posted 2011-11-30 16:22:03

CUNY-wide General Education Framework To Take Effect

Faculty clamors over “Pathways,” which they believe will devalue education at CUNY 

KIMBERLY DEVI MILNER

Staff Writer

CUNY’s recent push to unify general education across the colleges in an initia- tive called “Pathways” has left many Hunter professors and faculty outraged.

The CUNY board of trustees, which published a draft of the 30-credit “Com- mon Core” on Oct. 31, argued that a uni- fied general education framework would remove many of the hassles transfer students face when they are confronted with different graduation requirements at their new college. They cited that transfer students often lose credits or have to take additional courses because of the dispar- ity between college requirements within the CUNY system. Under the Pathways initiative, colleges would adopt the Com- mon Core and have an additional 12 cred- its to define further degree requirements.

However, many faculty in senior col- leges believe that such a drastic overhaul of general education requirements will water down courses and erode college’s in- dividual character. “There are faculty who are concerned their academic freedom is being impinged,” said Sandi Cooper, chair of the University Faculty Senate (UFS).

After a two week period given to assess the proposed CUNY-wide framework, college presidents were invited to submit responses on behalf of their college. Most colleges were critical of the draft, particularly upset with the elimination of a foreign language requirement. “This exclusion of foreign languages appears especially egregious in a cosmopolitan, multi-national city like New York,” John Jay College’s statement read. The New York City College of Technology and City College, which offer technical majors like architecture and engineering, said Path- ways also had the potential to interfere with the sequence of classes and specific requirements that they required.

It has a brand name. It sounds like a supermarket. So it took a while for it to hit people as to how devastating it was going to be” said Sandor John, adjunct assistant professor of History.

In a joint meeting of the Faculty Delegate Assembly (FDA) and CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress (PSC) last week, John said opposing Pathways was connected to student mobilization. John asserted that the college should protect students’ right to protest in movements like Occupy Wall Street, harkening back to a previous age of CUNY protest and activ- ism. John emphasized that Pathways was not an improvement to CUNY’s academics.

“It’s like the budget cuts. They say they can provide more services with less,” said Professor John. “They make it sound rational. Who’s against rational things?” The real goal of Pathways, many speakers claimed, was to get students through college more quickly and cheaply – not to improve CUNY’s academic rigor. In fact, most departments and colleges feel that the initiative does the opposite.

Mathematics Professor and Senate Ombudsman W. H. Williams stated that this is a national trend, “This is not unique to Hunter but has happened in many states. College faculties are not controlling cur- riculum the way they once did,” he said. And as universities all over the country try to cut expenses, “it may be a move- ment that’s hard to stop – movements like Pathways.”

PSC is currently filing a lawsuit against the board of trustees for a breach of CUNY Bylaw 8.13, which identifies the shared governance with the UFS in for- mulating policy on curriculum. “The Path- ways process involves the biggest change in curriculum at CUNY since the elimina- tion of remedial courses in the senior col- lege,” PSC president Barbara Bowen told The Clarion, “Yet this important change is being designed by a committee that is handpicked by the chancellor.”

Just an hour after the PSC and FDA meeting, a few floors lower in Hunter west, the Hunter Senate voted unanimously to reject Pathways on “pedagogical, intellec-

tual, and legal grounds.” President Raab’s comments were submitted to the Pathways committee and are published on CUNYs website. Some of her suggestions included encouraging stu- dents to take two courses from the com- mon core in the same department, setting a 60-credit limit for the number of classes students can take at the 100 level, and to continue using Hunter’s 4.5 lab course to fulfill the science common core.

Similar suggestions were proposed by the senate’s GER subcommittee at a prior senate meeting, but were unpopular with many faculty members who saw these suggestions as acquiescing to the board of trustees.

While Pathways has been buzzing on the Hunter listserv within the past month, very few students are aware of it. “The administration won’t advertise those changes that affect everyone,” said Hunter senior Kirstine Jungkroth, president of the Internationalist club. Faculty petitions emphasize that CUNY has never been an institution de- signed to simply turn out cheap degrees. CUNY has, for decades, been a place that students could go to get a high quality education at reasonable costs, and many fear that Pathways could be the end of that legacy.