Respect for Three Administrators at Brooklyn College

I spend virtually all of my time here bashing CUNY administrators, so I feel it incumbent upon me to acknowledge their contributions when they come. As it happens, this year Brooklyn College is going to be losing three administrators whom I’ve come to have a great deal of respect for: Karen Gould, our president; Natalie Mason-Kinsey, our Director of Diversity and Equity Programs; and Mel Pipe, our Acting Assistant Provost.

I’ve known Mel as both a fellow member of the faculty—she was professor and chair of psychology—and as the Acting Assistant Provost. What I really appreciated about her was her steadfast dedication to excellence and professionalism. Over the years, Mel has set a high standard of expectations for other chairs like myself, as well as for the faculty, and she worked tirelessly, and skillfully, in this past year as acting assistant provost to get Brooklyn College through a series of hoops.

I’ve worked with Natalie on several faculty searches and have consulted her on other matters. At every step of the way, she managed to balance the bureaucracy’s almost pathological need for documentation and pseudo-proceduralism with excellent judgment and common sense. I’ve seldom met someone at CUNY who is as on top of their game as Natalie is. I don’t think I ever was in a meeting or phone conversation with her where she wasn’t completely prepared, totally in command of the facts, ready to give sage advice, and one step ahead of me. She was no-nonsense, tough, and also extraordinarily gracious and professional. Working with her was a joy.

Karen and I have tangled over many issues. We’ve disagreed more than we’ve agreed. We’ve had some very heated conversations. But on a couple of key issues—some public, some not so public—she showed tremendous courage and determination, taking stands that were not only the right thing to do but that also tangibly improved life on campus. Even though there are mounting pressures on college presidents to remove themselves from the on-the-ground needs of the faculty and students, I found Karen to be willing, when she felt the issue warranted, to dig in and commit herself in ways I’ve never seen other college or university presidents do. Again, we disagreed about a great many things, but in academia, talk is cheap. Professors like to take stands and positions. Karen did more than that: she took risks, she made sacrifices, often at great cost to her reputation and peace of mind, and no amount of disagreement I might have with her decisions can diminish the respect and admiration I have for that.

These three women made life better—in some critical respects—at Brooklyn College. I’ll be sorry to see them go.

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