The PSC is taking the case against CUNY’s Pathways curriculum to the New York State Regents, warning that Pathways “reduces the academic requirements of the general education curriculum.” Both the PSC and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) urged the Regents, who oversee New York public education at all levels, to closely scrutinize Pathways and examine its damaging effect on CUNY’s academic standards.
“Pathways in its current form [is] a mechanism for diluting the curriculum and shortchanging CUNY students,” wrote Mike Fabricant, the union’s treasurer and a professor of social research and policy at Hunter College, in a February 2013 letter to NYS Regents’ Chair Merryl Tisch. Fabricant met with members of the Board of Regents in Albany in February 2013, sparking a discussion of Pathways in the Regents’ subcommittee on higher education. In that discussion, Regents questioned whether they had jurisdiction to evaluate Pathways; NYSUT and the PSC responded that they are in fact required to do so by State education law.
The union’s letter emphasized the strong opposition to Pathways from faculty across CUNY, expressed in petitions, resolutions and calls for a moratorium on the Pathways process. “Colleges where governance bodies have refused to approve courses for the Pathways curriculum include Brooklyn, Baruch, Queens, BMCC, Bronx Community College and the College of Staten Island.” And in late February 2013, LaGuardia Community College joined their ranks.
In addition, statutory governance bodies at Hostos Community College, Lehman and Medgar Evers have not approved all Pathways courses that were submitted by their colleges’ administrators.
LaGuardia’s College Senate endorsed a moratorium on Pathways decision-making at its February 2013 meeting, by a margin of more than three to one. “It had been discussed for hours at several previous Senate meetings,” the chair of LaGuardia’s PSC chapter, Lorraine Cohen, told union delegates on February 28, 2013. In addition to faculty, “students criticized Pathways and were extremely articulate,” Cohen said. When the February vote was held, the result was 23 in favor of a moratorium, seven against and no abstentions.
”The Senate then refused to consider any courses or program frameworks that were developed specifically for Pathways,” Cohen said. “They simply would not consider it,” she reported, to delegates’ applause.
Cohen said she was encouraged that some members of the Senate who had voted against previous moratorium proposals decided to change their votes. “They came over to me and said, ‘You know, I thought about this. I voted against it, but then I went home and asked myself, ‘How could I do that?’ And they changed their votes.” One-to-one conversations with Senate members bore fruit, Cohen said: “Enough people changed their votes so that we had a really solid victory.”
A January 28 memo from Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost Lexa Logue asserted that “the colleges have submitted” over 1,800 Pathways courses to CUNY central administration for review. Logue did not, however, repeat the claim of her December 17 letter to the Modern Language Association (MLA) that “all specific Pathways courses have been proceeding through traditional mechanisms of faculty curricular development and governance.”
“If someone tells you that 1.800 courses have been legitimately approved by some form of college governance, that is a lie,” Fabricant told PSC delegates on February 28, 2013. “Governance structures have repeatedly been bypassed in one form or another.”
When governance bodies have declined to approve Pathways compliant courses, college administrators have forwarded Pathways Flexible Core course proposals to 80th Street on their own.
In the PSC’s letter to the Regents, Fabricant details the harm that Pathways will inflict on general education at CUNY. “Many introductory English composition courses have lost 25% of their classroom hours,” the letter notes. “The required lab elements of introductory science courses have been severed from the courses, to be taken separately, even in a different semester. Foreign language classes are [also] limited to three classroom hours,” and at many campuses, “only one semester of a foreign language is required.”
“Although Pathways is described by the CUNY administration as a tool to ease student transfer, it does not address the main obstacles to student transfer and is, in truth, about expediting movement to graduation,” the union letter contends. “More rapid movement to degree completion is a laudable objective. However, such an outcome should not and cannot come at the expense of academic standards. To create an ever-narrower, proscribed, standardized academic experience that more rapidly moves students to degree completion cheats students of a quality educational experience – especially low-income students and students of color, who disproportionately come from struggling high schools.”
In sum, the letter explains, “The faculty’s broad-based rejection of Pathways results from a desire to maintain high standards and a quality education at CUNY.”