CUNY dean quits after less than a year, citing workload and racism

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The dean of City College’s architecture school has thrown in the towel after less than a year on the job, citing a “crippling workload” and racism.

Lesley Lokko, an architect who is also a best-selling author of erotic “bonkbuster” fiction, took the helm of the college’s Spitzer School of Architecture in December 2019.

She called her exit a “profound act of self-preservation.”

“The lack of meaningful support — not lip service, of which there’s always a surfeit — meant my workload was absolutely crippling. No job is worth one’s life and at times I genuinely feared for my own,” Lokko said in a statement to Architectural Record.

Lokko, who is of Scottish and Ghanaian descent, said in the statement that race also played a role. She was previously the director of the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, which she founded in 2015.

“Race is never far from the surface of any situation in the U.S. Having come directly from South Africa, I wasn’t prepared for the way it manifests in the U.S. and quite simply, I lacked the tools to both process and deflect it. The lack of respect and empathy for Black people, especially Black women, caught me off guard, although it’s by no means unique to Spitzer,” she said.

Lokko, whose salary is $230,000, is set to depart in January.

She has written eight novels filled with love affairs and steamy plot lines since 2004, including “A Private Affair” and “One Secret Summer.” She once told an interviewer that she “enjoyed writing the sex scenes. It’s great fun!”

Lokko declined to elaborate on her statement about City College, saying she did not want the attention to her departure to be an added distraction.

“Student morale is at an all-time low, not just at Spitzer, but the loss of leadership makes it particularly difficult,” Lokko said. “My focus is on making sure their educational experience is as fulfilling as possible under these tough circumstances.”

This is not the first time race has become an issue among administrators at Harlem’s City College, the flagship school of the public City University of New York system.

In June 2018, Michele Baptiste, the college’s diversity dean who is black, said she became the third administrator to be fired by Vincent Boudreau, the school’s president, in recent months. One of those let go was black and the other Hispanic.

In another dean departure, Dr. Maurizio Trevisan, who headed the medical school, quit in February 2010 over a budget dispute.

Boudreau, in a statement, said Lokko wanted to implement “a vision of a new and reimagined architecture curriculum.”

“We would have been thrilled had she been able to see these changes through to their completion, but have accepted her resignation with deep regret,” he said.

Meanwhile, Spitzer students, in a letter to Architectural Record, said Lokko should have “better incorporated” their needs and desires.

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