Stand up, be heard and be counted

All is not well at the City University of New York’s Medgar Evers College (MEC).

It’s clear that things are very much amiss at the city’s only predominantly Black college. In fact, anyone walking through the corridors, which were once alive with engaged students, will readily notice the ghost-town-like appearance in the halls.

Gone are the bulletin boards which adorned the walls, populated with announcements of student achievement, and opportunities for student participation.

The commumnity-based MEC Coalition for Academic Excellence took its concerns to Albany Monday, Feb. 28, 2011 at the recent 40th Annual Black and Puerto Rican and Asian Legislative Caucus and made a big showing, placing their concerns at the doorstep of the elected officials.

Armed with petitions, flyers, parent, student and educator support, members of the coalition spoke individually and collectively with elected officials in regards to “egregious acts” that have been lodged against the college, which has a significant student body of Caribbean parentage.

At the center of the controversy is newly selected president, William Pollard — who was chosen to replace Edison Jackson, who retired after 20 years of successfully leading and expanding the college from a near failure to one of immeasurable success, and his hand-picked provost, Howard Johnson.

For the Albany rally, the coalition sponsored a bus with students from the college, in an effort to put on a dog-and-pony show, to persuade the officials that they were doing the right thing. However, their efforts fell far short of their mark, despite a well crafted speech delivered by State Sen. Eric Adams on their behalf.

Coalition members say, however that although Adams’ support of academic excellence is laudable, his speech, though did not assuage the fact that Pollard and Johnson have eviscerated several essential programs that were part and parcel of what made Medgar Evers such a great success.

Such programs included the Center for NU Leadership, started by Dr. Divine Pryor and recruited on to the campus as an integral part of their outreach by Dr. Jackson; and the DuBois Bunche Institute, founded and fostered by former Assemblymember Roger Green, Congressman Major Owens, among others, which were both ousted from the campus.

The MEC Coalition questions the purpose of the termimations and needs to know what did the termination of these programs have to do with academic excellence?

Additionally, MEC had the only Black Think Tank on campus, comprised of historical figures, entrepreneurs, political leaders, formerly elected officials, all of whom were drawing cards for other programs and funding sources.

On the subject of academic excellence, members oc the coalition wonder what the rationale could have been for curtailing open enrollment for students who were aspiring to new career goals. Congressman Owens, who was part of the original group that supported the establishment of the college, reminds us that the premise of the school was based on the concept of COMMUNIVERSITY. And that there were several contracts drawn between the community and the CUNY bigwigs that have since been thrown under the bus.

Line In The Sand

Albany became the line drawn in the sand. At a Feb. 19 meeting, members of the New York State Assembly’s Legislative Causus came to hear the concerns of the MEC Coalition, and left determined that there would be no additional funding or other concessions until things were rectified at the campus.

Chancellor Goldstein, who coalition members say backs Pollard and Johnson, has taken out full page ads in predominantly African American papers trying to thwart the growing discontent among the faculty, staff, and community.

The Amsterdam News recently ran a headline stating the students at Medgar Evers College were “clueless” about what was transpiring at the campus. The facts, however, are that the student organizations have been threatened with funding cuts if they participate in, or evidence any concern about the new regime, which MEC Coalition members say has “largely targeted them for extinction, while simultaneously looking to replace them with students outside the boundaries of the Brooklyn community” from which a large majority of the student body originates.

A more telling problem, coalition members point out, is that the administration is actually looking to supplant the New York student body completely by giving priority to foreign students who are coming in from other countries and paying high prices to attend CUNY schools, while the neighborhood gets priced out of the market.

As it is, prices have crept up for education at our city “owned” university over the past few decades, with students who would otherwise have the right to a free education, paying almost as much as they would to go to a private college or university, coalition members say.

In spite of that factor, the CUNY system is constantly crying broke, leaving members of the Medgar Evers community coalition to wonder who is monitoring their budgets.

Medgar Evers was, for all intents and purposes, not supposed to succeed, members of the MEC Coalition claim.

“In fact, the first four presidents prior to the hiring of Edison Jackson, were major disasters. It was as if the CUNY higher ups were deliberately picking miscreants, who were clueless about the mission and intent of the college, which was named after slain Civil Rights leader, Medgar Wiley Evers

“The appointment of the current president is reminiscient of the earlier selections who had no understanding or concern for the community; had little respect for or alliegience to the faculty and staff, and were largely there as place holders while the school slowly declined,” they say.

Their message to the community is:

“You are the people with the power; this is your community; Medgar Evers came about as the result of your efforts. Stand up, be seen, be heard, be counted, be respected.”

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