Saturday, April 21, 2012

CUNY Pathways and Faculty Governance

Last Tuesday, the City Tech College Council, the faculty governance body for the college, passed the following resolution relating to CUNY Pathways (which I have blogged about here and here):

We in United States colleges and universities have, for the most part, a century of successful tradition behind the concept of faculty governance in the area of curriculum (in others as well, but I want to stick to the case at hand). Why? There are a number of reasons, including these:
  • It is only the faculty as a whole, not its leaders or representatives and certainly not those who handle the administration of the college or university, that sees the needs of education broadly enough to make useful and possible curricular policies. As both content experts and the front line of interaction with students, only the faculty is situated to effectively integrate these two critical areas.
  • Though the faculty has to operate within financial guidelines established by the administration, it is not beholden to funding sources the way the administration is. In fact, one of the reasons for faculty self-governance is that it allows the administration to distance itself from faculty curricular decisions, keeping funding sources aware of the necessity for independence. When it reaches into curricular debate, it narrows that distance, threatening the independence of education as a whole.
  • Faculty self-governance is in keeping with American ideals of participatory democracy, as opposed to systems of dictate from the top.
  • In contemporary America, education is coming to be a political topic, its agendas set far outside of our colleges and universities--far away from our elementary schools and high schools. Education itself becomes secondary to the political motivations surrounding it. Each time we allow forces from beyond the faculty to make decisions, any decisions, we weaken the strength of educators in deciding questions of education.
Pathways may be an attempt to meet a perceived need of bringing consistency to the various CUNY campuses, and it may be that the central administration believes that it is best situated to address that need, for it stands away from the individual schools. That, though, could be an opening for the administration to take on other tasks that have been left to the faculty in the past. Maybe the CUNY administration does not mean it to be that, but a door left slightly ajar can easily blow open--much more easily than one firmly shut. And the door against administrative involvement in curricular development should be kept bolted (it has not been, but that, again, is a broader concern than I am addressing here).

The City Tech College Council is not saying that the needs Pathways is meant to meet are not worthy, simply that the method is inappropriate--for all of the reasons I put forward above and for others... not the least being that Pathways is poorly designed and is being poorly executed.

As the College Council says, it would be best, at this point, to abandon Pathways and start over. The central administration, by backing down on this, would take an important step towards re-establishing trust between itself and the faculty--and would probably be able to set in motion a process toward curricular modification that would better meet student needs than the current Pathways ever will.

There's no force to the College Council resolution, which is itself unfortunate. But it does add to the voices of CUNY faculty rising up in response to Pathways, joining the Baruch College Faculty Senate, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty of City College, the Brooklyn College Faculty Council, the Bronx Community College pathways committee and more in expressing concern over the process of creation and implementation of Pathways.

Will the central administration respond to the concerns raised in a positive way? I hope so. It would be in the best interest of all of us involved in CUNY for it to do so.

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