The widow of slain civil rights icon Medgar Evers says the Brooklyn college named in his honor has become a national “embarrassment” in need of new leadership.
Myrlie Evers blasted the City University of New York trustees for allowing Rudy Crew to stay on as Medgar Evers College president after he was set to leave for a job in Georgia that fell through.
“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. Cuomo.
“In doing so, the University appears to be complicit in exacerbating a deteriorating situation in an Institution that carries our family name.”
Evers, 87, said she had also brought her complaints to Cuomo.
Crew, a former New York City schools chancellor, was the publicly-announced front runner in April to head the DeKalb County school district outside Atlanta. The DeKalb school board reversed course and decided in May not to hire him. Some local parents protested Crew’s selection with one saying, “He’s all style, no substance,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.
The job instead went to Cheryl Watson-Harris, who had been NYC School Chancellor Richard Carranza’s first deputy.
Crew, 69, said he would retire in June 2021 from Medgar Evers, which he has headed since 2013. The four-year Crown Heights college enrolled 5,798 students last fall, a 14 percent drop from 2015. The one-year retention rate for freshmen who started in 2018 was 65 percent, way below the university-wide rate of 80 percent.
CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez called his expected departure “a notable loss for CUNY’s leadership” and praised a “pipeline program” at the college to ease the transition for students from under-performing high schools to higher education as “the type of initiative that advances this University’s mission of extending educational opportunity to all.”
But Evers, in her letter, said the 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.”
Evers also took aim at the school’s 2013 strategic plan that was supposed to result in 25 percent increases “in enrollment, retention, graduation rates, and fundraising.”
“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,” she wrote.
Evers is the board chair at the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute in Jackson, MS, which was founded to carry on her husband’s civil rights legacy. Medgar Evers, the first Mississippi field secretary for the NAACP, was shot to death in the driveway of their Jackson home in 1963.
Their daughter, Reena Evers-Everette, told The Post 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.
The family’s gripes about Crew’s leadership are not the first. In June, hundreds of students marched calling for him to go — citing declining enrollment and a lack of investment in the school, according to a report.
Professor Zulema Blair, who heads the school’s Public Administration Department and is a Crew critic, said he should not have been allowed back after he intended to quit.
“He was an absentee president before the pandemic,” she said. “He totally disappeared and tried to run out on us in the middle of the night during the pandemic. Why would he be there through 2021?”
Crew did not return a request for comment.
Crew’s lawyer contends in a June letter to the DeKalb schools threatening a lawsuit, which was obtained by The Post, that the hiring debacle cost the educator at least $1.5 million in damages and hurt him at CUNY, which — after learning of his job prospects — said “it no longer wanted him as President and that he must soon leave.” Crew has filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging age and racial discrimination.
A CUNY spokesman would not comment on the allegation about his departure and said 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.”