Outraged students, teachers and community members met in the basement of the Ft. Greene Senior Citizens Center last Thursday evening, venting their frustrations with the policies of Medgar Evers College President William Pollard.
“I’m disturbed tonight, today, yesterday, tomorrow about the present administration at Medgar Evers College,” said Peter Holoman, an adviser for Medgar’s Student Advocacy and Support Services Center. “One of the things I’ve seen during the tenure of Dr. Pollard is that the morale on campus is literally gone. I’m looking at faces who I’ve seen at Medgar, at events over the years–that familiar community environment that we once had is no longer there. So the question becomes: What do we do about it?”
The 19-year staff member then pulled out a newsletter addressed to the school’s students by Pollard himself. “This is from the office of the president. This came out today. Come June next month, Dr. Pollard will be here three years. This is the first communication from his office that has come to the students!”
Professor Nathaniel Ezuma, an educator at the college since 1978, noted how little interest Pollard showed in the school when talking to him. “I was surprised when Pollard came in. I spoke to him a couple of times. The reason I spoke to him was because I thought he came here to help build the college. I said to him, ‘I want you to bring everybody together so this college will flourish.’ That is the meeting we had and that was it.
“They’re trying to downsize the college. Some senior faculty members as adjuncts have been let go. These are the individuals who have helped our students.”
“He took away every possible tutoring center that we had,” said Evangelina, a student. “At one point, he closed the library so early we couldn’t even get in there to do anything. We had to fight him about the computer labs. He started making us pay for printing. He did everything to dismantle us.”
Kenneth, a senior ready to graduate next month, exposed the administration’s plans to hold its commencement ceremony at the Jacob Javitz Center while claiming most students preferred the former West Side location.
Students he spoke with, however, said they were never asked where they wanted their graduation held. “We were just gonna show up at this place in Manhattan the governor even wants to close, receive a certificate and move on. Nobody agreed to it.”
“When Pollard first came to Medgar Evers, everybody said that they didn’t like him,” said Medgar Evers junior Zaleeka Johnson. “I didn’t know the reason until we went to the CUNY Spanish and Black Legislative Caucus in Albany. He was supposed to speak to the students. The first words that came out of his mouth, his first words were, ‘I have nothing to say to you guys. Somebody said that I should speak to you.’ And the way he said it was just like, he tried to be smooth with it. So basically the first time that I’m actually sitting with my president is him saying that he has nothing to say to me? I was speechless.”
Political power duo Inez and Charles Barron also showed unity with Medgar’s disgruntled populace.
“Now that he’s here, he has not been responsive to the needs of the community, of the students, of the staff,” said Assemblywoman Barron. “Many of the actions that he has taken are, in fact, we believe, illegal. So we’re organizing. We’re continuing that fight.”
“He is pathetic,” added her husband. “He should’ve never been there in the first place. He’s a house Negro. He’s one of those neo-colonialists, the new way to keep us colonized. Don’t put a white person in front of you. Put a Black person that does the whites’ bidding and the policies and nobody will think it’s racist because it’s a Black person doing it. We need to get rid of the neo-colonialist house Negroes at Medgar Evers and liberate it for our people in the future.”
The AmNews reached out to Medgar Evers College for comment on the event. “We didn’t have anyone there [at the meeting]. I see this as a crying out effort to get some momentum for their cause. It’s inaccurate accusations based on what has been happening,” said Dr. Moses Newsome, vice president of external affairs.
“Medgar Evers College is one of the last Black institutions in this city, so it’s very painful to see an administration come in that ends up dismantling the infrastructure we have in place rather than assessing and building on it,” said a faculty member who wished not to be identified.
With additional reporting by Staff Writer Cyril Josh Barker.