Hundreds of thousands of New York City newspaper readers learned of the CUNY faculty’s opposition to Pathways in March when the PSC ran a series of half-page ads in the front section of The New York Times.
The ads ran each day from March 18 to 21, alternately featuring Blanche Wiesen Cook, distinguished professor of history at John Jay, and Manfred Philipp, professor of chemistry at Lehman and former chair of the University Faculty Senate.
Headlined “Protect The Quality of a CUNY Education,” the ads highlighted some of Pathways’ most destructive features – less time in writing classes, reduced foreign language study, basic science courses without lab work. Instead of helping students graduate by providing more academic support, the ads carry the message that Pathways saves money by lowering academic standards.
Voices of Reason
“I teach at CUNY because I believe a quality education should be within the reach of every New Yorker,” Cook says in the ad. “I stay because I am inspired by my students.”
“Many of my students are first responders and veterans,” Cook told Clarion. “They deserve the very best education we can offer.” A critically acclaimed biographer of Eleanor Roosevelt, Cook has taught at John Jay since 1968.
“It was an effective ad. Everybody I spoke with responded positively to the message and the layout,” said Philipp, a Fulbright Senior Scholar and a holder of numerous biomedical patents. Philipp, who has taught at Lehman since 1977, said he participated in the ad because of the harm Pathways will do to both students’ education and faculty governance.
“Pathways may be the beginning of a longer-term deterioration of curriculum,” Philipp said. “It removes control from the elected representatives of the faculty. Once 80th Street has control, they can do whatever they want.”
The text at the bottom of both ads read “Listen to the faculty, CUNY: Don’t sacrifice quality.” (See full text at tinyurl.com/PSC-Pathways-ads.)
The CUNY administration responded with full-page ads of its own in The Times and the Daily News, which highlighted endorsements of Pathways from former presidents of Princeton and Cornell.
“Harvard is not doing Pathways. Johns Hopkins is not doing pathways. Princeton is not doing Pathways. Cornell isn’t doing Pathways,” observed Cook, who completed her undergraduate studies at Hunter. “Why should CUNY degrade its standards?”
Worded in general terms, the administration ads did not respond to the criticisms of Pathways’ effects on writing courses, the study of foreign language, or lab work in science education.
CUNY’s counter-ad did not impress faculty and staff at City College, said Alan Feigenberg, union chapter chair at CCNY. “People said, ‘Did you see that? CUNY must be getting desperate to take out a full-page ad in the paper’,” Feigenberg told the March 21 Delegate Assembly.
Media coverage of Pathways increased in the wake of the dueling advertisements. The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a major feature on Pathways that accurately reported faculty concerns, and PSC President Barbara Bowen was interviewed by WNYC and the Village Voice.