The PSC is preparing a lawsuit against CUNY’s “Pathways” process that is overhauling colleges’ general education and transfer requirements.
“We do not take this step lightly,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen, “but we listened to faculty across the University and concluded that the way this process bypasses faculty governance goes right to the heart of our responsibilities as faculty members. That’s why we have begun to prepare litigation.”
“The PSC does not take a position on which courses should be part of general education or required for a major,” Bowen noted. “But we do take a position on respecting the University’s governance procedures, and a strong position in support of the role of elected faculty bodies.”
The Pathways process involves the biggest change in curriculum at CUNY since the elimination of remedial courses in the senior college, Bowen said. “Yet this important change is being designed by a committee that is hand-picked by the chancellor,” she told Clarion. “This bypasses the role given to the University Faculty Senate in CUNY’s Bylaws, and it bypasses the faculty senates on each college campus.”
While individual faculty members on this committee may be distinguished and may have the best intentions, Bowen said, “the fact remains they were selected by the Chancellor, the very person to whom they will report. They were not chosen by their peers.”
As the PSC Delegate Assembly pointed out in a resolution it adopted in June, Article 8.13 of CUNY’s Bylaws identifies the University Faculty Senate’s role in formulating policy on curriculum. The resolution declared that CUNY’s Pathways process “violates both the spirit and letter of Bylaw 8.13 and the principle of shared governance.”
No faculty governance body has supported the Pathways process. Resolutions opposed to the administration’s plan were adopted by faculty bodies at 11 of 12 senior colleges and at Queensborough among the community colleges. Pathways has come under continuing criticism as it moves forward this Fall.
The Executive Committee of CCNY’s Faculty Council said in September that it “strenuously objects to CUNY Central’s circumvention of the faculty’s historic authority with respect to curricula.”
In an October statement at Hunter, 26 department chairs and program directors declared, “While we recognize the need to address the issue of student transfer policies, this proposal as implemented will reduce the overall quality of a CUNY education and will erase the identity of its individual colleges.”
“It’s really demoralizing for faculty,” said Glenn Petersen, chair of the sociology and anthropology department at Baruch. “We’ve dedicated our careers to creating an education for our students that will serve them well, and 80th St. is unilaterally taking that apart.”
Some of CUNY’s procedures or ways of thinking about academic success may have been due for a shake-up, Petersen said – but “that’s a debate that should be had among faculty,” not imposed by central administration.
On October 31, the Pathways Task force released a draft of the new general education rules – the criteria for courses that are to be part of a college’s “Common Core.” Comments are due by November 15, a time frame that many faculty felt was inadequate for the serious discussion that this initiative should be promoting.
A frequent topic of concern in campus discussions on the criteria has been their restrictive effect on language requirements. “In an increasingly globalized world,” said the Hunter chairs’ and directors’ statement, “we do not see how CUNY can justify eliminating foreign language requirements and imposing curriculum changes that undermine the value of pluralism and diversity.”
As the general education changes were debated, the Pathways process moved on to other areas. Manfred Philipp, professor of chemistry at Lehman and a union delegate, told Clarion the centralization of authority through Pathways will ultimately give CUNY administration control over key classes in each department. New committees have been appointed to decide what introductory courses can be required for a given major.
“They are not elected, they are appointed,” emphasized Philipp, a former chair of the UFS. “This takes control of the major itself out of a department’s curricular committee. These people will actually decide which courses can be required for your department’s major – and that is a fundamental change in how this University operates.”