Esmerelda Simmons, Director of the Center of for Law and Social Justice, asked ‘What would Medgar do?’ at a community forum in response to a litany of administrative missteps under Medgar Ever College’s president Dr. Pollard. Simmons offered a list of action steps to save the school founded on the activism of its namesake at the meeting hosted by the Medgar Evers College Coalition for Academic Excellence and Mission Integrity.
Dr. Brenda Greene told the crowd of how faculty representatives came to a vote of “no confidence” in the leadership of Medgar Evers College’s president and provost. She expressed concern for the students, who attend the only CUNY school that does not have a Writing Center, having been dismantled by the provost under Pollard’s leadership. Library hours were cut, then re-instated after student protest. Library staff remains cut. Tutoring services have essentially been cut, as the college has seen an increase of student enrollment to 7,000, without a commensurate increase in tutors. The Center fro Teaching and Learning has also been eliminated.
Dr. Divine Pryor, Executive Director of the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions held in his hand a hefty complaint alleging multiple violations of human rights, civil rights, and due process, theft of physical and intellectual property against Dr. Pollard and his leadership team. Just before the new year, Pryor took Pollard & Co. to court asking for a stay of eviction from the school, which was granted. Pollard tried to evict the Center for NuLeadership because allegedly “the criminal element is not wanted on the campus.”
NuLeadership is the world’s first and only academic, advocacy, and research center that was designed, developed, and administered by formerly incarcerated professionals representing every discipline from law to medicine. The center came to Medgar Evers College at the invitation of former president Edison Jackson in 2004. The Center for NuLeadership submitted an application in 2009 to the Medgar Evers College Council, the governing body of the institution. The Council deliberated. They later went into an executive meeting and unanimously approved NuLeadership to be a recognized center at Medgar Evers College with a recommendation for it to be sent to CUNY central. According to Dr. Pryor, that phase of the application process was not completed. The application was never forwarded to CUNY. When it came to the attention of the school’s current leadership, they allegedly had concerns about having the criminal element on the campus.
Dr. Pryor said “the Administration’s agenda in not to promote the mission of Medgar Evers College, which is academic excellence coupled with access, allowing individuals, no matter what their background the opportunity to have a second chance.”
Meeting attendees were asked to watch NuLeadership’s case against Dr. Pollard as it unfolds. “You will see an administration that has contempt for students, faculty and the broader community. You will see an administration that has a blatant disregard for policies and procedures. You will see an administration who came with a particular agenda and it didn’t matter to then who they rolled over, who they hurt,” said Pryor. “You will see arrogance times two. You will see individuals who will treat community with such disdain. They demonstrate with every action they don’t want to be here. Since they don’t want to be here, we will assist them in making their exit.”
Council member Letitia James said Dr. Pollard doesn’t understand the mission of Medgar Evers College. “My humble opinion is that he is not a good fit. Dr. Pollard does not understand that as elected officials (who have advocated for establishing the college and have funded capitol and operating expenses), we are part of the Medgar Evers family,” said James. “Dr. Pollard and his administration in my humble opinion, should be fired.”
James made it clear she “is not defending mediocrity. Or failure. As a proud graduate of a historically Black college, I have very high standards. I want nothing but the best for Medgar Evers College. She said, “At the same time I want to make sure we do things in accordance with the law, respectful to everyone who has been a part of the Medgar Evers family, and do things consistent with the original vision and mission of Medgar Evers College and not anyone else.”
Student Natalie Leary, president of the NAACP chapter on Medgar Evers Campus said there is a large population of students who are formerly incarcerated on campus “who are afraid. They are worried that they will not be able to continue [pursuing their education] at Medgar.” Leary said her chapter is designing their mission and efforts “to fight this cause in a way that makes them not feel afraid.” She said time spent litigating and arguing with faculty is time not given to students. Leary said students need bigger learning centers and adequate library staff. Students are planning to meet with Pollard and his staff to express student concerns.
Esmerelda Simmons said Medgar Evers College was named after a slain civil rights leader who was not afraid to stand up to injustice. Simmons said teaching and learning cannot occur under as repressive administration. She suggested concerned supporters of the mission of Medgar Evers College must write to the Chancellor of CUNY and “tell him you are not happy with what is happening at Medgar Evers College.” She said it is important to contact your elected officials, and petition the school’s president to call for the resignation of the provost, who allegedly had to be prevented from physically fighting during a meeting called to resolve the issues surrounding NuLeadership.