The strong “no-confidence” vote on CUNY’s Pathways curriculum at the end of May sent a clear signal about the depth of faculty opposition to the plan. Now the PSC is alerting legislators to the consequences for students’ education as Pathways takes effect this Fall. Within the University, the union is calling for a review of Pathways that is independent, thorough and transparent.
In a June 21 letter to Board of Trustees Chair Benno Schmidt, PSC President Barbara Bowen wrote that the American Arbitration Association’s ballot count showed a 92% vote of no confidence in Pathways, with more than 60% participation, in the referendum among full-time CUNY faculty. “An absolute majority voted no confidence,” Bowen wrote. She called on CUNY to repeal Pathways and work with elected faculty representatives on an alternative general education plan.
That call won the support of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) at its annual meeting in Washington. “Pathways...has failed to win the confidence of faculty who must implement it,” said a resolution adopted by AAUP delegates in June. “Faculty control of the curriculum is essential for academic quality,” it said. Instead, “the CUNY administration has circumvented elected faculty bodies and college governance.”
The result has been a poorly thought-out plan that does not serve students well, concluded the AAUP: “Pathways reduces academic quality and rigor at CUNY by introducing basic science courses without lab sessions, decreasing requirements for foreign language study, and replacing academic disciplines with vaguely defined interdisciplinary fields.”
Looking toward the Fall, the PSC is urging elected officials to be alert to impact of Pathways on the quality of students’ education. “They should seek information on the consequences of such a major change at New York City’s public university,” Bowen said. “When problems emerge, they can call for appropriate solutions – and they can insist that those solutions be formulated, as specified in CUNY’s bylaws, by the elected faculty bodies.”
And public officials are starting to listen. Brooklyn City Councilmember Letitia James, currently a candidate for public advocate, has introduced a council resolution on the pitfalls of Pathways and the need for public attention to its consequences. Pathways is getting some scrutiny in the mayor’s race as well.
If Pathways is not repealed, the PSC says that the review of the program in its first year, required by the trustees’ 2011 Pathways resolution, must be independent and the process transparent. “The most important thing is that the members of the evaluation committee must not be, and must not be exclusively appointed by, those who created Pathways in the first place,” Mike Fabricant, PSC Treasurer, told Clarion.
“The review must not be chaired by a CUNY administrator,” agreed Bowen, adding that faculty governance bodies must select most of the panel’s members.
Governance and Union
“Whether or not management agrees to such guarantees,” said Fabricant, “faculty can and should be highly involved in the assessment of Pathways across the University. Governance structures and union chapters can act collectively to assess what Pathways looks like on their campus to date.”
“For example, union chapters could convene a town hall meeting where faculty, staff and students talk about their experiences with Pathways in practice. We can ask what quantitative data should we perhaps collect, even if the University does not” Fabricant said.
“Our intention is to make sure that faculty and students are vigilantly monitoring the implementation of a program that puts the quality of a CUNY education at risk,” he concluded. “It is our students’ future that is at stake.”