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Testimony Demanding Action on the No Confidence Vote

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TESTIMONY OF THE PROFESSIONAL STAFF CONGRESS/CUNY

CUNY BOARD OF TRUSTEES HEARING

SEPTEMBER 23, 2013

Delivered by Dr. Barbara Bowen

Good afternoon, members of the Board of Trustees, colleagues and students. As president of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, the union that represents the 25,000 faculty and professional staff who make this University work, I call on the Board to act on the 92% vote of No Confidence in Pathways conducted last spring.

In a vote counted last May 31, the full-time faculty of CUNY, by a margin of 92%, voted No Confidence in Pathways. Nearly four thousand full-time faculty—an absolute majority—voted No Confidence. The vote constitutes a demand by the full-time faculty to take the necessary actions to rescind the June 27, 2011 resolution, “Creating an Efficient Transfer System.” I am here today to call on you to take those steps and to cease attempting to dismiss the significance of the vote. The No Confidence vote at CUNY was understood by the faculty, by numerous professional organizations, by The Chronicle of Higher Education and others to be a demand for action; it’s time it be understood that way by the Board too.

Chairperson Schmidt’s response, to date, has been to attempt to dismiss the referendum as a “poll,” or to question its validity. I am here to call on you to reconsider that response. Failing to act on a vote of No Confidence by the faculty not only signals disrespect; it threatens to undermine the faculty’s commitment to the institution. One senior faculty member called the CUNY Administration’s imposition of Pathways “the greatest moral crisis at CUNY I have seen in thirty years of teaching here.” Do not compound the crisis by failing to respect our vote.

A vote of No Confidence, as you know, is not merely a statement of opposition. It is a demand that the subject of the vote be removed from a position of power and replaced by an alternative. Our demand—registered in the 92% vote of No Confidence—is that Pathways be removed from its position as CUNY’s general education curriculum and replaced by a curriculum or curricula formulated by elected faculty bodies. The elected faculty bodies stand ready to work expeditiously on the important issue of student transfer, and recognize the complexity of doing so when implementation of Pathways has already begun.

The No Confidence vote was conducted by secret ballot among the 7202 full-time faculty at CUNY from May 9 to May 31. The American Arbitration Association, the leading neutral organization in this field, stands by the results: 4322 voters, or 60% of the total, cast ballots; 3996, more than 92%, agreed with a statement of No Confidence in Pathways.

There is now no question as to whether Pathways has the support of the faculty. No number of glossy brochures quoting former private college presidents with little knowledge of CUNY can prove otherwise. A curriculum that has so dramatically failed to win the confidence of those responsible for executing it cannot be in the best interest of the University. I call on you to protect the interests of the University and the future of its students by acting on the vote and initiating a repeal of the June 2011 resolution.

This is the first time in the history of the University, as far as we can determine, that the faculty has voted No Confidence in the University’s entire general education curriculum. It is a moment to listen to the faculty of whom the CUNY administration is justly proud and resolve the public crisis of confidence in CUNY. We call on you to do so immediately.


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