Short and chaotic, the reign of Dr. William Pollard at Medgar Evers College is over.
“Today, I formally advised CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein that I will be stepping down from the presidency of Medgar Evers College following the designation of a successor,” wrote Pollard in a statement to MEC faculty and staff.
City University of New York Chancellor Matthew Goldstein announced a Board of Trustees presidential search committee that will begin the mission of finding a successor to Pollard immediately.
In over three years, Pollard lost the trust of many faculty members at the Brooklyn-based college and fought with staff over the academic direction of the institution. Since his first day in office, the AmNews has chronicled the multiple stopgaps and incidents that have marred Pollard’s attempt to remake MEC in his own image.
Back in April 2012, some faculty and staff members held a news conference outside of the school to accuse the administration of overreaching their authority and removing chairs of faculty departments without just cause. They also accused the administration of hiring new faculty without any input from school departments, violating governance bylaws in the process.
In August 2010, a year into Pollard’s presidency, Center for NuLeadership and Urban Solutions founder Eddie Ellis called him out for “alienating” moves, which included attempts to move the commencement from the campus courtyard to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, attempts to end the summer jazz concerts for financial reasons, switching the automated teller machines on campus from Carver Federal Savings Bank to Citibank and allegedly limiting access of the college to community organizations. Pollard also received flak for hesitating to approve a $2.4 million grant proposal that would’ve assisted in educating nonviolent drug offenders. Ellis accused Pollard, and his provost Dr. Howard Johnson, of not understanding the “historic, cultural, political, civic and educational relationship between Medgar Evers College and the Brooklyn Black community.”
A few months before that, Pollard was accused of implementing policies that some felt were outright rejections of the trustees of the City University of New York’s Black Male Initiative outreach and admissions provisions.
Pollard, in his statement, chose to reflect on his academic career and appreciation for having served at MEC.
“My academic aspirations and vision for Medgar Evers College were first shaped by the spirit of excellence and scholarly values that defined my first teaching experience as a young professor at Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C., my home state. Entering the academy lit the spark for my professional journey as an educator. I resolved then that no matter what path my career took, I would never lose sight of the fundamental purpose that I believe all educators have–to guide and develop the promise of aspiring students with zeal and dedication.
“I am proud of these accomplishments and grateful for the opportunity that I have had to serve and lead this historic college,” said Pollard.
The executive committee of the faculty senate at MEC went right to work, sending out a statement to all faculty members about Pollard’s demise and what they feel must be done to restore the college’s reputation.
“Going forward, it is critical that the college community directs its energy on building upon its strengths. Medgar Evers has a legacy of success, which has distinguished this institution for over 40 years, to assist us in this institutional endeavor,” read a collective executive committee statement. “Although over the past three years there have been irreconcilable differences between the college and the current leadership priorities, faculty, students and staff understand that we must work collectively to ensure the survival of this civil rights institution. To that end, it is the position and goal of the faculty senate to ensure that the ensuing academic agenda involves the entire college community in any assessment of its goals, initiatives and programs.
“The damage has been major,” continued the statement. “Primary among the injuries is the accreditation ‘Warning’ that the college recently received–under the Pollard administration–from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. During its 42-year history, Medgar Evers College has never before had an accreditation issue.”
Goldstein preferred to sing Pollard’s praises.
“We are deeply grateful for all that President Pollard has done to advance the vitally important mission of the college during the past three and one-half years,” said Goldstein. “The president has worked diligently to focus this important institution in Central Brooklyn on student-centered goals and objectives, enhancing faculty instruction in the classroom, and on utilizing the new and modern campus facilities in creative and effective ways.”
When the AmNews talked with Pollard in 2009, he spoke with hope about what needed to be done to improve MEC. “We’re doing what we need to do in order to get our arms around a variety of issues and concerns … and figuring out how to grow my feet into this position,” he said. The shoes didn’t fit.