Rudy Crew is ready to take over the helm at Medgar Evers College on Aug. 1, but the new administration finds itself caught in an uproar that continues to brew even during the summer recess. The Medgar Evers College Student Movement (CSOME) started a petition to bring national awareness to what they call an “attack on the cultural viability of the campus.”
Last month, former Chancellor Matthew Goldstein made a bold move by repealing the 1972 Governance Plan of Medgar Evers College. He then implemented a plan that eliminated students who were involved in the decision-making process regarding educational needs and services.
“The department chairs and the people who work at the college will no longer have a voice that can make a difference in our governing structure,” CSOME member Evangeline Byars told the AmNews. “The restructuring of CUNY is a big deal. A lot of students feel powerless, and they are scared to go up against CUNY because of its perceived power.”
Byars said that the board of trustees has implemented a series of changes affecting the power structure within the CUNY system. CSOME and students across CUNY are organizing to make sure the administration continues to reflect the African-American presence.
Established in 1969, the four-year commuter school, serving 7,000, has met the educational and social needs of the African-American community in Central Brooklyn. With the largest number of Black faculty of any college within the City University system, MEC continues to prepare and graduate thousands of students who pursue various professions or graduate studies.
“The academic and cultural viability of the campus has been compromised and is on the verge of total extinction,” Byers added. CSOME originated out of students’ frustration stemming from three years of administrative, academic and fiscal mismanagement under former President William Pollard’s administration. “CSOME is committed to ensuring that the mission of MEC is upheld. It is imperative that the legacy and advancement of the Black Diaspora never be forgotten and is forever celebrated and honored.”
Byars is working to obtain 6,000 signatures on a petition to be delivered to CUNY’s board of trustees, the chancellor and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reinstate the 1972 Governance Plan, which ensures that students will protect democracy at MEC. Members of CSOME say they will not rest until the democratic process at Medgar Evers College is honored and respected. They say that MEC is a public institution and students have the right to have a say in their education. They demand that the CUNY board of trustees and Interim Chancellor William Kelly reinstate all 23 students.
Recently, in an open letter, Council Member Al Vann recommended that the members of the Central Brooklyn Black Legislators Coalition meet with Crew to determine if they will support his presidency. The 36th Council District representative also recommended that the elected officials from his coalition initiate a meeting with Cuomo to change the composition of the trustees of the Board of Higher Education and to “change the chancellery to reflect the African-American presence within the City University of New York and New York City as a whole.’
Valerie Arthur, former member of the Governance Plan, told the AmNews the move to silence the student voice would have a disastrous effect on the democratic process at MEC. “Amongst colleagues there could be a lot of favoritism. The students are actually the ones who are in the classrooms and witness firsthand if the faculty is professional,” she said. “We also need to have a voice in the types of services that will better serve the student population.”
At the time the AmNews went to press this week, no one from CUNY’s board of trustees or the chancellor’s office was available for comment. Dawn S. Walker, vice president of external relations at Medgar Evers College, told the AmNews, “We respect the rights of those who wish to submit their personal views in the form of virtual petition language in order to seek worldwide responses through Internet sites like Moveon.org, which does not comment on the accuracy or wisdom of such assertions.”