Ballots will soon be mailed to full-time CUNY faculty in a vote on a no-confidence motion on the Pathways curriculum plan. The vote is being conducted by the American Arbitration Association, at the request of the PSC.
Ballots may be cast between May 9 and May 31 in any of three ways: (1) returning a paper ballot by mail; (2) voting online; (3) casting a vote by phone. Those voting by phone or online will use security codes included in the ballot mailing.
The vote comes at a key time for CUNY, with long-serving Chancellor Matthew Goldstein stepping down, and Interim Chancellor William Kelly, head of the CUNY Graduate Center since 2005, about to take over.
“This vote is an opportunity to send an unequivocal message to the new administration we will soon have at CUNY,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen. “This vote is a chance to let them know in no uncertain terms that the curriculum CUNY seeks to impose is strongly opposed by the faculty – by those who do the work of teaching at City University. A clear ‘no-confidence’ statement on Pathways will come at a strategic time.”
Three Ways to Vote
Bowen urged everyone who receives a ballot to be sure to cast their vote, by whichever of the three methods they prefer. “Click, call, or check the box,” she said. “Be sure you don’t leave campus at the end of the school year without recording your opposition to Pathways.” (See page 11 for more.)
In the face of faculty opposition to the curriculum plans, CUNY college administrators have been increasingly open in their violations of campus governance rules in pursuit of Pathways implementation. On March 12, the Brooklyn College Faculty Council voted to censure its administration for “making curriculum changes not approved by the College’s faculty.” It cited the announcement by BC’s provost “that, at the direction of Executive Vice Chancellor Alexandra Logue, he has submitted 19 courses not approved by Faculty Council for Brooklyn College’s participation in Pathways,” and condemned “this breach of the College’s governance plan.”
The Faculty Council emphasized that BC’s governance plan states that the faculty is responsible for formulation of policy on curriculum. “Nowhere in the governance plan is responsibility for curriculum assigned to any other body,” noted the college’s PSC chapter. “Our Faculty Council has twice passed resolutions that condemn Pathways.”
The conflict at BC deepened after the March 12 meeting, when a college dean said that the BC administration would refuse to forward Faculty Council curriculum proposals to CUNY Central if the college administration disagreed with them. But BC’s governance plan states that it is the responsibility of the college president to “transmit to the chancellor recommendations of his/her faculty or faculty council on matters of curriculum and other matters falling under faculty jurisdiction.” That’s true for all faculty recommendations, wrote the Faculty Council Steering Committee – not just those with which the administration happens to agree.
Rule of Law?
This dispute was not about Pathways; rather, it arose over an English department proposal to change most of its courses to four credits. But the episode highlighted how the attempt to push Pathways through at any cost has endangered faculty authority over curriculum across the board.
“We seem to be living in a lawless environment, where local college presidents impose arbitrary decisions and the chancellery makes things up as they go along,” said Anne Friedman, a member of the University Faculty Senate Executive Committee. Friedman noted that for her own college, Borough of Manhattan Community College, the CUNY Pathways website lists 80 courses as “approved” for inclusion in the Pathways Common Core – but only about 10% of these have been so approved by the BMCC Academic Senate.
“Some of the courses have never been put to a vote by the relevant departments,” Friedman wrote. Instead, “the BMCC administration has made curriculum decisions unilaterally, sending new courses or course revisions directly to CUNY Central. Faculty members are unclear about the criteria our president has used to send unapproved courses to 80th Street.”
On April 24, BMCC’s Academic Senate responded by adopting a new moratorium resolution on Pathways by a vote of 57 to 22. An earlier moratorium, which affirmed that the Senate would not act “on any Pathways courses or Pathways curriculum changes” while a committee of the college’s senate conducted its own review, was set to expire on the same day the new moratorium was adopted.
“In bypassing governance procedures, administrators tacitly admit a truth they have tried not to acknowledge: the CUNY faculty, as a body, does not accept Pathways,” commented Friedman, who is vice president for community colleges at the PSC. “Pathways is in trouble because it was an ill-conceived plan to begin with, and because of widespread and ongoing resistance in college governance bodies.”
One sign of Pathways’ problems is that the deadline for submitting courses has been extended twice, with the latest deadline set for June 30. Those delays have prompted the administration to again extend the life of its Common Core Course Review Committees – a move that sparked renewed opposition. A UFS resolution in mid-April said that these unelected committees “have wrongly usurped the role” of the UFS and college senates in relation to curriculum, and voiced concern that the administration would try to make these committees permanent. The UFS voted to oppose the “extension of these extra-governance curriculum committees, and call for a permanent end to them.” Similar resolutions were approved by the Baruch College Senate and others.
“We should ask ourselves, how much control of our profession we are willing to cede to administrators,” commented Friedman. As CUNY faculty considered a no-confidence vote in Pathways, that question was on many people’s minds.