Crew resigns after intense pressure
Patricia Ramsey, a biologist previously in leadership positions at Lincoln University and Bowie State University, has been appointed the new president of Medgar Evers College (MEC). Ramsey will be the first woman president of the college, an appointment many at MEC are heralding as a sign of progress.
The announcement marks a new chapter for the Brooklyn college following the abrupt resignation of former President Rudy Crew amid a whirlwind of controversy surrounding his leadership and calls from some at MEC and the greater community to step down.
Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of the civil rights leader for whom the campus is named, applauded the new appointment, saying, “My daughter Reena Evers-Everette was honored to have been a member of the presidential search committee, which was totally committed to bringing the best to Medgar Evers College. Dr. Ramsey is a passionate, courageous and innovative educator with a well-established track record of inspiring students, faculty and administration at historically Black colleges and universities.”
Evers-Williams had joined several MEC activists in calling for Crew’s immediate ouster for what they cited as a record of administrative mismanagement and a culture of fear.
“I am elated at this historic time and new day for this unique and special institution,” said Zulema Blair, chair of the public administration department and the vice chair of the MEC College Council. “It comes at a time when racial justice is being placed front and center for all public policy platforms on all levels of government and I am sure that [the] MEC and the Central Brooklyn community under the leadership of Dr. Patricia Ramsey will once again realize its true potential and exceed all expectations.”
Blair, who was highly critical of Crew’s leadership, added, “My colleagues and I are ready to work on behalf of the faculty, staff and students” with the new leadership. She said the college community has “worked tirelessly for our voices to be heard and finally they were heard.”
Clinton Crawford, the PSC chapter chair at MEC, exclaimed upon hearing of Ramsey’s appointment, “It’s about damn time.” He then added, “We look forward to the next, best chapter in the history of Medgar Evers College.”
And Kathleen Barker, the chair of the MEC Faculty Senate and a professor of psychology, saw an opportunity to rebuild trust between the faculty and the administration. “We look forward to reinstituting shared governance at the college and to the vital faculty and staff dialogue in the near future with incoming President Ramsey,” she said.
Owen Brown, a professor of sociology who called for Crew’s resignation in a Daily News op-ed last summer, told Clarion that he was very hopeful the new president would help “change the culture of the college and empower it so we can realize our potential.”
A big issue for the college under Crew that Ramsey will need to address is accountability, Brown said. The college suffered, he explained, from a problem where executives who underperformed but were loyal to Crew were promoted, while faculty members “who were adding value to the college were disciplined because they didn’t toe the party line.” This created what Brown called a “toxic environment” where “budgets for services [were] being slashed” while the college continued “hiring individuals in executive level positions who were not bringing in resources that could help to provide the services to the students that the college is supposed to provide.”
Brown expressed confidence that Ramsey would address this problem. “I’m hopeful that she’ll be able to tackle this and I am willing – and other colleagues are willing – to provide assistance to her in this matter.”
Two of the biggest labor issues Ramsey will face at MEC are the PSC’s demand to rehire laid-off MEC adjuncts and address the issue of ballooning class sizes. Recently, PSC activists delivered a petition to the MEC administration and Crew demanding that the college reappoint all 66 teaching adjuncts eligible for new or renewed three-year appointments. The petition also called for reducing the maximum class size to the Spring 2020 level of 28 students.
CUNY said of Ramsey in a statement, “At Bowie State, she started weekly ‘Chat with the Provost’ sessions that became a valuable incubator of student-originated ideas that were later adopted by the university. Dr. Ramsey also played major roles in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. At Lincoln University, she oversaw a new office of equity and inclusion that advanced recruitment efforts, and under her leadership the university increased the number of women faculty across five academic departments in disciplines where females are traditionally underrepresented.”
The biggest critics of Crew – who once served as schools chancellor under Mayor Rudy Giuliani – noted that MEC was marred by favoritism and cronyism under his management, leading to a culture of fear that made it nearly impossible for faculty, staff and students to speak out about the problems they perceived on campus. It was assumed that Crew was leaving at the end of the 2019–2020 academic year for a superintendent job at the DeKalb County School District in Atlanta, but after he was abruptly rejected by the Atlanta school board, he vowed to stay on at MEC until the end of the 2020–21 academic year.
SUPPORT FOR CREW
Some faculty, however, believe the criticism of Crew’s leadership was too harsh, and that he led an underfunded college as well as possible under the circumstances. Some even say he left behind a positive legacy. Chinyere Emmanuel Egbe, chair of the economics and finance department, credited Crew with expanding educational facilities at the college.
“Overall reading skills increased from 82% to 86%,” he said. “Overall academic proficiency increased from 29% in 2014 to 61% in summer 2020.”
Ramsey said in a statement, “During these times of heightened awareness of social justice issues, I have the unique opportunity to lead Medgar Evers College, an institution with social justice in its DNA.”