By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The City University of New York (CUNY) is in too much of a rush to find the next president of Medgar Evers College and isn’t casting a wide enough net to attract a sufficient number of qualified candidates, a group of lawmakers charged.
US Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Crown Heights) and members of the Central Brooklyn Black Legislators Coalition held a protest rally outside the college at 1650 Bedford Ave. to publicly question CUNY’s commitment to the search process for a new permanent president. The majority of students at the college are African-American. The school is named in honor of Medgar Evers, a civil rights leader in Mississippi who was assassinated in 1963 at the age of 37.
CUNY is setting a 90-day deadline to find a new president to replace President William Pollard, who announced his resignation on Jan. 30 after a rocky three-year tenure. The New York Times reported that Pollard repeatedly clashed with faculty and with students. In November, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education warned the administration of Medgar Evers College that the college was in danger of losing its accreditation, the Times reported.
Following his resignation, it was announced that Pollard had agreed to stay on until a permanent replacement could be hired.
“The academic standards of Medgar Evers College as well as the education of its students have been put at risk for far too long with an irresponsible administration and unqualified leadership that has put the accreditation of the institution in jeopardy,” Clarke said.
Coalition members argued that Medgar Evers College’s best interests would be served by the immediate appointing of an interim acting president, a move that would allow CUNY to take its time while it conducts a national search for a permanent president.
The coalition includes: US Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, council members Jumaane Williams, Albert Vann, Charles Barron, Darlene Mealy, Mathieu Eugene, and Letitia James, state senators Eric Adams, Kevin Parker, John Sampson, and Velmanette Montgomery, and assembly members N. Nick Perry, Karim Camara, Inez Barron, Walter T. Mosley, Annette M. Robinson, and William F. Boyland Jr.
Clarke and the coalition’s members said 90 days is not enough time for a search for such an important position in the city’s public education system. Such searches are generally conducted over the course of a year, Clarke said. To date only 50 candidates have been identified. The coalition would prefer to see a larger number of candidates, perhaps a pool of 300, she said.
CUNY appointed interim acting presidents while searching for permanent leaders at Kingsborough Community College, the College of Staten Island, Hostos Community College, Queensborough Community College, Queens College, City College and Baruch College.
“For more than 40 years, Medgar Evers College has been an inspiration and an invaluable resource for our community. Now, 60 years after the assassination of the school’s namesake, CUNY is taking a position that threatens to undermine the college’s future,” Clarke said.
“We cannot accept this. That is why I stand with my colleagues to demand the immediate appointment of an interim president, to restore focus on the unique mission and importance of this predominantly black institution,” she said.
Michael Arena, a spokesman for CUNY, defended the pace of the search. “This is the prime time in higher education to conduct a search and it has moved forward with great results,” he wrote in an email to a reporter. “The Search Committee for a new president, comprised of trustees, elected faculty, elected student government leaders, the alumni and community council presidents, and a CUNY college president, voted last week to bring three finalists from a rich and high quality pool of over 50 candidates to the campus during the first week in June,” Arena wrote.
Arena also noted that members of the Central Brooklyn Black Legislators Coalition have been invited to meet the finalists when they visit the campus.