On February 25, the City Council’s higher education committee held its first hearing on CUNY’s controversial Pathways curriculum. Faculty members warned that the narrower, administration-imposed curriculum is damaging the quality of students’ education. Read more.
Message From Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, and Terrence Martell, chair of the University Faculty Senate
February 24, 2014
The PSC received the decision by Judge Anil Singh on CUNY's motion to dismiss the lawsuit contesting the original Pathways resolution passed by the Board of Trustees in 2011. Judge Singh decided in favor of CUNY's motion to dismiss.
We are disappointed in the decision, but we are fully prepared to appeal. We maintain that the initial Pathways resolution was passed in violation of the law and feel confident that our position will eventually be upheld.
Nothing in the legal decision changes the terrible impact Pathways is having on our students or the importance of our collective fight for a curriculum that offers a meaningful college education. The sustained commitment to academic quality by the faculty and staff has already forced the CUNY administration to implement significant changes in the Pathways structure, as announced in CUNY's February 3 memo. And the New York City Council has signaled its interest in oversight on Pathways by convening a hearing on the subject, to be held tomorrow, February 25, at 10:00 at City Hall. The shift in terrain on Pathways is the result of faculty and staff organizing.
Expect to hear from CUNY management about the legal decision, but keep in mind that the legal and political fights are far from over. Just two months ago an arbitrator denied a related effort by the CUNY administration to have the PSC's grievance on the implementation of Pathways dismissed. The Professional Staff Congress and University Faculty Senate continue to work together on Pathways, and the union will now be able to present its case at the arbitration hearing. Pathways is wrong for our students, it represents a betrayal of CUNY's mission, and we will continue our resistance.
Thank you to all who have supported this first stage of the legal fight; please join us in standing up for our students and for the bedrock principle of educational justice.
President, Professional Staff Congress/CUNY
Chair, University Faculty Senate
Speak Out on Pathways at 2/25/14 City Council Hearing!
The terrain is shifting on Pathways. The union’s sustained fight has begun to produce results. Two months ago, an arbitrator concluded that the union contract does cover faculty rights on curriculum, and ruled that the PSC’s grievance on Pathways must be heard. Two weeks ago, CUNY central administration announced the first significant changes to Pathways: the cap on course hours in the Common Core has been lifted, and some role is now being given to elected faculty bodies.
Now the New York City Council has convened a public hearing to gather testimony on Pathways: the hearing is next Tuesday, February 25, between 10:00 and 2:30. Don’t miss the chance to speak out about how Pathways has affected CUNY students; contact Sue DelGiorno (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the PSC office for assistance in signing up to speak or send in testimony.
The CUNY central administration has finally begun to listen to the majority of faculty about Pathways. Changes to the new core curriculum will begin in Fall 2014, according a memo from Interim Chancellor William Kelly. The memo outlines the changes to Pathways that are the result of a review required by the Board of Trustees resolution that established the program. The memo announces an end to the three-hour limit on general education courses and says that faculty serving on the committee that reviews general education courses based on Pathways rules will be “chosen through college governance processes.” It also encourages colleges to seek waivers from Pathways rules whenever “a major or degree program cannot be accommodated.” The 30-credit limit on the colleges’ general education core curriculum will remain in place. The changes are consistent with demands for greater autonomy for CUNY’s colleges and respect for faculty’s expertise on curriculum that have been central to the PSC’s Repeal Pathways Campaign.
The announced changes are a testament to the power of faculty organizing, but the fundamental premise of Pathways is still wrong. Pathways still represents an illegal usurpation of faculty power and the 30-credit limit on core curriculum still threatens the quality and breadth of a CUNY education. The union will continue to oppose Pathways and will continue its demand for a thorough and unbiased review of the Pathways policies and processes.
Contract Rights Upheld in Pathways Grievance
CUNY management was defeated in its attempt to block consideration of a union grievance on the way the University implemented Pathways, and has been told in no uncertain terms that faculty’s curricular duties are terms and conditions of employment covered by the PSC’s contract. The ruling was issued on Friday by an independent arbitrator of a grievance filed by the PSC. CUNY had petitioned for the grievance to be dismissed, arguing that issues of governance are not covered by the PSC contract and cannot be challenged by the PSC. The petition to dismiss was an attempt to narrow scope of the contract, and was soundly rejected by the arbitrator. Read more.
No Austerity Contract! No Austerity Education! Rally
Two hundred PSC members joined a union rally at the CUNY Board of Trustees meeting at Baruch College Monday, September 30. Faculty and staff demonstrated inside the Board meeting and in the street outside Baruch to reiterate the union’s refusal to accept an austerity contract for its members or an austerity education for CUNY students. A fair contract, quality education for CUNY students and action in response to the 92% No Confidence in Pathways vote were the union’s demands of the CUNY Board. See photos from the event.
Testimony Demanding Action on the No Confidence Vote
Testifying before the CUNY Board of Trustees at the first public hearing of the academic year, PSC President Barbara Bowen called on the Board to act on the 92% vote of No Confidence in Pathways conducted last spring. "There is now no question as to whether Pathways has the support of the faculty," she said. "No number of glossy brochures quoting former private college presidents with little knowledge of CUNY can prove otherwise." Read the full testimony.
Demanding an Unbiased Review of Pathways
The June 2011 Board of Trustees resolution that established Pathways mandates annual reviews of all pathways policies and processes, beginning in 2013. The resolution is silent on who will conduct the review and how it will be conducted. In An Open Letter to Chairperson Schmidt on the First Annual Review of Pathways, dated August 15, PSC President Barbara Bowen demanded an unbiased, faculty-driven review of the curriculum.
“An unbiased review is especially important in the context of a vote of No Confidence,” Pres. Bowen said in the letter, which also took Chairperson Schmidt to task for failing to provide a substantive response to the demand represented by the No Confidence vote. “The CUNY community and the broader public will not accept as legitimate a review process controlled by those who have an interest in maintaining Pathways over the objections of elected faculty bodies. The reviewers must be independent and the process transparent.” Read the full letter.
AAUP Resolutions on Pathways and Shared Governance
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) passed two important resolutions that relate to Pathways at their June 2013 national meeting. The first resolution acknowledged the clear-cut result of the No Confidence in Pathways vote at CUNY and reaffirmed AAUP’s opposition to Pathways. It was unanimously passed. (Read it here.)
The second resolution recognized a template for future presidential searches developed by the AAUP’s New York State Conference. Called the “Profile for 21st Century President,” the document affirms the right of faculty to participate meaningfully in the selection of new presidents and codifies rights that faculty members have under the principles of shared governance, including the right to "define and shape all new academic and curricular initiatives." Here's an article from Inside Higher Ed about the template.
92% VOTE NO CONFIDENCE IN PATHWAYS
A Message from PSC President Barbara Bowen
The results of the referendum of No Confidence in Pathways are in: 92% voted No Confidence in Pathways. The vote is a stunning rebuke to the Pathways curriculum and the coercive measures used to impose it.
More than 60% of the 7,202 eligible voters in the referendum among full-time faculty voted—a remarkable rate of participation. A total of 4,322 votes were cast: 3,996 agreeing with the statement of No Confidence in Pathways, and only 323 disagreeing (there were 3 void ballots). The high percentage and high turnout mean that an absolute majority of the full-time faculty has expressed No Confidence in the University’s basic curriculum.
It should be clear now, if it was not before, that CUNY should not move forward with Pathways. A 92% vote of No Confidence is a mandate for change. With a new interim chancellor about to take office, and Chair of the Board Benno Schmidt’s term soon to expire, the moment is right to repeal and rethink Pathways. The result of the referendum empowers us at a critical moment.
Thank you to everyone who voted in the referendum, whatever position you took. Every vote was important. And thank you especially to the hundreds of full-time faculty, part-time faculty and professional staff who worked in support. Together, we held thousands of conversations, person-to-person, about the future of the University. The connections we made with each other will be important as we continue to press for academic quality for our students and fair working conditions for ourselves.
Equipped with this landslide vote, we can take the campaign to a new level. We will be poised to continue the fight in the fall, when we will also draw on the power of our work on the referendum to launch an intensive campaign for a fair contract. Congratulations to all on a historic vote.
President, Professional Staff Congress/CUNY
Scheduled to begin in the fall of 2013, Pathways is a university-wide revamp of CUNY’s general education curriculum—a policy governing the number and types of classes all students must complete. It was enacted by the CUNY Board of Trustees with the supposed purpose of smoothing transfer between CUNY colleges. The real agenda behind Pathways, as President Barbara Bowen has shown, is about spending less per student and graduating more students in a shorter time at lower cost. Thousands of CUNY faculty oppose Pathways because it diminishes the quality of a CUNY education.