Widow of Medgar Evers Calls Namesake CUNY School an “Embarrassment”

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Myrlie Evers, whose husband was the first Mississippi field secretary for the NAACP and was shot in 1963, blasted the City University of New York trustees for letting Rudy Crew stay on as College president after he was set to leave. Photo Credit: AP

By: Hadassa Kalatizadeh

The widow of slain civil rights leader, Medgar Evers, says the Brooklyn college named after her husband has turned into a nationwide “embarrassment”, and needs a change in leadership.  Myrlie Evers, whose husband was the first Mississippi field secretary for the NAACP and was shot in 1963,  blasted the City University of New York trustees for letting Rudy Crew to stay on as College president after he was set to leave.  “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,” Evers wrote in a letter to the CUNY board, the majority of whose members are appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.  “In doing so, the University appears to be complicit in exacerbating a deteriorating situation in an Institution that carries our family name.”

Mrs. Evers, 87, has also directed her complaint to the Governor’s office.  As reported by the NY Post, Crew, who has headed the college since 2013, had in April been publicly-announced front runner to head the DeKalb County school district outside Atlanta. The DeKalb school board then changed its mind in May, deciding not to hire him. Some local parents had protested, with one parent saying Crew was “all style, no substance,” as per the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  Instead the Atlanta school hired Cheryl Watson-Harris, who had served as first deputy to NYC School Chancellor Richard Carranza.

Crew, 69, who was formerly a New York City schools chancellor, now has said he will retire from the Medgar Evers school in June 2021.  The four-year Crown Heights public college has been experiencing drops in enrollment and dwindling retention rates.  Last fall, 5,798 students were enrolled, down 14 percent from 2015. The one-year retention rate for freshmen who entered in 2018 was 65 percent, which is well below the average university rate of 80 percent.

CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez called Crew’s upcoming departure “a notable loss for CUNY’s leadership” and he praised a “pipeline program” for working on “the type of initiative that advances this University’s mission of extending educational opportunity to all.”  By contrast Evers, in her letter, said the school’s pipeline program “may theoretically be consistent with elements of CUNY’s mission, but it has been a complete failure at Medgar Evers College and a laughing stock in the Brooklyn community.”

Mrs. Evers also took a stab at the school’s 2013 strategic plan which aimed at increasing enrollment and graduation rates along with fundraising all by 25 percent.   “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,” wrote Evers, who is the board chair at the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute in Jackson, MS.  Their daughter, Reena Evers-Everette, told The Post that she would represent the family on a search committee for a new college president.  “I think it’s important to fight for the dignity and integrity that the college should represent,” she said.

Crew has plenty of other opposition.  In June, hundreds of students marched saying Crew should leave, blaming him for the drops in enrollment and investments in the school.   Crew did not return a request for comment.  A CUNY spokesman did not comment on Crew’s expected departure, but did say it would work with “the Evers family and entire Medgar Evers College community in the search for a new president. Together we are working to make the college the most vibrant, anchor institution it can be.”

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