by Unknown | 6/05/2008 06:38:00 PM
By all accounts, the American University in Iraq-Sulaimani is a prestigious undertaking. Its Board of Regents and Trustees includes such luminaries as Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (the Board's chairman), former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalizad, Johns Hopkins Middle East Studies Program Director Fouad Ajami, and retired St. John's College President John Agresto (who serves as AUIS' Interim Provost). In a September 2007 article published in both the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, Dexter Filkins described the groundbreaking ceremony for AUIS. "Supporters hope," he wrote, "that the new university will stand as a symbol for the sort of positive change that is possible — if not in all of Iraq, then at least in its Kurdish north." Gifts from entities including the U.S. Congress and the Kurdish regional government had padded the University's endowment to $40.5 million, a handsome sum for a new institution of higher education. "This shows what Iraq could be like," Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih told Filkins. "This is a dream that has to come true."

In a wide-ranging November 2007 article on Sulaimani, which is located in Iraq's Kurdish region -- the University expects that most of the students will be Kurdish as well -- Chronogram writer Lorna Tychostup caught up with the new Chancellor of AUIS, Owen Cargol. "Freshly arrived from his former position as president of Abu Dhabi University, Cargol exudes excitement at his role in this new and historic endeavor," reported Tychostup. Cargol told the reporter, "I founded the University of Abu Dhabi and did that for four years. Last week, I was interviewed by a reporter from the Chronicle of Higher Education. He said that that sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And I said, 'Yes, and coming here and founding AUI-S is a twice in a lifetime opportunity. This one is especially challenging, because in Abu Dhabi they have First World infrastructure, First World international opportunities, and more money than God. And here it’s a real challenge, to open an American University in Iraq for all of Iraq.'"

Cargol did not mention to Tychostup what his position was before he was hired at Abu Dhabi. Nor did Filkins inquire as to Cargol's past. Surprisingly, it appears that the trustees of AUIS were similarly content to believe Cargol's story of emerging full-formed from the deserts of the Middle East. Had they bothered to conduct a background check, or a simple Google search, they would have discovered that the man they selected to make their dream come true, in the words of Salih, had a deeply disturbing past.

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Left: Owen Cargol in 2001, when he was President of Northern Arizona University; right: Cargol today.

Mention the name Owen Cargol to a resident of Flagstaff, Arizona -- the sleepy mountain town where I grew up -- and you will be met with a mixture of anger and sadness. Tell a Flagstaff resident that Cargol is now the chancellor of a major university in the Middle East, and he or she will probably respond with disbelief. It has been more than seven years since Cargol nearly destroyed the university that is the crown jewel of this city, but the people here have long memories.

When Clara Lovett announced her retirement as President of Northern Arizona University in late 2000, the Arizona Board of Regents quickly recruited three candidates to fill her position. One of them was Cargol, then President of the University of Maine-Augusta. All three candidates visited campus, met with faculty and staff, and presented their cases to the Regents. When the search was over, NAU's Academic Chairs Council wrote a letter to the Arizona Daily Sun (quoted in the now-defunct alternative weekly Flagstaff Tea Party) stating their views on the three candidates. Cargol, they wrote, "received an 'unacceptable' rating from 90 percent of the group and was seen to have numerous weaknesses: lack of academic success; lack of administrative experience at a university the size and complexity of NAU;...lack of understanding of graduate programs and the research they generate; lack of a vision for NAU and its role in Arizona; lack of sophistication in national and global trends; a reported penchant for making decisions without proper consultation; and a slick and manipulative personal style. Responses to his interviews were uniformly negative." Other faculty and staff groups were nearly unanimous: the other two candidates were acceptable. Cargol was not.

The Regents hired Owen Cargol.

Regent Kay McKay, head of the search committee, explained to the Daily Sun (again quoted by Dan Frazier of the Flagstaff Tea Party, as the original article is behind a subscription wall) that "the input she and others received from the NAU faculty and Flagstaff community showed they were looking for a particular leadership style, specifically, someone who can 'build bridges.'" She said that Cargol was "a leader and he’s demonstrated that in every arena he’s been in." Committee member Stan Linstedt, an NAU biology professor, disagreed. He told the Chronicle of Higher Education, "Do I wish him well? Of course I do. I have a lot invested in this university. Do I think he’ll succeed? Hell no."

In July 2001, Cargol arrived in Flagstaff and took up his post. Early reports indicated that he was doing fairly well in the position, mending fences between old antagonists at NAU and making successful funding pitches to the state legislature. As a high school junior, I considered making plans to attend my hometown university, something I had never previously considered.

Then came the bombshell: on November 13, the Associated Press reported that Cargol had "resigned over allegations of personal misconduct...involv[ing] sexual harrassment." Four days later, the Arizona Daily Sun published the contents of the allegations, which Cargol himself had chosen not to dispute. The article is behind a subscription wall, but I was able to obtain a microfilm copy.

According to the Daily Sun's reporting, Cargol had repeatedly sexually harrassed a male aide provided to him by the University. The aide's complaint alleged that, while standing in the locker room at NAU's gym after jogging, a naked Cargol "reached across the gap separating us in the locker room, and grapped my crotch quickly and firmly with his right hand, letting go almost immediately. I...had no idea how to respond. Then Owen grabbed me again in the same way. I tried to avoid this second grab, but was unsuccessful. ... I did not experience testicular pain after the attacks on Tuesday the 23rd, but it arrive in full force the next day. I went about my life as usual, hoping that the pain would disappear soon."

The most damning piece of evidence was an e-mail sent by Cargol to the employee that night, also reprinted in part in the Daily Sun. "As you can tell," wrote Cargol in the e-mail, "I have overcome most, if not all, of my inhibitions and self-doubts. For sure, I am a rub-your-belly, grab-your-balls, give-you-a-hug, slap-your-back, pull-your-dick, squeeze-your-han, cheek-your-face, and pat-your-thigh kind of guy. I am optimistic, outgoing, physical, affectionate ... and sensual kind of guy. I hope, in time, you can overcome your feelings of anxiety and lack of self-worth, and feel comfortable enough with me (and others) to reciprocate with the same level of playfulness and affection. ..." Cargol also suggested to his aide that "if girls don't like you, then maybe you need to try guys. ..."

In the same article, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Verkamp, a member of Cargol's search committee, told reporter Howard Fischer of the Capitol News Service, "I just thought he was a rising star, and I'm disappointed." So were all connected with the University, which had been disgraced by Cargol's conduct. Like many in Flagstaff at the time, I chose not to attend NAU in part because of the Cargol scandal. I had no interest in tying my career to a university that no longer seemed capable of realizing the promise it had once shown.

And what of Cargol? The former university president was awarded no severance pay -- simply disappeared from the American academic scene.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Cargol did not hold a university position again until he became provost and then president at the new Abu Dhabi University in 2003. If this bulletin board of former employees is to be believed, Cargol's record there was less than stellar. "It is nothing but a re-furbished warehouse," writes "Saffron" of ADU; "there is NO management and the degree of lying is rampant. Beware. They DO NOT pay teachers what they owe and fire with no notice. ADU has been operating on an illegal basis as well - hiring teachers with NO qualifications and making part-timers work more than the officially permitted hours. They also demand that teachers work overtime for free." "Retro201" writes that Cargol "is not only totally incompetent but has serious behavioural problems preventing him from ever taking up a university presidency again in the USA. As a result, he does not take any interest in running the institution for fear of being discovered for what he really is!" "Saffron" concurs: "Dr. Owen Cargol has had NO managerial power at all. At most, he is a blonde head, blue-eyed figure head, supposedly there to give some credibility to ADU. Whenever confronted with the serious problems which abound at the level of management and academics, Dr. Owem [sic] simply "vanishes" and merely is yet another yes-man to Dr. Muthana (the Iraqi running this appalling place and Sami Anwar)."

Of course, the allegations of disgruntled and pseudonymous former employees can hardly be considered definitive proof. Still, one tidbit related by "Saffron" is of particular interest: "In early December they [ADU] terminated a good teacher (who yes, was homosexual but had had NO contact with any student or colleague). This teacher, who was popular among his female students was fired on the basis of some flimsy letter accusing him of talking about sex, alcohol and pms in class - the author of this note was never known. This teacher has since left the country - the issue at stake not so much the content of this note of lies, but yes, the disgraceful way the management dealt with the whole issue." Yes, you read that right: the same Owen Cargol who was fired for making inappropriate homosexual advances to a subordinate was allegedly complicit in the firing of a teacher who was accused, unjustly, of making inappropriate homosexual advances to a subordinate.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It's not every day that a "grab-your-balls, pull-your-dick, and pat-your-thigh kind of guy" like Owen Cargol is able to reinvent himself as a respected academic admininistrator. But in the Wild West that is today's Middle East, it appears that Cargol has done just that. Sporting a new hairdo and a newly-clean record, he has convinced Iraq's most prominent academics that he is the kind of individual who is ideally suited to lead a new international university to greatness. And his success in Iraq has translated into a similar reinvention back home: in April 2008, according to the Daily Mississippian, Cargol was invited to be a guest lecturer at Ole Miss.

Do the distinguished trustees of the American University in Iraq-Sulaimani realize the background of the man they have hired to fulfill their dream of an institution of higher learning? Has any one of them bothered to perform a simple search for information on Owen Cargol's nefarious background? To be charitable, we may assume that they are simply ignorant of Cargol's proclivities and unaware of the ticking time bomb they have brought into their midst.

For a ticking time bomb it is -- and it may be only a matter of time before the past catches up to Owen Cargol and his latest venture.




Anonymous Anonymous on 6/06/2008 12:01 PM:

J: A deeply disturbing post, as intended. But can I also just say how funny-disturbing, as well? Hugs and back-slaps on the same level as dick-pulling and ball-grabbing. Wow.


Blogger Unknown on 6/06/2008 12:29 PM:

GG, isn't he unbelievable? We were glad to be rid of him, and I felt a little sorry for him to tell you the truth. If he'd embezzled money or something I'd probably leave him alone. But the fact is that what he did was a predatory crime, and it's quite possible that he's doing it again. So I felt I had to say something.


Blogger Gordon Taylor on 6/08/2008 4:28 PM:


Well, my goodness. I just got back from L.A., and I find this. What can I say? Quite an amazing post, and it will certainly be forwarded to the appropriate place. I hope you are prepared to defend what you've written, as I'm sure you are.



Blogger Unknown on 6/08/2008 5:08 PM:

Gordon, since I'm only reporting on public-record documents, everything I've written is defensible. I have the scans of the Arizona Daily Sun article for anyone who cares to look at them. Everything else is available online (and I can provide multiple additional sources if those online aren't good enough).

If the "appropriate place" is where I think it is, you may find that the individual has already been contacted about this, though not by me. I've asled some other folks to look into the matter.


Blogger Gordon Taylor on 6/09/2008 12:45 AM:


The "appropriate place" has just responded by email after I sent him your story. He writes:

"Let me only say that Mr. Cargol is no longer with AUIS. Sorry to say, this means I am now both acting chancellor as well as interim provost. I hope to have both jobs filled soon."

It would be inappropriate for me to speculate further. Another stop, it seems, has come and gone on Mr. Cargol's "long, winding road." We'll have to wait and see where he turns up next. My bet is on Central Asia.


Blogger Unknown on 6/09/2008 1:15 AM:

That's amazing. Thanks for doing that, and I'm glad they've made the right decision once they had all the facts.

Part of me feels bad for dredging all this up, but when I think of the hapless aide who won't have to put up with Chancellor Cargol squeezing his dick in the locker room any more, I feel pretty good about it.


Anonymous Anonymous on 4/05/2009 2:40 PM:



Anonymous Anonymous on 4/13/2009 3:26 PM:

He's now the ProVost at some outfit in Riyad, Saudia Arabia- Al Yamamah College or University. Look it up or call the program, they'll confirm.


Anonymous Anonymous on 4/14/2009 2:40 AM:

He is the vice president of Al Yamamah University. Sadly, we have all the same problems that this article accuses him of. I have never seen him hit on anyone. However, Riyadh is full of very poor servants who can be easily paid, or taken advantage of. I wonder if the board knows this history. Maybe he is the problem with our school.


Anonymous Anonymous on 7/03/2009 7:43 AM:

The issue of this guy is not only his past; he does everything to destroy any positive academic initiative. I taught in Abu Dhabi when he was there and he will show "respect" to you as long as your not raising any question/suggestion about the university. He doesnt care about the teaching level as long as the students are not complaining and the list is long..But he is not the one who should be blamed but those who are hiring hum.


Anonymous Anonymous on 4/07/2010 9:11 AM:

Hay everyone,

I don't know about you guys, but i'm an executive in the Student Union at AlYamamah University, where Owen is our Vice-President. He is very professional, and more then qualified man, he did an outstanding efforts to make our university a better place. He even helped employing so many graduates single-handed.

Maybe he did some bad things in his past, but that does not mean he cannot be given second chance to redeem himself !! Give the guy a break and move on with your lives. I've never seen him do anything in appropriate in the university's campus, and always see him doing things as professional and perfect it can be.

Until he do something wrong in our university, he stays high-rated.

regds ,