By Sam Bojarski
Eight months after threatening to resign in the wake of a misunderstanding with Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, Dr. Jean Eddy Saint Paul has stepped down from his role as founding director of the Haitian Studies Institute at Brooklyn College.
Saint Paul had served in the role since August of 2016, the same month he was hired by Brooklyn College as a tenured sociology professor. He had previously taught sociology for years as a professor at Universidad de Guanajuato, in Mexico. The search for a new director of the institute should begin within months.
According to Yolette Williams, president of the Haitian American Alliance, the Haitian Studies Institute has been a source of pride in the Haitian community over the past four years.
“It was a place where our culture could be celebrated, (where) the community could come together, where our history could be researched,” she said.
The Institute is committed to promoting scholarship on Haiti and advancing an understanding of policies that impact Haiti and its diaspora. It has sponsored numerous events, including an annual symposium on Haitian Creole and a lecture on the Battle of Vertieres that occurred this past November. More recently, the Institute sponsored a virtual conference, “COVID-19 and the Health of the Haitian Community in New York City,” in May.
Dr. Carole Berotte Joseph first initiated the process of starting the Haitian Studies Institute when she was president of Bronx Community College, in 2012. She helped build faculty support within the CUNY system that houses Bronx Community College and Brooklyn College, while also building support among New York’s Haitian community. The process of founding the institute took about four years, noted Joseph, who is now retired.
Once Saint Paul took over, Joseph met with him to provide files and background information on the Institute. She also tried to offer support when needed. Joseph told the Haitian Times that Saint Paul was often less than forthcoming with information, particularly about plans to establish an advisory committee.
While Saint Paul certainly faced obstacles, including minimal budget support and the challenge of being new to CUNY, she said communication could have been better.
“I think it didn’t get off the ground the way it should have,” Joseph said.
Although she had heard rumors, Joseph said she was surprised to hear of Saint Paul’s resignation.
Saint Paul declined to comment on his resignation from the Haitian Studies Institute and directed questions to Brooklyn College staff.
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