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Moreland Commission Investigation - 1922

Part of an academic service-learning project for Greenley Library by
Kanisha Greaves, graduate student, St. John's University.

Finding Aid

Related Documents in the College Archives

Description

Founded in 1912, New York State Institute of Applied Agriculture on Long Island, now known as Farmingdale State College, was under the directorship of Albert A. Johnson from its establishment until 1923. From the start, Johnson was plagued with criticism. Many believed the educational objectives were not being successfully pursued and achieved leading to a legislative inquiry of the institute in 1918, which would later be deemed inconclusive [1]. Another investigation in February 1922, this time by the state comptroller, audited the school’s management and finances and found nothing wrong as well [2]. However as public and student support for Johnson declined, attacks against his management of the school and calls for an investigation intensified. Hilda Ward, Farmingdale alum and a member of the Board of Trustees, spoke out against the “deplorable educational conditions” at the school and its poor financial management though the Board of Trustees and Johnson repeatedly disregarded her. In April 1922, the Veterans Bureau called for new investigation. From May to December of the same year, a series of articles, published in the New York Evening Post by Harold Littledale, accused Johnson and the Board of Trustees of fraud and misconduct and called for an investigation as well.

By May, the state launched an official investigation under the Moreland Act, which gave the governor sanction to examine the affairs of officials in state departments and institutions. Under the governorship of Nathan L. Miller, deputy state comptroller Edward G. Zimmer was appointed to head the investigation of “padding payroll, mismanaging school funds, and actions of Johnson and the Board of Trustees” [3]. As the investigation was underway, a number of witnesses were interviewed, including Hilda Ward, Allan Roberts, dean of academic subjects who would resign amidst the investigation, Shannon Wright, secretary-treasurer of Recreation Association at Farmingdale Institute, and Elwood V. Titus, president of the Nassau County Farm Bureau among many others. By the end of the investigation in late May, the Zimmer Report was released in which Johnson and the Board of Trustees were condemned and the school was found to be unbeneficial to Long Island agriculture.

The turning point in Johnson’s directorship came in October 1922 when over 100 students went on strike and signed a petition calling for the “removal of Director Johnson”. Public discontentment with Johnson only increased when a faculty resolution to expel and bar striking students from campus until they ceded, was adopted by the faculty and supported by Johnson and the Board of Trustees. As a result of the strike and mounting disapproval, Johnson’s leadership came to an end in December of that year when he submitted his resignation. His directorship of the Farmingdale Institute officially concluded on March 1, 1923.

Included in the collection are newspaper articles, testimonies, letters from and to Albert A. Johnson, minutes of Board of Trustees meetings, transcripts of statements of those interviewed during the investigation, investigation notes, correspondences between staff and faculty members of the school and Board of Trustees members.

Sources

Cavaioli, Frank. J. Farmingdale State College: A History. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2012.


[1] Frank J. Cavaioli, Farmingdale State College: A History, (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2012), 64.

[2] Cavaioli, 70.

[3] Cavaioli, 70.

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