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Medgar still on edge

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 9/14/2011, 7:07 p.m.

As the new school year begins, the controversy that has been plaguing Medgar Evers College (MEC) in Brooklyn continues.

Picking up where they left off during the previous school year, faculty, staff and students say not much has changed, as acrimony seems to be the modus operandi between the administration and a significant chunk of the faculty and students.

The latest issue involves allegations of sexual discrimination made against the administration led by President William Pollard and Provost Howard C. Johnson. The Medgar Evers College Coalition for Academic Excellence and Mission Integrity (the Coalition) is calling on City University of New York Chancellor Matthew Goldstein to intervene and take action.

The sexual discrimination charges involve Johnson, who is accused of preventing women from holding leadership positions. MEC currently doesn't have any females at the vice president level or higher.

Dr. Gale Gibson, the dean of freshman studies, complained that Johnson also made "nasty jokes" questioning the paternity of her child when she was pregnant last year. Gibson called the situation "emotionally stressful. It was disturbing because I was seven months pregnant. I felt like these people were trying to make me lose my baby!"

An email with inappropriate comments circulated around the campus, prompting Gibson to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Johnson. Gibson's lawyer reports that no investigation has been launched by the administration or CUNY central administration.

"The specific cases you cite have been the subject of the contractual grievance process and, in one matter, the filing of an external complaint-both of which oblige the university to respect the process. It would be inappropriate, therefore, to comment on the merits or lack of merits of any allegations," said Jay Hershenson, senior vice chancellor for CUNY's university relations.

Another female professor, Dr. Zulema Blair, is also filing a charge against MEC for being the target of the same email. Until fall 2011, Blair was the chairperson of the college's Public Administration Department.

"These most recent complaints are a part of what the Coalition has highlighted during its 'What's Going on at Medgar?' public awareness campaign," the Coalition said in a statement released on Tuesday. "Since last year, the Coalition has challenged the administration on the following issues: ongoing low morale, its inability to engage faculty and staff, its failure to reinstitute the student writing center, which was eliminated, and its failure to implement an academic strategic plan."

At a gathering late last month at Village House in Brooklyn, faculty, staff, students and elected officials came together to discuss ongoing issues at MEC. Those who attended also discussed MEC's original mission and highlighted how they plan to make improvements to the school through activism.