CROWN HEIGHTS – Medgar Evers College, a senior CUNY institution, is officially searching for a new president to lead the half-a-century old institution.
The current president of the college, Dr. Rudolph “Rudy” Crew, will be retiring at the end of the 2020-2021 school year, CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez announced in May. Crew was named president of Medgar Evers College by the CUNY Board of Trustees on June 24, 2013, and assumed leadership of the College on August 1, 2013. He was the Chancellor of the NYC Department of Education from 1995 to 1999, and between 2004-8, Crew served as the Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the country’s fourth-largest school district. Now, he is getting ready to retire, but not without some controversy.
Back in June, students of Medgar Evers College protested and demanded that Crew resign immediately, claiming that Crew failed the college during his seven-year tenure, bringing out in the open some of the challenges the new president will have to deal with:
“A budgetary deficit, declining enrollment, and bullying by Crew and his administration were just a few of a long list of damning allegations launched at the president by not only the students but also some of its faculty,” BK Reader reported. “The most notable case of alleged bullying occurred when chief diversity officer Sylvia Kinard was allegedly yelled at and harassed by Crew for forwarding a discrimination case outside of Medgar Evers College to the CUNY administration in 2018.”
Students weren’t the only ones upset about Crew’s reappointment. Myrlie Evers, a civil rights activist and the wife of Medgar Evers, penned a letter to the CUNY Board of Trustees saying she was appalled hearing of the reappointment decision by the CUNY Chancellor.
“My family and I were not only shocked by the communication but appalled by the insensitivity to the students, community, and family outcry for a better college experience that such a decision was reached,” she wrote. “Our deep concerns have turned to extreme disappointment regarding the rapid downward descend of the College and the embarrassment it has become to the family, the Founders, the Brooklyn Community, and quite frankly, the nation.”
“We, the family, strongly resent a decision that will continue to send the college in a downward spiral through expedience, complacency, silence, ‘benign neglect,’ or friendship. In doing so, the University appears to be complicit in exacerbating a deteriorating situation in an Institution that carries our family name,” she continued.
“We are aware of the many reports that have demonstrated lack of performance administratively and in management as reflected in the University’s own assessment documents (PMP) for the past five years,” she wrote. “Further, in these documents, the College represents the lowest among CUNY in effectiveness and accountability in the areas of admissions, retention, transfers, graduation rates, institutional development, and faculty recruitment since the President’s arrival at Medgar Evers College.”
“For an institution, that should have many more young administrators and creative and gifted scholars to face students, many have left the institution of Medgar Evers College for other CUNY institutions because of incompetence, insecurity, intimidation, and unparalleled mediocrity from its leadership. For the record, in July 2013, the administrative leadership announced their ambitious Strategic Plan for the ’25s’: 25% increases in enrollment, retention, graduation rates, and fundraising,” she said. “To this date, not from our observation, but CUNY records reveal that the college leadership has not fulfilled the goals of this strategic plan, nor is there a documented current strategic plan that has been adopted by the College.”
Medgar Evers College, located at 1650 Bedford Avenue, is graduating fewer students than expected, and the number hasn’t gone much higher during Crew’s tenure, according to data from College Factual. “With a four-year graduation rate of 7.0%, first-time students in the CUNY Medgar Evers College class of 2014 who attended classes full-time were among the least likely in the nation to graduate on time. After six years, the graduation rate was 16.1% and by 2018, 18.6% of this class had completed their degree.”
We spoke to Medgar Evers College alum Amanda who preferred to only give her first name. Amanda graduated in 2017 and she said it took her five years to get her degree.
“There’s so much wrong with the college. Don’t get me wrong, I understand it’s where I got my education from, but it could be so much better,” she said. “Where is our president when we need him? How come we never hear from him? Why aren’t students motivated to finish quicker? Where is the support when we need it? I am aware that there’s low enrollment at the school. We all know that the graduation rate is low. So why isn’t our president doing anything about it? Why does he feel like he can stay another year? To do what?”
Medgar Evers College is a historically Black college named after Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist from Mississippi who had devoted his life to fighting for the rights of Black people. In 1954, he applied to the University of Mississippi Law School, which was segregated at the time. His application was rejected and he then focused his attention to campaigning for the desegregation of the school. Evers was often the target of death threats, especially since he was very vocal on calling for the public investigations into the murder of Emmet Till.
“On June 12, 1963, Evers pulled into his driveway after returning from an integration meeting where he had conferred with NAACP lawyers. Emerging from his car and carrying NAACP T-shirts that stated, ‘Jim Crow Must Go’, Evers was struck in the back with a bullet that ricocheted into his home,” the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) wrote. “He staggered 30 feet before collapsing, dying at the local hospital 50 minutes later. Evers was murdered just hours after President John F. Kennedy’s speech on national television in support of civil rights.”
Just recently, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the MTA will be renaming two subway stations — Franklin Avenue and President Street– after Medgar Evers, ahead of the college’s 50th anniversary. In a year-long push by State Senator Zellnor Myrie and Assemblywoman Diana Richardson, the subway stations will now be named the Franklin Avenue-Medgar Evers College station and President Street-Medgar Evers College station. In April, a COVID-19 testing site for healthcare and essential workers opened at the college in partnership with One Medical. It was to provide 3,500 tests weekly to frontline 1199SEIU healthcare workers, as well as essential workers such as adult care center employees and those who work with people with disabilities, we reported.
And now, CUNY is on a search for a new president to take over the institution. Just recently, Matos named the members of the Presidential Search Committee that will recruit and screen highly qualified candidates. Members of the Committee include three members of the CUNY Board of Trustees: Una Clarke, Ken Sunshine, and Henry Berger (who is also the Committee chair). Other members include William Thompson Jr., who is the chairperson of the CUNY Board of Trustees; Claudia Schrader, who is the president of Kingsborough Community College; Richard White, who is the vice-chancellor for the CUNY Office of Risk, Audit, and Compliance; and Reena Evers-Everette, the daughter of the late Medgar Evers.
“In accordance with the CUNY Board of Trustees Guidelines for Presidential Searches, we will be working with the college to identify the campus-based committee members early in the fall. The guidelines provide that three tenured faculty from the college serve on the committee selected by the appropriate faculty governance body,” Matos wrote in a letter to the Medgar Evers College community, obtained by Bklyner. “Additionally, the chairperson of the CUNY Board of Trustees will appoint two Medgar Evers College students to the committee after consultation with student government.”
Once candidates begin to apply for the position, they will be screened by the Committee. A small number of them will then be chosen to be interviewed. And at the end of the interviews, the Committee will select three or four finalists to visit the college. According to the guidelines, the process is to remain confidential; members of the Committee are not allowed to identify the candidates or speak about the interviews outside of members of the Committee. When finalists visit the college, they will meet with several representatives including faculty, alumni, and students. Those representatives will then provide a report on their views to the Chancellor on each candidate. The Chancellor will then prepare a recommendation for the Board of Trustees. As soon as the Board has acted upon the recommendation, the Chancellor will notify the candidate.
In the meantime though, CUNY has launched a Presidential Search Survey, which is available through mid-September. According to Matos, it is an opportunity for the Medgar Evers College community to provide input. “Feedback from this survey will be used to identify the leadership qualities and talents the community is seeking in its next leader along with initiatives and priorities to be pursued by the new President.”
“As Medgar Evers College marks its 50th anniversary, CUNY is more committed than ever to build on the remarkable legacy of Medgar Wiley Evers, the civil rights icon who stood for excellence and human rights and whose name the college proudly carries,” Matos wrote. “I know this is a challenging time for Medgar Evers College and CUNY, but please know that you have my commitment to support the entire community in this time of transition, and to do all we can to build a stronger Medgar Evers for the next 50 years.”