Critics: CUNY Rushing Medgar Evers Search

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CUNY maintains that all due diligence was done in searching for outgoing President William Pollard's replacement.

Photo by: Sara Sugar

CUNY maintains that all due diligence was done in searching for outgoing President William Pollard's replacement.

Medgar Evers College, a predominantly black institution in Central Brooklyn, is again in the spotlight after President William L. Pollard announced his resignation at the end of January.

But this time it is not the controversial president making waves throughout the college, Central Brooklyn and the City University of New York system. It’s the process by which his successor will be chosen.

Recently the pool of candidates has narrowed from three to two. City Limits learned shortly before press that John Garland, who served as a longtime president at Central State University in Ohio, withdrew his candidacy last week. The City University of New York did not return a phone to comment. The remaining two candidates are Dr. Rudy F. Crew, a former New York City schools chancellor, and Dr. Fayneese S. Miller, the current dean of the University of Vermont’s College of Education and Social Services.

In the wake of Pollard’s resignation, after a divisive, four-year tenure fraught with controversy and two votes of no-confidence by the faculty, many in the community feel the search for his replacement has been rushed and disrespectful to Central Brooklyn and its residents.

“We’re still on the fact that this process shouldn’t be happening,” says Councilman Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn).

In May, members of the Central Brooklyn Black Legislators Coalition protested outside Medgar Evers College, calling on CUNY to appoint an interim president in order to allow for more time to conduct an extensive national search.

Last week, the three original candidates, chosen from a pool of 50, made visits to the Medgar Evers campus. They met with students and administrators and participated in separate Q&As where faculty and community members were able to address and ask questions of the candidates.

T. Rasul Murray, a charter member of the Coalition for Mission Integrity and Academic Excellence at Medgar Evers College, attended each question and answer period. Though not speaking on behalf of his coalition—a group of students, faculty and community residents that fought for three years to have Pollard removed— Murray says that each candidate is acceptable but that if the search had been allowed to continue, additional and more qualified candidates would have been found.

“Your selection for consideration for leadership of the college has been the result of only some two months of effort by the search committee and the review of a paltry 50 candidates. While this in no way reflects on your credentials for this position, it is indicative of the university’s efforts to force a rushed, inadequate search and to disregard the college and the community,” read Murray in a statement to each of the candidates.

According to a media advisory released by the Central Brooklyn Black Legislators Coalition, a search for a new college president is traditionally conducted over the course of a year, and a pool of three hundred candidates would be preferable.

But CUNY maintains that all due diligence was done in searching for Pollard’s replacement.

“The proof is in the high quality of the candidates,” says Jay Hershenson, senior vice chancellor for university relations and secretary of the board of trustees. “There is no one model in higher education when it comes to the identification of new executive leadership.”

Hershenson says that the timing in which Pollard resigned allowed for the search to be conducted during the spring, which he says is an ideal time because many potential candidates are finishing school years at other institutions and would then be available to begin in the fall.

Evangeline Byars, a senior at Medgar Evers College, the current junior class president and one of a group of about eight students who interviewed the candidates, agrees with elected officials and college advocates that the search process has been flawed.

Byars says that as a whole, the students involved were not pleased that the third candidate’s name was released just before his visit. Crew’s name was released the same day as his campus visit. Byars also says that the students felt Crew did not know enough about the college or student body.

Byars says students were impressed by Miller.

“She wants to implement things that are attainable,” says Byars, who also says that Miller appeared very student engaged, though there are concerns she might not have the experience for running a school in an urban setting. But Byars adds that students who interviewed the three feel the search process should continue. “You need to make sure that they fit,” she said. “We still want to see more candidates.”

CUNY chancellor Matthew Goldstein, who will also be stepping down as chancellor this summer, will make his recommendation on the Medgar Evers appointment to the board of trustees at its next meeting on June 24.

Of the four comprehensive colleges in the CUNY system, Medgar Evers has the lowest four-year graduation rate: 10.1 percent.

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