School of Silence: Student, staff member say there is a culture of silencing at Medgar Evers College
A student and a staff member are sharing their story of how they fell victim to a culture of silencing at Medgar Evers College.
Sakia Fletcher is suing Medgar Evers College and City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo for what happened at a community board meeting.
"When it comes to anything of challenging policies, challenging the administration, or any disagreement with what's going on, they are silenced," said Fletcher.
Fletcher says she was suspended for speaking out - an emergency suspension reserved for the most serious offenses.
"I received the highest level of the emergency suspension when an active shooter is announced," she said.
The meeting was hosted by Medgar Evers College while Fletcher was a student. At the time, they were discussing changes to the Bedford Armory.
Fletcher wants money damages for harassment and defamation of character, coverage of her legal fees and most importantly, a change in disciplinary practices for future students.
After her suspension was completed, the Disciplinary Committee found Fletcher was not responsible for the charges she had been suspended for.
Meanwhile, Cumbo had already filed a criminal complaint.
It's this kind of behavior that made Fletcher file a lawsuit that has dragged on even after she's graduated, and a kind of behavior that faculty at the school say has driven enrollment down, worsened retention and made it harder for students to make it to graduation.
Faculty attributes that drop to bad leadership and irrelevances to dissenting opinion. Enrollment was down 25% from 2018 to 2019 and 18.9% across a five-year period.
"There's no faculty input. There's no faulty consultation, which is a direct violation of the governance," said Owen Brown, a professor.
Such input could help students pass math for example. Fletcher says she tried to advocate for more tutors during her time in student body government.
"The money that was supposed to go towards math specifically, we don't know exactly where the money went," said Fletcher.
Teachers say they too tried to make it happen, but no one listened.
"Students fail math in droves. Math 136, Math 138 -- a very basic math course," said Brown.
News 12 asked for the numbers in early September but did not get a response. News 12 tried again a few weeks later and then again three more times.
Now for one more year, teachers and students await the retirement of President Rudy Crew.
"The administration is getting in the way of its purpose," said Brown.
Hopes of a clean slate are now in the hands of a presidential search committee. It is made up of four trustees, the president of Kingsboro Community College, the CUNY vice chancellor of risk, audit and compliance, as well as the daughter of the late Medgar Evers.
Also on the board are three tenured faculty members, two of whom have publicly voiced their support of Crew, an alumni representative, the student body president and the senior class president.