School of Extended Learning VP on leave after controversial comments

File+photo+of+City+College%27s+west+campus+on+March+17%2C+2020.

Nate Stephenson

File photo of City College’s West Campus on March 17, 2020.

Jacob Frank, News Editor

Joyce Coleman, vice president of City College’s School of Extended Learning, has been placed on paid administrative leave over controversial comments allegedly given at an Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 23. 

Superintendent-President Utpal Goswami made the announcement early yesterday morning in a campus-wide email, stating that Coleman will be on leave while the college conducts an investigation that could last at least a month.

“My sincere apologies to all the people who were deeply hurt by the comments,” Goswami said in the email.

Coleman, who was hired last November, allegedly made racially insensitive comments about the experiences of Asian American communities—just two weeks after the Academic Senate passed a resolution addressing the rise of discrimination against Asian Americans and its effect on students.

In a subsequent interview, Goswami said complaints were filed against Coleman after the March 23 meeting, which prompted him to meet with the committee members to determine whether action needed to be taken.

“I was surprised, yes,” Goswami told The Channels. “That’s why I want to get to the bottom of this.”

“We aspire to be a welcoming and equitable community,” Goswami said in his email. “That requires us to hold ourselves to high standards and work towards building a community that supports each other.”

Michael Shanahan, the chair of the committee, said there is no recording of the meeting, but they are committed to working through these “difficult and painful” issues.

“At this time, I can’t go into any details other than to say that several attendees to the meeting were hurt and disturbed by comments made during the meeting,” Shanahan said in an email to The Channels. “We take those feelings seriously, and Dr. Goswami has begun conversations with the involved individuals.”

The issue was also brought up during the campus climate town hall on Thursday, as part of a conversation about transparency.

Roxane Byrne, interim coordinator of equity, diversity and cultural competency, said that after giving the committee an update on developments in support of the Asain American community after the resolution, Coleman responded in a “terrible” way.

According to Byrne, Coleman allegedly referenced Japanese internment camps, diminishing the experience of those held captive in comparison to African American slaves.

Goswami met with the School of Extended Learning staff on Friday, and plans to meet with the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders affinity group and Coleman  separately in the near future. 

“We aspire to be a welcoming and equitable community,” Goswami said in his email. “That requires us to hold ourselves to high standards and work towards building a community that supports each other.”

Coleman did not respond to The Channels’ request for comments.

Editor-in-Chief Ryan P. Cruz contributed to this article.