New York’s Medgar Evers College staged a walk out on Wednesday, April 24, demanding changes be made at the institution and that an interim president replace Dr. William L. Pollard, who stepped down from office in January.
Since his resignation, Pollard still holds the title of president until a successor is found. Students argue that he should be replaced immediately with an interim president until a permanent president is appointed.
Protesting with students was City Council Member Charles Barron, who says that the administration has an agenda in place. “They’re not leaving because they want to destroy you before they go. We have a neo-colonial puppet that needs to go,” he said of Pollard. “Every time you have a Black person in a high place doesn’t mean you have freedom.”
Valerie, a student at MEC, added, “Just because a face looks like you does not mean it’s for you.”
Barron also said that he believes that there has been a shift in the college and what it stands for. “Your college is changing rapidly,” he told MEC students.
Student Evangeline Byars says she also sees changes, and that MEC, a predominantly Black institution, is slowly being affected by the gentrification that is taking place in the neighborhood. “Because gentrification has already begun, it doesn’t mean the complexion and the complexity of this campus should change,” Byars said.
Though Byars, who is junior class president, is a part of the student government, Student Govern
ssociation President Jeff Paul sent a letter to the MEC community expressing his disapproval of the walkout.
“These initiators continue to cause only conflict and unnecessary tension on campus. These persons who say they represent students lack the basic respect for other persons. They were extremely uncouth and impolite to the CUNY Board of Trustees and went as far as to call these leaders ‘racist’ and ‘sellouts,’” he stated.
“Let me make it very clear: this walkout is not a Student government Association initiative. This SGA body in no way supports the actions of persons who continue to bring unwarranted negative attention to this campus.” said Michael Arena, university director of communications and marketing at CUNY. “There are no plans to designate an interim president of Medgar Evers College while a national search is being conducted for a permanent successor to President Pollard. It is expected that the national search–which is attracting top-notch candidates–will be completed this semester.”
Arena added, “A new team of senior college officials, Interim Provost Karin Wilkes, Interim Associate Provost Theresa Williams and Interim Vice President for Finance and Administration Scott Anderson, has been working with faculty, staff and students as the college prepares for graduation in June.”
In a statement, Trustee Valerie Lancaster Beal, chair of the Medgar Evers College Presidential Search Committee, said, “We are currently scheduled to bring finalists to the campus on Thursday, May 16, Friday, May 17, Monday, May 20, and Tuesday, May 21.”
Dawn S. Walker, assistant vice president of the Office of Communications and External Relations at MEC, also spoke to the AmNews about the walkout. “There are approximately 6,600 students who attend the college; there were only between 10-15 students who participated,” she said. “Our students are focused on preparing for exams, graduation and continued pursuit of their education and community service and are less concerned about a small group of disruptors.”