Students at Medgar Evers College (MEC) protested on Monday, demanding clarity from the school’s president and the City University of New York about controversies surrounding the institution. However, CUNY officials say they are aware of the issues and are working to make things better.

Rain did not stop more than 30 students from the Coalition of Students Enrolled at Medgar Evers College from holding a rally on the campus with signs and a bullhorn. The students say they are being ignored after making several requests to meet with MEC President William Pollard.

Outside of the campus’ B building, students asked their fellow classmates to join them in demanding answers about school operations and the use of funds. Members of the coalition said they want a response to the 31 questions listed on their petition, which has been signed by more than 500 students. A copy of the petition was delivered to CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldsmith, but students say they received no reply.

“I’ve been here since the fall of 2008 and I’ve seen a lot of changes,” said MEC student Natalie Steel. “A lot of students are kept in the dark about stuff and don’t even know who the president is. If he passed by, I couldn’t even tell you who he is. He’s never presented himself or wanted to meet us. People are getting [shortchanged] and we are not being challenged enough. Medgar Evers is being run like an upgraded high school.”

Among the 31 questions on the petition, students are asking about MEC’s annual budget, the $2 million being spent on a condo for Pollard, reductions in resources, rude staff members and the finances of the Student Government Association.

Akil Townsend, who is in his first year at MEC, said that library hours have been reduced, and access to learning centers and tutors have also shrank.

“We the students want answers to what is going on in the college. We want him to come out. A lot of the students don’t even know him and he’s been president for the last two years. The community that helped establish the college is not too happy with him [either]. These are huge concerns for us, the students,” Townsend said.

As students passed by during the outdoor rally, many ignored the protest, though a few joined in. One woman even defended Pollard, saying that he was “the best president we ever had” and “if you don’t like him, go somewhere else.”

Protesters said that students are scared to speak out about their disappointment in the school for fear of being penalized. Many students fear that their financial aid will be taken away or teachers will alter their grades.

Gracia Branch, a student, said, “There are so many rumors in the schoo l and we don’t know what is going on. All we are asking for is a meeting with the president, which is being denied. We are not getting the respect we need and they don’t take us students seriously–that’s the purpose of this rally.”

While no sitting elected officials came to the rally, former Brooklyn Congressman Major Owens came out to protest in support of the students and urged them to use their right to protest peacefully to get answers about the education they are paying for.

“I feel the set of questions the students have are legitimate, and the president should answer them,” Owens said. “Going back to the non-violent days of the Civil Rights Movement, that’s the way students ought to begin. Lay out your demands and ask for negotiations, which is all they’ve done. The questions are hard questions, but they are legitimate questions.”

After students protested outside, they stormed into a faculty meeting Pollard was leading in the auditorium. Two students were permitted to explain to the faculty their issues with Pollard and asked Pollard himself to meet with them. Without responding, Pollard adjourned the meeting and left the auditorium surrounded by campus security.

In a statement, CUNY said that Pollard has done everything to engage students and has reached out to them to set a date for a meeting. In reference to the questions, CUNY said Pollard has held several town hall meetings that students were free to attend. The last meeting was held on May 9 and students were informed well in advance.

Pollard also has walk-in hours for students on Thursdays from 4-7 p.m., and feedback from previous meetings are already being implemented, according to the administration. Projects are currently underway to improve the library and to build a “greenspace” and swimming pool. Any cuts to MEC are due to the recent budgets of city and state government.

“From previous town hall meetings we received crucial information on student concerns and have moved to address several issues,” CUNY said. “The college’s senior administration has begun the master planning process to guide the future of our institution as part of the university’s master plan due in June 2012. President Pollard remains unwavering in his efforts to make Medgar Evers College the most student-centered institution in CUNY and beyond. There is much to be done, and through student outreach, planning and focused implementation, we shall reach this goal.”