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.
“Pathways threatens to gut the CUNY undergraduate degree in order to enhance graduation rates. This proud institution, which has served so many so well for so many years, is in danger of becoming the symbol of the ‘pretty good’ or ‘good enough’ education,” testified Susan Jacobowitz, a professor of English at Queensborough Community College.
Saavik Ford, a professor of astronomy at Borough of Manhattan Community College, described how Pathways’ limits have affected science education. “At BMCC, pre-Pathways, our liberal arts majors took two science courses, each with a rigorous lab, each for five hours per week. Now they take two science courses, only one with a lab, each meeting for only three hours per week. Our students deserve more than three fifths of a science class,” said Ford.
Nivedita Majumdar, professor of English at John Jay College, told the Council, “[Pathways] means students could graduate with a bachelor’s degree without ever having taken a literature or a history course or without any training in a foreign language or reduced time in science labs. Our students are denied the intrinsic value of a good education.”
In her testimony, Majumdar cited a PSC referendum conducted by a neutral third party last spring, in which 92% of voting faculty said they had “No Confidence in Pathways.” More than 60% of CUNY’s full-time faculty participated in the vote.
Pathways reduces the number of credits that colleges can require under “general education,” the classes all students must take to graduate. Faculty members reported that the new system has forced some CUNY colleges to eliminate foreign language requirements and has interfered with making lab sessions a routine part of introductory science instruction.
“Under Pathways,” added Jonathan Natov, professor of mathematics at New York City College of Technology, “we face the challenge of having diluted degree requirements.” In his own program in applied mathematics, Natov said, “Essentially the problem is that bachelor of science degrees can no longer specify courses in the common core. The result is that specified upper-level courses are replaced by lower-level unspecified courses,” Natov explained. “Surely the intention was not to lower the standards of a Bachelor of Science degree, but that is the result.”
“Pathways is wrong for our students, it represents a betrayal of CUNY’s mission, and we will continue our resistance,” concluded PSC President Barbara Bowen.