If last Thursday morning’s meeting at a packed Norman Johnson Lecture Hall at Medgar Evers College was any indication, the faculty, staff and administrators are engaged in a major power struggle. Not to mention that the school’s in danger of losing its accreditation.
In a document given out to all who attended, the faculty senate called on the immediate removal of Medgar Evers College President William Pollard and Senior Vice President and Provost Dr. Howard C. Johnson. It also asks elected officials to push for a hearing to address the status of the college.
While the college remains accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, it has been placed on warning because, according to faculty documents, the school “has not adequately met the criteria for three of the 14 Standards of Excellence: Standards No. 2 (Institutional Planning, Resource Allocation and Institutional Renewal), No. 7 (Institutional Assessment) and No. 14 (Assessment of Student Learning).”
The documents also state that students and faculty have waited three years for the college’s Performance Management Process to develop a strategic plan for the school. The faculty senate said that the plan that was delivered this past September isn’t representative of the college or its community.
The emergency faculty senate meeting, run by professor Brenda Greene and Dr. Sallie Cuffee and including statements from elected officials, touched on the accreditation danger, how the institution got here and who’s to blame. Not everyone shared the same story.
“The greatest disrespect is white male supremacy,” said City Council Member Charles Barron. “When you have Benno Schmidt–who was tight with [former New York City Mayor Rudolph] Giuliani and brought on a whole lot of regulations that were racist–still head of the Board of Trustees. And then you got Matthew Goldstein. They knew the kind of president they wanted for Medgar Evers so they could dismantle the programs and control this institution through what I call a neo-colonial puppet. And that’s what we’re fighting.”
Further indication of the school’s failure to meet standards included the renovation of the library, which reduced space for the college’s Learning Center and the English Reading Lab and the elimination of the writing lab for basic skills to make way for a foreign language skills lab.
But not all were on board with the faculty assessments. Things got testy when Dr. Juollie Carroll, a professor and director of counseling who’s been at the college for close to 40 years, called out the meeting moderators, Greene and Cuffee, and the Office of Accreditation, putting the blame on them for the current mess.
“Who placed the information in the (Middle States) review report? Who provided that information?” asked Carroll. “Was it correct information? Did you spread lies in the periodic report? I have served on the strategic planning committee to develop the mission, the goals, the strategic interventions. You should at this point have gone back to your department and get together your action plans, which are not together for all departments.”
It was at this point that Greene asked Carroll if she had a question and wanted to move the meeting along. It was eventually adjourned when the attempt failed. Carroll, however, continued to talk. She told the AmNews that a plan was created and put together long before the September deadline, but it wasn’t requested.
“I’ll walk with you to the end of the moon if you’re working for the institution,” said Carroll. “That document is a quality document. Not one of them served on the committee. Not one. We had a consultant just like every other CUNY institution had a consultant. For them to stand and continue to say this, it hurts deeply. It was never included in the Middle States reports that they had to put together. Our strategic plan isn’t the reason why we’re here. It’s because there are other things operating in the institution that are not working.”
So where does the CUNY administration stand on all of this? Senior Vice Chancellor of CUNY and Board of Trustees Secretary Jay Hershenson sent a statement to the AmNews about the accreditation problem and had this to say about the situation and about Pollard:
“CUNY is deeply committed to the well-being and enhancement of Medgar Evers College,” wrote Hershenson. “The college recently received a Warning Notification from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education requiring improvements in three of the 14 standards it uses for accreditation and related to planning and assessment. While Medgar Evers College is fully accredited, the institution is working cooperatively with Middle States in order to make the necessary improvements.
“CUNY is assisting the college, and we anticipate that the appropriate work will be done,” Pollard said.
Hershenson also said that earlier this fall, CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein put together an external team of educators to provide a review of Pollard on top of conducting an online survey of campus constituencies–students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community–to receive feedback about campus leadership. Grambling University President and former SUNY Vice Chancellor Frank G. Pogue led the team of educators.
“The chancellor and the CUNY Board of Trustees will be reviewing the results of these evaluations,” Hershenson said.