“By any means necessary”, that protest ultimatum of the martyred Malcolm X, acquires an ironic twist in the wake of the recent co`up by CUNY at Medgar Evers College. This disputed action of the CUNY Chancellery comes as Black History Month draws to a grand finale. Shortly after Dr. William L. Pollard had tendered his resignation on January 30, 2012, Chancellor Matthew Goldstein brashly installed his own interim surrogates at the college, without any consultation with faculty, students or staff. A recent local headline boasts that CUNY’s interims run Medgar Evers College.
While the college community rallied for an interim president to be appointed immediately after Pollard’s resignation and begged the elected officials of Brooklyn to advocate on its behalf with the chancellery, CUNY staged a coup of its own. It appointed its own cadre of surrogates to finish colonizing the campus at the chancellery’s bidding—an achievement which Dr. Pollard and ousted Provost Howard C. Johnson had failed to complete. By now, it is unequivocally clear that, by any means necessary, this CUNY Chancellery is set to restructure the civil rights mission and break the activist spirit of this 42-year-old Black institution.
Despite the faculty’s resistance to Pollard remaining a figurehead president at Medgar, Chancellor Goldstein has judged him to be the most capable “interim president”, albeit forced out as a failed president. How Pollard has diminished the academic integrity and reputation of the college is considered collateral damage for a college under occupation. Chancellor Goldstein objects to removing him until his “successor” has been appointed with little promised consultation with all the college stakeholders.
In a recent interview, CUNY Vice-Chancellor Jay Hershenson was found gushing platitudes about the “good” Dr. Pollard had done at Medgar Evers College. Good for whom? Not for the students. Not for Medgar’s accreditation.
Yet, Pollard’s own abysmal failures belie the self-serving spin of the CUNY Vice-Chancellor spokesman. For Pollard and his highly paid cadre of administrators brought the warning wrath of Middle States upon the College’s accreditation because of the incompetence of the people he appointed and had confirmed by the Chancellery. Under Pollard’s leadership, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) withheld its blessing and deferred Medgar Evers’ accreditation of its degree in Education until Spring 2013.This signaled that the program had not met the standards of the Council—a department that had been fully accredited by NCATE in 2006.
With two “Votes of No Confidence as well as multiple grievances brought against Pollard by faculty and staff for EEOC violations against women and racial minorities, as well as out-of-control fiscal mismanagement, which resulted in student unrest and protest—the Chancellor still refuses to admit that he brought in a troubled president, who previously had an embattled history at the University of District of Columbia (UDC), but was nevertheless recruited for a once-thriving Medgar Evers College. Just as at UDC, Medgar’s infrastructure has now been left in shambles.
The appalling fact of the matter is how history repeats itself. Just as the chancellery appointed failed presidential leadership to the College by way of Dr. Pollard, CUNY strikes again. Medgar receives more trial-and-error leadership: an appointed interim provost is appointed who has never held the title as provost, certainly not in the CUNY system, or worked at the local college level as a provost in its system—according to the news put out by CUNY. Likewise, an interim assistant provost has been appointed—one who was once a part-timer at Medgar while in graduate studies, only recently minted with her doctorate. Promotions for all, the short list requirement is loyalty to the chancellery. A college on academic warning—and this is the best CUNY offers.
The penchant for CUNY appointing incompetent leadership at Medgar is not a stroke of happenstance; it is part of CUNY’s systematic takeover of the college to OCCUPY it, while fulfilling its own dubious agenda. “By any means necessary” is the modus operandi of the CUNY chancellery to colonize Medgar Evers College anyway it chooses.
In refusing to negotiate with the college community about the appointment of a qualified interim president who would bring in his or her own experienced cabinet, the chancellery has polarized the college further with its “divide and conquer” interim strategy. But why appoint an interim president at the College of Staten Island—which had its own contentious battle with its president—and not at Medgar? Language that might not honor the politically correct etiquette applies most tellingly here: colonization is still on the prowl, and racism is alive and well at CUNY. Is this Black institution meant to survive in this divisive climate?
How long will the Brooklyn elected officials and community permit CUNY to destroy the soul of this civil rights academic institution by any means at their disposal without accountability? Now is the time for the Brooklyn community to show itself strong and rally around Medgar Evers College to fight for its civil rights legacy. With a promise made over 42 years ago to serve the public trust in providing an equitable education for all the children of Central Brooklyn and beyond—as a human right, the community must heed the emboldened wisdom of ancestor Malcolm X: “We declare our right on this earth…to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”
Submitted by the Concerned Faculty of Medgar Evers College