posted 2012-11-21 22:50:52

Students Protest Against College President at Medgar Evers College

Protesters allege that President William Pollard has negatively impacted education at MEC 

Kristina Chan

Staff Writer

Frustrated students from Medgar Evers College took to the sidewalks last month to protest against rising tuition at CUNY and the alleged mismanagement by college President William Pollard. Protesters, which included students and faculty, said that Pollard’s poor job performance has resulted in a decrease in the value of the school’s education and the cancellation of several educational programs. Students staged a walk-out that attracted nearly two hundred students who all had one message: “Pollard must go!”

“The purpose of our walk-out was to show Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, President William Pollard, Provost Johnson, and the current Administration that we are not going to stand for the type of substandard education and treatment we have been receiving at Medgar Evers College since his contested ‘appointment,’” said Shari Denis, one of the six organizers of the Medgar Evers Walk Out, which resulted in no arrests.

Under Pollard’s administration, Medgar Evers College, which accommodates nearly 7,000 students, has allegedly racked up $3 million in debt due to fiscal mismanagement, while programs and centers have either been eliminated or have faced severe cuts.
The Center for Teaching and Learning has been closed down due to lack of funds, along with the Writing Center, making Medgar Evers College the only educational institution in the CUNY system without a writing center. Students are now petitioning to keep The Learning Center while they make other efforts to keep the computer labs and the Ella Baker Childcare Center.

“The President’s solutions to the deficit are those which will make students suffer,” Denis said. “President Pollard proposes a mass firing of adjunct professors, an increase in our class sizes, and a reduction of course offerings among other ‘solutions.’”

In April of this year, faculty from Medgar Evers College approved a vote of no confidence in Pollard and Provost Howard Johnson by a vote of 136 to 13. The vote was organized by the the college’s Faculty Senate, and was implemented by secret ballot.
“It’s a message that people are disaffected and the leadership we have has to be removed,” Medgar Evers College Professional Staff Congress Chapter Chair Clinton Crawford said to the Clarion, the PSC’s newspaper.

After the vote of no confidence was carried out, the Medgar Evers College Faculty Senate released a statement encouraging Chancellor Matthew Goldstein to ask Pollard, who has been in president since 2009, and Johnson to resign. Goldstein has yet to comment.

President Pollard was the subject of another no confidence vote in December of 2010 when the college’s “Committee of the Whole” voted 56 to 7 against the president. However, the decision was disregarded at the time because the body lacked the official approval of the college faculty senate to conduct the voting.

In a letter of response to the most recent no confidence vote, Pollard refused to step down. “We will continue to serve the needs of this diverse population through our academic programs and relevant centers,” he wrote.
“We recommend that CUNY take full [responsibility] for what’s happening,” said one protester who was featured on News 12 Interactive. “They’re strangling our resources, and while we fail, they tell us that it’s because we don’t want an education.”

The same afternoon as the Medgar Evers walk-out, Oct. 17, students at Queens College also staged the “Tear Up Your Student Debt” protest where one student was arrested, according to Desmond Lyons, a coordinator of the protest from Socialist Alternative. The student was charged with criminal trespass in the third degree at the school’s Hortense Powdermaker Hall.

“A comrade of ours, who is an organizer for our national organization was arrested for simply not having any identification,” said Lyons. “When he was asked to leave campus because of this, he complied, but later was arrested due to a call from ‘higher ups’ ... He was targeted for being a longtime activist for a socialist group on our campus for some years now.”