In the latest in a series of efforts to address the charges against the administration by the Medgar Evers College Coalition for Academic Excellence and Mission Integrity, the administration has circulated a document to students and to the media that misrepresents the charges leveled at the administration and that skirts the critical issues about which the coalition is concerned. The fact sheet distributed by the administration is an affront and insult to the intelligence of students, faculty, the clergy and community residents. The facts addressed refer to issues such as the mission of Medgar Evers, the Writing Center, the Center for Teaching and Learning, the master planning process, faculty research and the hiring of consultants to improve academic instruction and student support services.
A senior student who wishes to remain anonymous because of fear of retaliation made the following statement re: the fact sheet.:
Medgar Evers College has a lot of room and opportunity to grow but Medgar Evers College’s resources cannot be cut in the process. Students see services being cut and are afraid to speak out because of fear of retaliation. We need transparency. Without this, we have low morale among students. It is very disheartening when there is a disconnect between students and the administration. We need to build bridges. What will the legacy of this administration be? Can this administration bring Medgar Evers College to the next level?
We have outlined the coalition’s responses to the issues cited in the administration’s fact sheet.
Mission of Medgar Evers College
The mission of Medgar Evers clearly focuses on the importance of a quality liberal arts education, the importance of knowledge of self and culture, the importance of leadership and service, and the importance of building bridges and making connections with the community. The actions, elimination of centers, dismantling of student support services and a lack of recognition of the value of civic, social and cultural needs for students are evidence of the fact that the College is not committed to the mission. In fact, the current administration has made statements at public meetings about their desire to change the mission, to reevaluate the open admissions policy and to set new priorities for which students come to Medgar Evers College.
Elimination of Writing Center
In the Fall 2008 semester, the English Department opened a writing center with support from the CUNY Coordinated Undergraduate Educational Program (CUE). Until then, the only place where students could go to obtain tutoring in writing was the Learning Center, a center that primarily served as a drop-in service that provided tutoring for the entire college community. Medgar Evers College was the only college in CUNY without a dedicated writing center for its students and because it has always served as an open-access college (the majority of our students who enroll need basic writing skills and extended support for tutoring in writing as they move through their college years), it is a travesty that the college did not have a center dedicated to this support and staffed with a core of faculty and tutors who had expertise in the writing pedagogy and research. The writing coordinator expanded the center in the Spring 2009 semester and began to write grants to obtain additional support for the Center. In the Spring 2010 semester, the administration took away the space from the Writing Center and closed it, thus eliminating a dedicated writing center for students at Medgar Evers College.
Elimination of Center for Teaching and Learning
As of the Fall 2010 semester, there has been no Center for Learning and Teaching Excellence (CLTE). The CLTE was developed to provide an institutional structure to: stimulate faculty commitment and discussion related to assessing, analyzing and revising curricula and pedagogy at the college, to promote effective student learning and to provide information on current research trends in postsecondary curricula and instructional methods. A center for Teaching and Learning is a necessary component for promoting student success and supporting faculty at the college.
Reduction in Tutorial Budget for the Learning Center
It is clear that the current tutoring budget for the Learning Center is not commensurate with the increase in the students serviced. As a result of the increase in student enrollment, the Learning Center had to provide additional tutors to accommodate the additional students in basic skills labs and thereby the overall tutoring budget has been cut. In fact, at the beginning of the Fall 2010 semester, the administration did not sign the paperwork necessary to hire tutors and the Learning Center was temporarily closed. Hundreds of students signed petitions forcing the administration to reopen the Learning Center.
Reduction in Staff For the Library
College assistants and library staff have been reduced, thereby decreasing the service offered to students. The administration has not done its due diligence to service students needing library service. Expansion of library services was part of Dr. Jackson’s master plan and had not pressure from external sources been in place the college may have lost that under the present administration.
The Master Planning Process
Institutional planning is based on a master plan which focuses on overall capital improvement and on an academic strategic plan which guides the college in the development of degree programs, departments and curriculum. Both of these processes should be informed by an assessment of the college. There has been no assessment plan and despite requests from faculty to convene the College’s Master Plan Committee, the current administration has not called a meeting. The administration has used this as a rationale for not supporting degree programs and for reducing support in areas such as computer labs and psychology labs.
Interference with Faculty and Student Research
The Office of Academic Affairs has neither the professional background nor skills to provide the leadership or oversight for faculty research, or to have the responsibility to review such projects. For example, the Provost refused to authorize the submission of a grant proposal to the National Institutes of Health for a project to support undergraduate student research and student stipends at MEC, delayed for several months the signing off on a STEP grant, thus causing the grant to be submitted very late, and refused the authorization of at least two grants (multimillion-dollar grants) that involved the Center for NuLeadership’s expertise in reentry programs. Faculty are responsible for research, scholarship and program development. Center directors develop programs, which impact on students and on the community residents in Central Brooklyn. The administration should not interfere with the faculty member’s responsibility to engage in research and to develop programs nor with the center director’s responsibility to provide programs that advocate for and provide social, cultural and public policy services and activities to students and to the residents of the Central Brooklyn community and beyond.
Inadequate Support for Dual Enrollment Program at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School
The Medgar Evers College Preparatory School has received high praise from President Obama, the College Board and the Department of Education for its Dual Enrollment Program which enables high school students to enroll in college. Based on the information received from former and current concerned parents, the number of students who are able to participate in the highly praised Dual Enrollment Program has dramatically decreased under the current administration. Dr. Wiltshire, the principal of the school, confirmed the reduction in services and cited a number of former and present administrators for nonsupport. He also admitted that the college has some responsibility for providing support for this program. The current administration has yet to rectify the reduction in the number of students who can take advantage of the Dual Enrollment Program.
The current administration recently announced a reentry program for formerly incarcerated men and women. The Center for NuLeadership, which has been on the campus for the last six years and which has been involved in programs and research in this area and is nationally known for its ground-breaking work in this area, provided the foundation for the administration’s creation of this program. It is ironic that the administration has issued eviction proceedings for the Center for NuLeadership while at the same time proposing a program to support formerly incarcerated individuals.
Committee of the Whole of Faculty
As a result of the nullification of the Faculty Senate Elections held from October 5-7, 2010, the faculty at Medgar Evers College formed The Committee of the Whole of Faculty at a meeting on November 17, 2010. Over 60 faculty signed a petition to support a Committee of the Whole of Faculty. A Committee of the Whole (C of W) is based on the process frequently used by the U.S. House of Representatives that allows the whole membership of a legislative body sitting as a committee to consider the details of a bill. In this case, all members of the faculty employed at Medgar Evers College, as defined by the bylaws of the university, are members of the faculty body.
On December 8, 2010, 89% of faculty present (63 total, 6 negative votes and one abstention) at a specially called meeting approved a “Vote of No Confidence” against the current administration and specifically in the Office of the President, Dr. William A. Pollard, and in the Office of the Provost, Dr. Howard Johnson. This was significant since for the last two elections, 2009 and 2008, only 35 faculty voted in the Faculty Senate. And in the 2010 vote that was nullified, less than 27 people voted.
The administration states that they are using consultants to make decisions re: improving academic instruction and student support services. However, the mechanisms that were in place to support student services have been dismantled and consultants who have been hired are duplicating the work of current staff at Medgar Evers College.
Procedures in the college-wide review procedures have been violated, according to the union and CUNY Bylaws. Medgar Evers is one of the smallest colleges in CUNY, yet since the current administration has come on board, there have been more faculty and staff grievances than all of the CUNY units combined. For more information about the situation at Medgar Evers College