Pathways, CUNY’s plan to impose new rules on general education and transfer, is in growing trouble across the University. Implementation of the plan has slowed as a number of college governance bodies have refused to approve Pathways courses, and there are now questions about whether CUNY can have Pathways courses in place by Fall 2013, as originally planned.
More faculty bodies at CUNY have come out in support of a moratorium on further Pathways implementation, and a petition backing a moratorium has won national support.
On December 4, 2012, the University Faculty Senate (UFS) joined the call for a moratorium, in a resolution approved by a vote of 63 to 3, with two abstentions. “As the implementation of Pathways has progressed to each subsequent stage, the flaws of the Pathways curriculum have emerged more and more clearly to the faculty who will be teaching these courses,” the resolution says. As a result, faculty at several campuses “have declined to act to approve courses” that are tailored for the Pathways framework.
Time to Hit ‘Pause’
Pointing out that the CUNY Trustees’ 2011 Pathways resolution states that the policy must be regularly reviewed “beginning in 2013,” the UFS called on the Chancellery “to begin the required review in January 2013” and to conduct it collaboratively with the UFS. Until that review is concluded, the UFS said, the Chancellery should observe a moratorium “on all further implementation of Pathways.”
On December 6, 2012, the Queens College Academic Senate endorsed the UFS resolution, and the Bronx Community College Senate followed suit the same day. BCC’s moratorium resolution was approved by a vote of 33 to 12, with 7 abstentions.
In lower Manhattan, BMCC’s Academic Senate raised the ante with its own vote on November 28, 2012. It, too, urged a CUNY-wide moratorium – and then enacted a moratorium of its own. “Be it further resolved,” the BMCC resolution said, “that the Academic Senate of BMCC participate in the moratorium by not acting on any Pathways courses or Pathways curriculum changes” until a committee of the college’s senate has conducted its own review and reported back by April 24, 2013.
Baruch’s Faculty Senate unanimously approved a resolution on December 6, 2012 that took aim at the way the Pathways process has attempted an end-run around CUNY’s elected faculty bodies, bypassing them in favor of ad hoc, administration-appointed panels.
“At Baruch College, curricular governance, including the development of new courses and programs, resides with the autonomous faculties at each of [its] three schools,” the resolution declared. It took note of the college administration’s recent creation of “an ad hoc committee to facilitate curricular coordination,” and allowed that this committee might play “a mediating role” between the schools. But since the ad hoc committee “has no governance authority in curricular development,” the resolution insisted that the college must “suspend the ad hoc committee's Pathways-related curricular development, because this work circumvents the governance authority of the faculty.”
Also in early December, an energetic organizing effort at Queensborough Community College demonstrated the depth of QCC faculty opposition to Pathways. On December 5, 2012, 170 QCC faculty attended a special meeting on whether to hold a college-wide referendum on restoring an earlier QCC moratorium on Pathways actions, which had been in effect until a controversial vote at the college’s senate in mid-November. The vote at the special meeting favored such a referendum by 130 to 30. But while the lopsided margin left little doubt about how QCC faculty feel, it fell short for procedural reasons.
QCC’s bylaws say that a faculty meeting of this type must include at least 25% of faculty members eligible to vote to have a quorum, which works out to around 94 people. But while total attendance far exceeded this threshold, college administrators insisted on applying the standard of New York’s open meetings law, which requires the presence of 50% plus one. By that yardstick – rarely applied in the past – attendance at the meeting was deemed insufficient.
The referendum proposal also came before QCC’s Academic Senate, in a meeting on December 11, 2012, with a roughly similar outcome. Though supporters of the referendum had a majority of votes cast, they were three votes short of a majority of the entire Senate membership, which was required.
The powerful turnout at the faculty meeting has nonetheless had a lasting effect. “People really felt energized by the faculty meeting,” said PSC Chapter Chair Judith Barbanel. “It was the largest we’ve had in years, and it changed the atmosphere.” QCC faculty, she said, are still determined to stop Pathways from going into effect.
The vote at BMCC followed the example of Brooklyn College, where the senate has refused to take action on Pathways courses since the spring. And earlier this fall, Pathways-compliant courses were voted down by college senates at Hostos and LaGuardia Community Colleges, while the College of Staten Island’s senate backed the moratorium call.
In different forms on different campuses, faculty opposition and resistance to Pathways has been growing during the Fall 2012 semester. With Spring semester beginning soon, it is hard to see how the Pathways curriculum can be securely in place by Fall 2013.