The future path of CUNY students: No mas foreign languages per favore

YAISY MENDOZA Special to the AmNews | 12/20/2012, 1:51 p.m.
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But Charles Coleman, York College professor of Cultural Diversity, said that Pathways could be very damaging to language education. "When you're taking away foreign courses in conjunction with other liberal arts courses like cultures and ethnic studies--things that help you to understand people and different cultures--I think it's a bad thing," said Coleman.

Coleman was one of the 30 faculty members who spoke about Pathways at the public hearing of the CUNY Board of Trustees on June 18. At the hearing, he said, "Pathways will not only end cultural diversity as a required study at York, it will also lessen the value of the 'Understanding Cultural Diversity' course itself. We need that class time for students to interact, to confront their own ethnocentrism and to learn firsthand about understanding and working with people of different cultures."

Rex Butt, professor and interim chair of modern languages at Bronx Community College, also gave his testimony concerning the Pathways Initiative at the public hearing saying, "Pathways certainly pays attention to science, technology and cultures, but foreign languages have been, at best, an afterthought."

Butt also explained that when his department asked for clarifications, they received "a confusing, self-contradictory response, from Executive Vice Chancellor Logue in late January."

Going even further than confusing staff, Aranzazu Borrachero, associate professor at Queensborough Community College, told Clarion, the CUNY faculty union newspaper, "We were repeatedly told that if we don't accept the three-credit, three-hour plan for our elementary courses, we will lose our jobs."

According to Clarion, the college's curriculum committee also declined to consider any proposals that professors submitted that lacked departmental approval.

Consequently, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union that represents CUNY faculty and staff, called for a moratorium on Pathways and, according to the PSC website, the union is carrying a campaign called "Repeal Pathways," claiming that students deserve a real solution to the problem of transfer and that Pathways isn't it. By Nov. 8., the Faculty Senate of the College of Staten Island started supporting this call. Now, the PSC is encouraging faculty members to sign a petition calling for a moratorium and to forward it to colleagues nationally and internationally, with a personal invitation to sign.

"CUNY's educational mission is under attack. Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and the CUNY Board of Trustees, led by Benno Schmidt Jr., are trying to impose a diluted system of general education," wrote the president of PSC and Terrence Martell Chair of the University Faculty Senate in the petition. "Pathways," that seeks to save money at the expense of students' learning."

To enforce this moratorium, the union has also filed two lawsuits to stop CUNY Pathways. The first was filed on March 20, charging that Pathways violates a settlement agreement reached in 1997 among CUNY, the PSC and the University Faculty Senate. The agreement states that the CUNY faculty, through the FSU and the college faculty, are responsible for changing policies on the curriculum. The second lawsuit was filed in August 2012, arguing that the administration's efforts to implement Pathways is in violation of New York's Open Meeting Law.

Debbie Bell, executive director of PSC, wrote in an email, "The grievance also claims violations of our members' academic freedom and discrimination based on membership in the union and lawful activity on behalf of the union."