The following letter from PSC President Barbara Bowen was sent to members on 2/19/14.
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 at the PSC office for assistance in signing up to speak or send in testimony.
The cracks in CUNY’s Pathways armor are the result of three years of determined resistance, especially the 92% vote of No Confidence in the referendum among full-time faculty last May. (That vote continues to resonate; it was referenced as recently as today’s New York Times article on CUNY’s incoming chancellor.) The opposition to Pathways has been so clearly and forcefully stated that the CUNY administration is being forced to respond.
In the first of the recent victories, the December 12 arbitrator’s ruling, the issue was whether the union contract allows the PSC to file a grievance against Pathways. The CUNY administration asked the arbitrator to dismiss the grievance altogether, arguing that the faculty role in governance or curriculum issues does not constitute a “term or condition of employment,” and is therefore not subject to the contract or its grievance procedure.
The arbitrator disagreed. “By their very nature, faculty duties and responsibilities with respect to curriculum development and implementation, as well as issues of academic freedom, are important elements of faculty terms and conditions of employment at an institution of higher education,” she concluded. The ruling was procedural, and did not address the merits of the union’s case. But it means that the union’s arguments can now be heard—something CUNY management tried to prevent.
The second victory was the change in the Pathways structure announced in a February 3 memo from Interim Chancellor William Kelly to CUNY college presidents and deans. There will no longer be a three-hour limit on Pathways courses (though the three-credit limit will remain). Kelly also said that henceforth, faculty on the Pathways Common Core Course Review Committee “will be chosen through college governance processes.” The committee cannot change Pathways rules, but its restructuring marks the first time that the CUNY administration has assigned any decision-making on Pathways to an elected faculty body.
We now have some new openings on Pathways, and next Tuesday’s City Council hearing is an important opportunity. The hearing represents the first time a legislative body with oversight responsibilities for CUNY has held a public meeting on the Pathways curriculum. The hearing is your chance to speak to elected officials, who will be there specifically to hear what Pathways means for CUNY students. CUNY central administration will also be there, and will present its point of view. We need to be there in numbers to share our experience as the faculty and staff who work with CUNY students every day.
The City Council Committee on Higher Education hearing on Pathways is Tuesday, February 25 between 10:00 and 2:30. If you can’t testify, but can attend all or part of the hearing, please come; your presence will send an important message. Contact Sue DelGiorno to let us know you will be there or would like to testify. Further details will be forwarded to you in the next few days.
The outcome of the Pathways fight depends on the conversion of our individual or local rejection of Pathways into a collective public struggle. Next Tuesday’s City Council hearing is an opportunity to do exactly that. Please join me in continuing the fight.