Friday, June 14, 2013

Is CUNY really upholding the Legacy of Medgar Evers?

Earlier this week, President Gould sent out a statement to the Brooklyn College community to honor the legacy of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers. We indeed applaud the gesture, but find it bitterly ironic that CUNY has managed in just one decade to cut in half the percentage of black freshmen at Brooklyn College and City College, campuses located in two of the city's most predominantly (and historically significant) black communities.

Earlier this year, a group of black and Latino faculty and staff, concerned about changes to Brooklyn College's Black and Latino Male Initiative, sent a letter to the administration that has yet to be formally addressed. In it concerned faculty and staff express the very issue of low black/Latino enrollment and recruitment at Brooklyn College. Below are excerpts from the letter:

January 31, 2013 To: Acting Associate Provost, Dr. Sharona Levy

From: Members of the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA) and Latino Faculty and Staff Organization (LaFASO), Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Dear AAP Levy, As respective members of Brooklyn College's Black and Latino Faculty and Staff organizations, we write to express our great concern over the future of the college's Black and Latino Male Initiative (BMLI), formerly known as ERIS-BMI. We appreciate you taking the initiative to create a diverse advisory board to assist in setting the programmatic goals and future financial and administrative direction of what we believe to be one of Brooklyn College's most crucial programs.

1) We believe that the President's and the Provost's commitment to "diversity," in this case the recruitment and retention of Black and Latino males, requires that your office be allocated proper and adequate resources for a successful BMLI program. The CUNY Chancellor's own "Diversity Action Plan" (released May 15, 2012) specifically calls for "strengthening recruitment" and "improving climate in support of retention," while the college's "Diversity and Inclusion Plan" (2008-2013) calls for recruitment of students from all ethnic groups while "paying close attention to areas of underrepresentation." This relates to the following positions:

2) We call for a formal, nation-wide search for a full-time faculty or staff director to lead the program, one with specific expertise in minority recruitment and retention who also represents the demographic make-up of the target group. Ideally, it should be a Black or Latino male who has produced results in other universities or within CUNY and meets other important criteria suggested by the current advisory board (whose members could possibly become the official search committee for this position).

3) We believe that BMLI and the Office of Diversity and Equity Programs should work closely with the Office of Admissions to consider a new admissions policy of neighborhood-specific recruitment, with the intention of focusing on high schools in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods of the city. The Admissions Office's own high school visitation and "feeders" data illustrate an inadequate effort in recruiting in these target areas, resulting in more "admitted" and "enrolled" students from predominantly white neighborhoods and less so from predominantly poorer neighborhoods of color.

We also have strong reservations about an admissions policy that heavily weighs high-stakes testing (SATs), for which empirical evidence has shown to have deleterious effects on the lives of minority applicants. For instance, two acclaimed studies by Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson and also Gregory Walton and Steven Spencer support each others' findings, that SATs underestimate college readiness and "latent ability" of Black students (while overestimating that of white students). Thus, a neighborhood-specific policy would not only improve Black and Latino student enrollment at CUNY, which, according to a recent independent study by the Community Service Society (2012) has been declining since 2001, but would also ensure a steady admission flow and enrollment of Black and Latino students in programs like BMLI. Again, our purpose is to extend support to you and your office in ensuring that the Black and Latino Male Initiative (BLMI) receive the adequate resources and administrative support it needs to achieve its mission.

Thank you for considering our requests. We look forward to hearing from you.


Members of the Brooklyn College (CUNY) Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA) and Latino Faculty and Staff Organization (LaFASO)

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