To the Editor:
We, the founders, the faculty and the students of Medgar Evers College, the clergy and members of the Central Brooklyn community read the editorial by Elinor Tatum in the December 23 issue and are moved to fervently answer the question and express our concern on the truth of “What is really happening at Medgar Evers College?” It is a situation where the leadership of an important institution is certainly not “what we were waiting for.” We have academic leaders who profess to promote standards, but who have no understanding of either the strategies for promoting standards or of the mission of institutions that are committed to access, opportunity and excellence. Our educators and staff have always maintained standards while acknowledging both the academic and social needs of our students. One needs only to consult our alumni who are currently working as doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants, scientists, computer scientists, public officials, writers, editors, journalists, etc. to affirm our success.
“What is really happening at Medgar Evers College” is that under the current leadership, student instructional support services in areas such as the writing center, learning center and library have been reduced or eliminated, governance and union contracts have been violated, high-priced administrators and consultants have been hired, support for research and program grants has been reduced, students and faculty have been disrespected and demoralized and advocacy, policy and cultural centers, an integral part of the institution, have not been supported. In the case of the Center for NuLeadership, a center which advocates for and supports formerly incarcerated individuals, an eviction letter has been issued. These actions represent a few of the critical issues about which we have grave concerns.
Centers and/or institutes exist throughout the City University and do so because each institution is attempting to address its particular mission with respect to the people it serves. The centers at Medgar Evers strengthen, enrich and support the college’s academic degree programs, serve as vehicles for research, training, instruction and advocacy and fulfill the College’s mission of communicating the knowledge of tradition and cultural heritage. For us to get into a diatribe about the role of a center, whether NuLeadership, the Dubois-Bunche Center for Public Policy or the Center for Law and Social Justice, is ludicrous and speaks to a lack of understanding and awareness of these entities. It demonstrates the shallowness and anti-intellectualism of these so called “educational leaders.”
One only needs to read and understand the sacred nature of the mission of Medgar Evers College to see why the actions of the current administration violate this mission. It is a mission that individuals have cherished and for which they were prepared to go to jail. It represents the tenets and philosophy of its namesake Medgar Wiley Evers and reads:
“The Medgar Evers College, reflecting the image of the martyred leader who dedicated his life to the cause of individual freedom, dignity and personal fulfillment, will add another pillar of strength to the growing educational, economic, cultural and social foundations of the central Brooklyn community and New York City.”
These centers not only address very directly the needs of the Central Brooklyn and New York community and the national issues of re-entry, advocacy and policy formation, but have been acclaimed for their work by local, state and national officials.
Medgar Evers College is and has been the fulfillment of a dream and legacy of the residents of Central Brooklyn to provide our community with an educational beacon of hope. It symbolizes not only the life’s work of a man, Medgar Wylie Evers, but a movement in Central Brooklyn for community enlightenment, empowerment and the forging of an educational breakthrough for the future of the children of a community. The women, men, clergy, elected officials, businesses, activists, students and residents, all who understood the importance of higher education and its intrinsic relationship to community, came together 40 years ago to provide an opportunity to those of the present and future generations. It was no mistake that before the College was named after our hero, Medgar Wiley Evers, it was called Community College Number VII in Central Brooklyn, not because it was a junior college as they describe community colleges today, but because it came out of the need for it to serve the community residents of Central Brooklyn and hopefully wider communities of color in the future, with a four-year senior college.
Medgar Evers faculty and staff members have been guided by and dedicated to the tenets that our Founders were adamant about. The goals articulated over 40 years ago were not very different from their forebearers in historically Black land grant or public institutions coming out of the church movement to provide higher education. Those goals were to develop new and improved methods of teaching and pioneer innovations in education; to put an emphasis on professional studies without neglecting the liberal arts; to ensure that the college would serve the educational and social needs of its community and to ensure that the community would have input in the selection of a permanent site and would determine the name of the college.
We, the Medgar Evers College Coalition for Academic Excellence and Mission Integrity are appalled that an institution that came out of the struggles of our people in the community has had to endure the disrespect, impudence, audacity and disinformation that have befallen our sacred institution. We know what is happening at Medgar Evers and we are prepared to do what is necessary to preserve our institution, with or without the support of those who consider themselves a part of the “post-racial contingent.”
Jitu Weusi, Educator and Activist
Dr. Delridge Hunter, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies
Natalie Leary, President, MEC Student Chapter of NAACP
Vincent Manuel, MEC Alumni
Sharon Smith, MEC Alumni
Rev. Elizabeth Butler
Bishop Nathaniel Townsley
Rev. Robert Townsley, MEC Community Councile
Michael Hooper, Educator, MEC Community Council Member Emeritus
Charles Thomas, MEC Community Council
Sam Pinn, Educator and Activist
Nia Hooper, Educator and Activist
Sylvia Hooper, Educator