CUNY becomes tobacco-free (37102)

The battle over Pathways, a controversial initiative allowing students to transfer a Common Core–or general-education–credit among CUNY colleges keeps getting hotter.

The Common Core consists of 30 credits that all CUNY undergraduate schools will share. Additionally, all associate-degree students who transfer to baccalaureate degree programs will be required to complete 12 College-Option general-education credits.

The Board of Trustees of the City University of New York accepted the resolution to create this transfer system in June 2011, and the initiative will be implemented in fall 2013. In late October of this year, the York College Senate also voted to approve CUNY Pathways. In the case of York College, 12 credits (Required Core) will cover English, math and sciences, and 18 credits (Flexible Core) will combine courses in five areas, such as world cultural and global issues, U.S. experience and diversity, creative expression, individual and society, and scientific world.

Astoria Dones, a sophomore nursing student at York, said if she wanted to go to 10 different CUNY Schools, each one of them should take all her credits. “No matter what they [credits] came from, as long they came from any CUNY School,” Dones said. “CUNY only cares about money.”

While the administration argues that having a Common Core among CUNY campuses will help transferring students to complete their degree without delays, several CUNY professors disagree with Pathways’ implementation, saying that it will diminish the quality of CUNY education, including foreign-language learning.

That is because foreign languages are not included in the Common Core. In a letter explaining the initiative, the chair of the Pathways Task Force, Michelle Anderson, wrote that the Steering Committee declined to require foreign languages study because all CUNY campuses don’t uniformly require them in their general education curricula, and including foreign languages in the required core would decrease

flexibility for the campuses. However, she also wrote that the committee won’t prevent a college from requiring up to two courses in foreign languages as part of a student’s first 30 credits of general education, which is currently a common requirement.

“Foreign languages are currently not a requirement in the CUNY Pathways curriculum but are offered as one of the options at the Flexible Core level for World Cultures and Global Issues,” said Fabiola Salek, chair of the foreign languages department at York and the vice president of the CUNY Council on World Language Study.

Fabiola added that the requirement currently is from zero to eight credits, but under Pathways, York non-transfer students will be required to take zero to six credits in foreign languages as a part of the college option. On the other hand, students still can place out and thus be exempt from taking a foreign language.

“The majority of the senior colleges recognize the value of foreign languages,” Salek said. “York is one of those colleges.”

Nacilia McCarthy, a Jamaican international transfer student majoring in communication technology at CUNY, agreed that Pathways is a great idea.

“People from foreign countries learn English, and even if they don’t know how to speak well, they can read it, they can write it,” McCarthy said. “We need to have a second language, but it should definitively [at the Flexible Core].”

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.”