Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

CUNY Retention Program for Black Males under Fire

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

CUNY Retention Program for Black Males under Fire

Article excerpt

New York group says initiative violates Civil Rights Act of 1964.


Officials at New York's Medgar Evers College (MEC) are challenging a complaint filed last month by a local civil rights group charging that a program created to help Black males stay in college is discriminatory.

The New York Civil Rights Coalition has asked the U.S. Department of Educations civil rights division to halt MECs "Black Male Initiative." The complaint also asks that the City University of New York not implement the program at its 18 other colleges in the city.

In filing the complaint, Michael Meyers, executive director of the coalition, argues that MECs program violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination by colleges and universities that receive federal assistance.

"What they have been doing is just wrong," says Meyers, adding that the coalition can demonstrate that MEC is illegally accepting federal funds to initiate programs that he says blatantly discriminate against women and others.

But Dr. Edison O. Jackson, MEC's president, staunchly defends the program he started. Jackson scoffs at Meyers' assertions that the program, which has been utilized by scores of Black men, is exclusionary.

"We are not doing anything inappropriate, and we have not done anything inappropriate," says Jackson, who has served as president of the Brooklyn college for 17 years. Most of MEC's students are firstgeneration college students. Ninety-four percent are Black and 76 percent are women. In recent years, the college, like many academic institutions across the nation, has had a difficult time retaining Black men.

To counter the problem, the college created the Male Development and Empowerment Center four years ago to offer workshops and other programs aimed at helping its Black male students graduate. Services offered by the center include a monthly meeting to encourage male-to-male communication, financial seminars to help Black and Hispanic men learn money-management skills and career workshops that introduce students to various professional industries.

"We don't discriminate on the basis of race. Any student who wants to participate in any activity on our campus is welcome," says Jackson, adding that he came to MEC, located in a working-class section of the city, with a strong desire to save AfricanAmerican men. …

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