24-year Faculty Member says “The Gravy Train is Over”
Dr. Frank Ragland, a Professor of Mathematics in his 24th year at Medgar Evers College, gave Our Time Press a call and presented a robust defense of the embattled administration of President William Pollard. We asked about the faculty vote of no confidence.
Ragland: “First of all, there were only 51 people out of 461 faculty members who voted. And this little group, the committee for the whole faculty, has no standing because it is not officially instituted in any way. Faculty grievances at the college, as at all CUNY colleges, are handled with a hearing through the Faculty Senate and through the union. These are our official organs to express the faculty point of view. This is just an ad hoc group of people who are dissatisfied. Things are changing and happily for the better at Medgar.
OTP: “Changing in what way?
Ragland: In the sense that the college had become a cash cow for certain faculty members. They were not going to their classes, they were not teaching. The last president we had, had bought everybody off that he thought would cause him trouble by giving them unjustified “release time”, that’s time that you get to do very little duties, to be virtually on your own and not responsible for classes.
OTP: The Center for NuLeadership. The administration decided not to let them continue at the college. Could you give me your view on that?
Ragland: When that came over, I thought about it very carefully, and my first view is this: If this is a CUNY-wide initiative, which it should be, then these individuals who are in the program should be distributed equally among 24 campuses and not just put into Medgar Evers.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice has all of the mechanisms in place to really help these individuals. Medgar Evers does not. Of the 300 individuals in this program, if they were spread among the 24 CUNY campuses, Queens, Brooklyn, York, there would be about 13 people in the program. But instead, they’re just at Medgar Evers, and this is not right.
OTP: Is that normal procedure? That the programs are offered on all the campuses?
Ragland: Sometimes it is. Some initiatives are university-wide. And some are on the level of the individual campus. My feeling was with the nature of this program, it was just a negative compatibility. I never saw anything about what resources are offered to the college. So you look at that and I’m not sure it would have been in the college’s best interest anyway. It wasn’t something that was well-thought-through. And let me tell you something if I may.
Ragland: These men and women who are dissenting are not interested in those men. They are as reactionary and arrogant as you can imagine. And they have no interest in them.
OTP: No interest in them?
Ragland: Because of their success. They feel they have their tenure and position in the college, and they are isolated from having to deal with them. These people were making lots of money. All legal, they’re not stealing. But they have been bought off. Not the most competent people were being brought in. Some of them didn’t have any classes and they’re fighting for this! This is what this is about. This is about the gravy train. Well, we’ve all lived in New York City long enough to know that your train may start on Flatbush, but when it gets up to Dyre Avenue, it stops. And all gravy trains sooner or later stop.
This man is trying hard, but he is fighting with these people, continuously complaining for their own selfish purposes. If they are so dissatisfied, they’re all 30-plusers. They could go ahead and retire at full pension, but they just hang around and kick up trouble. And nobody listens to them because they’re tainted. They’ve let departments get dismembered, and the faculty gets filled up with people who are completely unqualified.
OTP: Unqualified in what way?
Ragland: Look here, if I could not take my papers, my credentials, my degrees, my transcripts, up to Hunter and apply for a job in their math department, why should I think I have a right to a job at Medgar? My degree and credentials should be good across CUNY. But you have at Medgar a lot of people, particularly in mathematics because they’ve dismembered the math department, so that they could bring in “people” instead of making this chair get his act together and find people with the requisite degrees and qualifications. They’ve let the math department, the remedial courses in mathematics, be dismembered. They brought in people to teach who did not have any degrees in mathematics at all.
OTP: You’re speaking of the previous administration?
Ragland: The previous administration.
OTP: What has Dr. Pollard done differently regarding that?
Ragland: The plan is, as I understand it, the plan is to unify the mathematics department back with its remedial courses. And put everybody teaching math under strict scrutiny. That means you’ve got to perform. I understand the same plan is afoot in English. Because these are the two departments that got dismembered.
OTP: Got dismembered when?
Ragland: About ’93, ’94 by the previous administration and they set up what are called academic foundations. I understand that CUNY’s position is that we don’t teach academic foundations, and never legalized those departments. And part of the problem is the people in them shouldn’t be trying to teach college. These are people who could not teach junior high school. These are people teaching remedial and remediation is the hardest level to work on in mathematics. Because the students have such varying needs, you’ve got to be well-trained to do a good job there. They just brought in their friends and people who knew people. People who are woefully disqualified and there is nothing from the dissenting group of faculty about all of this situation.