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Medgar Evers College: Having the courage to make change

FRANK RAGLAND | 4/12/2011, 4:44 p.m.

This reform, small though it may appear, further incensed Dr. Greene and her allies; and they began a systematic campaign of opposing any changes that the new administration made towards strengthening student services, counseling, advisement, academic mentoring and classroom performance. Not only did they oppose the new administration's shift away from the excessive use of release-time so as to allow faculty to avoid their teaching and student advisement responsibilities, but they opposed the efforts to strengthen student services such as counseling, program advisement, academic mentoring and student-based research.

It began to be mouthed about the campus that the new administration did not respect the faculty and had no interest in either the college or the Central Brooklyn community where it is located. Accordingly, a veritable blizzard of highly inflammatory and negative articles began to appear in various newspapers in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Purporting to be exposes on the new administration's lack of sensitivity towards the students, faculty and Central Brooklyn community, these articles were designed to pressure President Pollard and Provost Johnson who, in the meantime, worked assiduously to find funds that would allow the college to install a dependable, efficient set of elevators in the former science building on Carroll Street, establish a recreation room where Medgar Evers students could relax with a game of billiards or hoops, as is done on the other CUNY campuses, and, most importantly, provide extended childcare services for working mothers who must attend evening classes and cannot find affordable and safe care for their children.

Although laudable and badly needed, these initiatives could not deter Dr. Greene and her allies, both on and off the campus, from their incessant attacks on the president and the provost. By the late fall of 2010, it had become clear that Dr. Greene and her group would be unable to force the administration to do their bidding, and they soon formed themselves into an ad hoc committee known as the Committee of the Whole Faculty. This committee promptly called for a vote of confidence on the president and the provost, and easily won a vote of no confidence.

While this act had no legal bearing, it does show the depth of the animosity and anger of Dr. Greene and her group. In particular, faulty concerns are to be aired in the Faculty Senate in the College Council, in union (PSC-CUNY) meetings or even in the Stated Meetings of the Faculty. However, under no circumstances can the college's most important business (such as the status of confidence of the college administration) be farmed out to any ad hoc group of faculty.

CUNY's bylaws and the college's governance documents do not allow such procedures. Recognizing this arrogant move for what it was, the vast majority of the Medgar Evers faculty simply ignored Dr. Greene and her committee and refused to attend the committee's meetings or acknowledge its legitimacy. The few faculty members who attended the meeting without supporting Dr. Greene's methods tried valiantly to speak up, but were not successful in moving the hostile group to a more reasoned position.

Those who consider the present political turmoil in Egypt, the very cradle of civilization, can see a macrocosm of the ills that President Pollard and Provost Johnson are working so tirelessly to expel, root and branch from Medgar Evers College. The former science building of Medgar Evers College lacked a reliable set of functioning elevators and a student recreation center because all available funds for such improvements had to be used to hire adjuncts to teach classes that, by right, should have been taught by full-time faculty--who, though on release-time, and so had either no classes at all or were assigned sharply reduced teaching loads, but nevertheless continued to receive full salaries, salaries that were often in excess of $125,000 per year.

Mercifully, President Pollard and Provost Johnson have put an end to many of these abuses, and Dr. Greene and her committee notwithstanding, the vast majority of the Medgar Evers College community heartily support their efforts and anxiously await further improvements that will further strengthen and expand this valuable and important institution so that it will be truly worthy of the honor of being named Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York.