From the “Concerned Faculty of Medgar Evers College”
Over forty years ago, Brooklyn’s Black community and elected officials organized to establish Medgar Evers College, an institution to educate the children of Central Brooklyn’s working class and poor families. Of all the colleges in the City University of New York (CUNY), Medgar Evers College, as the only majority-Black college of CUNY, remains central in transforming the lives of Black youth. It also remains true to the original mission of CUNY, which was to provide higher education to the children of New York City’s working-class families.
According to a recent study by the Community Service Society, CUNY and Medgar Evers are in a mission crisis. Because CUNY is being driven by priorities that do not readily accommodate the academic needs of Black and Latino students, Medgar Evers College cannot be relied upon to fill in the gaps for Black and Latino students who seek a four-year college education. For the past 40 years, it has been the mission of the college to enroll Black and Latino students graduating from NYC’s underserving public schools. Now, as is the case with other senior colleges in CUNY, Medgar Evers College is being tapped to service more than its traditional student body as gentrification changes Central Brooklyn.
Providing a quality college education for Central Brooklyn residents, the first priority of the college, is seriously at risk. Medgar Evers College, with its majority adult female student population, has helped to break the cycle of poverty of female-headed households by providing women with a road to education and academic success. Education is the key to moving these households to economic parity. The college’s programs of academic intervention and counseling have been pivotal in meeting the intellectual and job competitive needs of Black and Brown young women and men. In Central Brooklyn, Medgar Evers College stands staunchly between distinct life options: a college education and degree/opportunity for professional employment, or a prison cell and a low-wage job. In this technological and finance-driven world, the choice should be obvious.
In the past, because of Medgar Evers College’s historic commitment to its mission, most of its students who, otherwise, would not have been able to attend a CUNY four-year college, have been provided with an opportunity to obtain a senior college education and upward mobility. That is what the founders of the college intended! Yet, the present assault on the historic mission of Medgar Evers, and the tightening of its open admission policies by CUNY, put further at risk the targeted population that most needs the services of this institution. Few CUNY colleges have been asked to abandon their founding mission to adapt to external mandates driven by CUNY.
President William Pollard and his administration have been dutiful surrogates in executing policies and practices that have endangered the historic mission of the college and have thus created a destabilized educational environment. Likewise, he and his administration have persistently ignored and dismissed community stakeholders and elected officials, the same leaders who have championed and provided the support for the college’s existing structures, facilities and services for the past forty years.
If the present trend continues, Medgar Evers College, an anchor in the Central Brooklyn community, will be lost to external, CUNY-driven forces. Some project that it is only a matter of time before the college goes into receivership. Expeditious intervention is now necessary. Elected representatives, community stakeholders, faculty and all committed to the survival of this institution must be proactive in ensuring that the historic legacy of Medgar Evers College serves our community’s fragile population and is passed on to future generations.
On our watch, the community cannot lose this anchor institution. Medgar Wiley Evers, the college’s namesake, lived and died to guarantee the opportunity for an equitable education to future generations of working class and poor people. Our commitment to that legacy is on the line. Now is the time for us to stand together in support of Medgar Evers College for its legacy and, more importantly, for its promise of a quality, higher educational opportunity for thousands of Central Brooklyn’s potential college students, as well as New York City.