During the 1975 -1976 economic and political crisis, for the first time in its more than one hundred years of serving New York City and in spite of student and faculty protests, CUNY imposed tuition at the University and downgraded the status of several schools. While many schools later gained back their original status, MEC President Richard Trent and his administration accepted the change. Medgar became a community college with six baccalaureate programs whose worth was thus made questionable. The deal angered the community, faculty, and students who saw it as a betrayal of the intent of the founders.
In April 1982 these tensions erupted into a full-scale uprising. Students had numerous complaints ranging from their perceived mistreatment in administrative offices to their concern over the lack of Black Studies at the College. They took over the President’s office and drew up a list of demands that were later submitted to the Board of Trustees. These demands included: the removal of President Trent; the renewal of senior college status; the creation of Black Studies and Women Studies and an Honors program; funds for an expanded library; the creation of a Women’s Center; and the development of day care to help the 75% female population.
The students were supported by some faculty, staff, and community members, and he Student, Faculty, Community Coalition to Save Medgar Evers College was created. The Coalition made it clear that they wanted a president who understood the mission of the College and insisted that they were willing to continue the struggle. The threat of police removal of Coalition members from the President’s office and a possibility of violent confrontation forced the Coalition to engage lawyers who took the case before the Brooklyn Supreme Court. The Coalition gained a historic victory that granted them the right to remain peacefully in the President’s office.
The protest lasted 110 days. President Trent left; among other victories was establishing a day care center in what had been his office.
Location: MEC History case