Battle For the Soul of Medgar Evers College

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“This is Mathew Goldstein, the Chair of CUNY, trying to take control of Medgar Evers” said councilman Charles Barron at a city Hall steps press conference called by the The Medgar Evers College Coalition for Academic Excellence and Mission Integrity.

“He hired a puppet to do the work he couldn’t do, previously, as chair of the Higher Education Committee for the last eight years.”   Which is, according to Barron, to turn Medgar Evers into their vision of what a CUNY school should be.

“Medgar Evers serves Black people prodominantly, Medgar evers was created by a community effort and Medgar Evers is going to maintain that, irrespective of Goldstein’s and Murchison’s manipulations.”

The MEC Coalition) is calling last Tuesday’s press conference and public hearing a double victory. The press conference was called to demand a change in leadership at the predominately Black institution of higher learning.

The press conference preceded a City Council legislative hearing on Examining the Academic Impact of CUNY’s Institutes and Centers on Ethnic Studies(sponsored by the City Council’s Higher Education Committee). The hearing’s focus was on the political and cultural impact of CUNY centers and institutes on ethnic studies within a university system that services many diverse student groups. It turned into a spirited session when NYC Council Member Charles Barron, outraged, walked out, stating that the lack of an African-American presence on the CUNY panel was racist.

All-White CUNY Panel Prompts Barron Walkout, James Questioning
City Council Members heard from the CUNY panel first, which was represented by Julia Wrigley, Associate University Provost, Anthony Rini, University Director, and directors from the Dominican Studies Institute, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, and the Italian American Institute.

At the end of the CUNY panel presentation, Council Member Ydanis Rodriquez, NYC Chair of the Higher Education Committee, asked university officials whether there were any programs or centers related to CUNY’s African American constituency. CUNY panel members responded that they were not aware of any.

Incensed by the response, Barron pointed out that there were in fact two executive directors present at the hearing who represented African American constituents: the Center for Black Literature and the Center for Law and Social Justice. He then demanded to know why there were no African-Americans on the CUNY panel. At that point he called the hearing insulting and then dramatically walked out, followed by several other members of the City Council. After the stir, NYC Council Member Letitia James further highlighted Barron’s observation on the panel’s lack of representation of African American people. She followed with a series of critical questions related to the process for establishing and removing centers, the responsibilities of center directors, and the funding models for the more than 100 centers and institutes within CUNY.