BROOKLYN, NY – Last week, a State Supreme Court judge in Brooklyn granted a temporary restraining order to prevent the eviction of the Center for NuLeadership at Medgar Evers College until a final determination is made at a later court hearing. The center filed suit last week alleging multiple civil rights violations – theft of personal and intellectual property and invasions of privacy – performed by the college and university administrators. The Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions is a public policy, research and advocacy academic center that assists with entry into college for those with involvement in the criminal justice system. The center is headed by Dr. Divine Pryor, Eddie Ellis, Kate Kyung Ji Rhee and Chino Hardin, who are the plaintiffs in the case and have retained civil rights attorney Ronald B. McGuire as counsel.
The temporary restraining order prevents MEC and CUNY from evicting the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions. Judge Velasquez initially set January 7, 2011 as the hearing date to review the request for a temporary or permanent injunction, however, counsel for both sides agreed to adjourn the hearing until February 10. The judge also ordered CUNY to turn over serial numbers to computers that were seized from the Center for NuLeadership for purposes of verifying ownership.
“We are grateful that the judge saw fit to grant the TRO,” said Dr. Pryor. “We are anxiously waiting for the facts to come out about our case and this administration. We have worked tireless at MEC for a number of years and we have been a resource to the college and to the community.”
This legal action stems from a December 3 dated memo from MEC Provost Dr. Howard Johnson to Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions Executive Director Dr. Divine Pryor ordering the Center to vacate its offices on campus by December 30. It also is a result of a December 17 incident in which CUNY central administration officials and MEC officials ordered a late-night raid of NuLeadership’s offices, seizing computers personally owned by Dr. Pryor and Ms. Rhee.
The Center for NuLeadership asserts that the computers in question were not purchased by Medgar Evers College or with any grant money received by the Center for NuLeadership through the Research Foundation of CUNY. “Ms. Rhee and I brought the computers into the college and they were tagged into inventory by Medgar Evers College for the purpose of connecting them to the CUNY network,” said Dr. Pryor. “Neither Medgar Evers College nor CUNY is able to refute that Medgar Evers College did not purchase the computers.”
The seizure of computers and eviction are the latest incidents in a string of attacks by the Medgar Evers College Administration against the Center for NuLeadership. In an effort to force the center off the campus, President Pollard and Provost Johnson have consistently attacked the center, refusing to forward the recommendation by the college’s governing body to establish the center at Medgar Evers College, blocking the center’s funds and refusing to approve a $2.4 million grant that would have given first-time nonviolent offenders a second chance by sentencing them to college rather than prison.
Over the past several months, community leaders, faculty members and students have been at odds with the current Administration over the handling of nonreappointments of distinguished faculty members, the elimination and reduction of vital student services, and the treatment and eviction of the Center for NuLeadership. In addition, faculty at Medgar Evers College recently convened and approved a vote of “no confidence” in the current administration of President William Pollard and Provost Howard Johnson. Faculty cited the administration’s poor and questionable leadership decisions, removal of student support services, and lack of commitment to the college’s community-oriented mission as some of the reasons for the “no confidence” vote. In their resolution of “no confidence”, the specific examples of the removal of Carver Bank ATMs from the college’s campus, the eviction of the Center for NuLeadership, and the unilateral removal of well-respected chairs and faculty were provided as examples.
“This administration has shown a blatant disregard to the community, the faculty and the students as well as the mission of Medgar Evers College, and they have been allowed to run amok,” said Jitu Weusi, a revered community leader in Central Brooklyn and a member of the founding group of Medgar Evers College. “We will not allow such disrespect of our community to go unchecked.”
The Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions was founded by Eddie Ellis and Dr. Divine Pryor and is the first and only public policy, research, training, advocacy and academic center, housed in the largest urban university system in the United States, conceived, designed and developed by formerly incarcerated professionals. It was established as an interdisciplinary forum for scholars, policy-makers, legal practitioners, law enforcement, civil society leaders, clergy and previously incarcerated professionals seeking to influence and impact urban contemporary criminal, economic and social justice issues. Given the high number of youth involved in the criminal justice system within Central Brooklyn, the center’s location at Medgar Evers College serves a vital purpose for the surrounding community.