College, Susan Rosenberg, to teach at the school after press reports showed that she was a member of a radical group, the Weather Underground, and had served 16 years in prison for keeping explosives in her apartment. The Patriot Returns is a newsletter that has been distributed since 1992 to about 13,000 faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees at CUNY, and is available online. A lawyer for Ms. O'Malley, Joseph Carasso, said in a letter to Mr. Karkhanis that the statements were made with actual malice and intended to "inflict harm through their falsehood."
Mr. Karkhanis said he viewed the lawsuit, which was filed in state Supreme Court last month, as an attempt to infringe on his freedom of speech. He said he would rather serve time in jail than retract his statements.
The professor defended his use of the phrase "Queda-Camp," saying it was meant as satire, and he said it is his right to criticize a leader at CUNY.
"She's a public figure, and I have a right to say that, based on the evidence I have and the pattern I've seen of this woman," Mr. Karkhanis said. "Why would someone try to assist the terrorist people when you have good Americans who are looking for the job?"
A professor of business and economics at Brooklyn College, Mitchell Langbert, said Mr. Karkhanis was acting within his rights. "Sharad is an extremely influential force," Mr. Langbert said. "The union, an ingrown left-wing group, has every motivation to try to silence him. Getting him embroiled in a lawsuit like this would be advantageous to the union leadership."
A spokeswoman for the Professional Staff Congress, Dorothee Benz, said yesterday that the union had nothing to do with the lawsuit.
Ms. O'Malley, reached at her home in Brooklyn, said she did not want to discuss the case. "It's all very, very silly," she said.
No trial date has been set.