The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s Chancellor’s Virtual Visit, held March 4 at Mansfield University, turned contentious when MU faculty and staff questioned Chancellor Daniel Greenstein about Dr. Bashar Hanna.
Hanna was named president of Bloomsburg University in 2017 and the interim president of Lock Haven University this past February. He is considered the likely future president of Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, and Mansfield when the three universities consolidate.
The MU community is that, four months into his tenure as president at Bloomsburg, Hanna was accused of sexual harassment toward a female employee. PASSHE investigations determined that it was “clearly inappropriate” but not “sexual in nature”.
Also, Hanna trails two confidential separation agreements, or non-disclosure agreements, from Delaware Valley University and Kutztown. Hanna was accused at both schools of inappropriate touching and language and of a hostile work environment towards female employees.
Although the media reported the incidents at the time, NDAs are not available to the public.
At the March 4 forum, faculty asked Greenstein what the purported incidents mean to Mansfield.
“Everybody needs to feel safe and included on our campuses regarding gender, race and gender identity,” Greenstein said. “I would never do anything to put any of that at risk.”
Meeting attendees continued to press Greenstein on the perceived glossing over, to which he responded, “I can tell you for a fact that … the chancellor, the board have every faith in Bashar. He’s a good president.”
Greenstein said the social media exchanges between the Mansfield community are inflammatory, sadden him and are “scurrilous, defamatory and in some cases illegal.”
“Is it because that’s what they do on cable news and it’s just normalized, or is it because that’s what they do in Congress?” Greenstein continued. “Or is it because he’s Syrian, and didn’t they ‘bring down the towers’?
“I have never been more angry,” said Teri Doerkson, professor of English and world languages. “Your implication is that anyone who feels uncomfortable about Hanna is really racist? How could you even imply that?
“I don’t want anyone to leave this conversation thinking I made the connection you made,” Greenstein said. “I understand the impact and that was certainly not my intention.”
“That statement was made to shame the past accusers and shut them up,” said Karri Verno, professor of psychology and vice president of the APSCUF chapter.
“People are innocent until shown otherwise,” Greenstein said. “It saddens me. This scurrilous rhetoric on Facebook: it’s disturbing to me.
“It’s also important that an educational institution talk about character and fact and how to distinguish gossip and rumor,” Greenstein concluded.
MU faculty and staff called for new investigations of the allegations. Greenstein noted there is an outstanding action underway and there have been investigations in the past.
James Guignard, chair of the department of art, communication, English and world languages, requested an explanation of the investigative process, and a national search for a new president to govern all three universities once consolidated.
“That might not alleviate all the concerns, but I do know that my colleagues at MU and LHU ought to feel safe,” said Guignard.
In a March 31 statement, Greenstein said, “The State System is committed to creating inclusive communities and ensuring all employees and students are treated fairly. That includes providing processes that enable fair and objective investigations of complaints and to take action where appropriate—all while respecting the privacy of those involved in the process, as required by law.”
Those processes were in place and utilized when allegations were brought against Hanna in 2017, he added.
Hanna also served as vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty at Delaware Valley University (2011-2016); associate provost, Ithaca College (2009-2010); dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Kutztown University (2005-2009); and chief academic officer and dean of academic affairs at DeVry University (2002-2005).