UFS Executive Committee Response to Communications from Former Chancellor Matthew Goldstein To the AAUP on Pathways General Education Reforms
Several memos have been exchanged between the AAUP and the CUNY Chancellery concerning the Pathways Initiative and matters of academic freedom and shared governance.
Many of former Chancellor Matthew Goldstein’s statements about this subject are inaccurate or misleading; furthermore, many portray the CUNY faculty in an unfairly negative fashion. The most recent communication is that of June 21, 2013 in response to a communication by AAUP official Robert Kreiser, who called the Chancellor’s attention to the “Resolution in Support of Faculty Control of Curriculum at the City University of New York” adopted at the AAUP Annual Meeting on June 15, 2013.
On behalf of the CUNY faculty, we are responding to the most significant statements in Chancellor Goldstein’s June 21 letter. A point-by-point response by one member is also available.
On CUNY Faculty
Despite Chancellor Goldstein’s claim that the Pathways Initiative was faculty driven, no University-wide or campus faculty organizations or governance bodies were the initiating or driving forces behind Pathways, nor have any been supportive of Pathways at any time.
Despite Chancellor Goldstein’s claim that “. . . a bare majority of the full-time faculty voted against Pathways, thereby demonstrating what we already knew — that the faculty is divided on the issue,” the overwhelming majority of the faculty is opposed to Pathways. Over 92% (3,996) of the more than 60% of eligible full-time faculty (4,322) who participated in a no-confidence vote cast their vote against Pathways; this referendum was organized in 2013 by the Professional Staff Congress and conducted by the American Arbitration Association.
Statements by the Chancellery implying faculty support for Pathways are misleading. Even when faculty members worked on developing or revising courses for the Pathways curriculum, they did so under implicit and, sometimes, explicit coercion. Many faculty who worked on the Pathways curriculum at their colleges report that they did so because they believed they had no other option, because they were told and believed that if they did not do so administrators or outside consultants would create the courses, or because they were threatened in some way. Some of those on the most influential of the curriculum committees have recanted their positions and many have signed statements opposing Pathways. The use of coercion and threats on some campuses to secure faculty cooperation has been reported on in local and national press.
Furthermore, many CUNY faculty bodies, academic councils, and governance organizations have issued statements either critical of or unambiguously opposed to Pathways, or both.
In his June letter and elsewhere, Chancellor Goldstein claims that with regard to undergraduate transfer problems, “Until recently, faculty governance bodies did not even acknowledge the problem, much less propose any solutions.” This assertion is false. The UFS adopted resolutions and held a University-wide conference on this topic. The UFS participated in the approval of University policies from 1965 to 1999 that addressed transfer issues. In fact, despite explicit instruction in 1999 by the CUNY Board of Trustees to the Chancellery to enforce these University policies, no action to do so was taken by the Chancellery. These Board of Trustee resolutions had been posted on the CUNY website but have recently been removed by CUNY; nonetheless, they can be found at the UFS website here and in the original Minutes of meetings of the Board.
The Chancellery’s assertions about alleged faculty inaction on transfer issues is one way the Chancellery justifies its decision to bring policy recommendations to the CUNY Board of Trustees without faculty involvement, approval, or support. Indeed, Chancellor Goldstein claimed that “Clearly, action was required by the Board of Trustees and the Chancellery, which possess a university-wide perspective and are not primarily answerable to a particular college or department, to break this logjam and put the legitimate interests of the students first.”
On Excess Credits
The Chancellery asserted that Pathways was necessitated because of problems with student transfer and claimed that its data support the need for unilateral action. However, the data does not, in fact, support the Chancellery’s claims and, to the contrary, indicate that Pathways will have little or no impact on the existence or size of any excess credits when students graduate with a baccalaureate degree. This is the case because such excess credits are mostly due to students’ change of major, sometimes several times; students’ transfer from outside the University; students’ decision to double major and to have multiple minors; students’ late selection of a major; and personal interests.
UFS Chair Terrence Martell of Baruch College, in his report, The Real Motivation For Pathways? It Can’t Be Transfer, posted Dec 5, 2012, explains that
If you subtract the mean of excess credits not related to transfer from the six CUNY related transfer categories and weight each of the six by the number of graduates in each category in the chart, the number of excess credits attributable to transfer is 2.66 credits! All the controversy, all the threats, all the law suits, all the negative impact on faculty morale and governance, all “The Improving Student Transfer at CUNY” is about less than one course! CUNY is eviscerating the core curriculum of 17 community and senior colleges in the name of improving student transfer at CUNY when we are talking about less than one course.
See, also, the PSC/UFS report “Where is the data?” For another perspective as to the true driving force behind Pathways, see the article “Austerity Education: The Real Agenda of Pathways” by Barbara Bowen, PSC President.
Furthermore, the Pathways Initiative and its dismantling and revision of General Education at every CUNY college, even those whose General Education programs won national awards or whose General Education programs were revised within the previous years, do not address students’ accumulation of credits.
Pathways will not significantly reduce the number of students’ excess credits nor will its reform of general education best serve the students of the University. Pathways will not even resolve or remove all the other problems connected with transfer. Instead, it weakens the academic preparation of CUNY students for lifelong learning and professional advancement throughout their careers and undermines the faculty’s respect for the Chancellery and for the CUNY Board of Trustees.