For almost a year, the CUNY Pathways initiative has plagued the faculty, administrators and student leaders at all of CUNY’s 23 campuses. It has been at the center of controversy, however, it has been relatively non-existent to the people who stand to lose the most, your run-of-the-mill student.
But why has the central offices of CUNY been trying so hard to keep this quiet? Shouldn’t they be singing its praises to all the students of CUNY letting them know how “great” it is since the Chancellor and trustees are so adamant about its swift implementation? Or, is there a reason behind this that is not being openly publicized so that it slips under the radar?
The reason it has been flying under the radar is because it does more harm than good, and is being forced on us for all the wrong reasons.
In a nutshell Pathways was a creation of chancellor Matthew Goldstein designed to create a common general education structure across every campus to fix the transfer problem between CUNY colleges. However, it’s not as good as it sounds.
First of all its adoption was illegal and against CUNY by-laws because it by-passed the University Senate, the body in which all curriculum matters are supposed to go through first. And when just about all faculties in CUNY pushed back and said that it was the wrong move, the Chancellor was hostile and pushed it ahead on its aggressive timeframe with an iron fist. What he failed to realize is that the transfer problem was not so complex that it required a complete overhaul of every college’s general education, but was actually so minor that it only required a little bit of communication between all the colleges to perform some minor tweaking, on a select few classes.
Now we are being subjected to a mandated curriculum that dumbs down everyone’s general education on all fronts. For instance, foreign language and reading literature courses have been deemed unimportant. ENGL 110 here at QC will go from four credits to three credits, which means students will lose an entire hour of special attention to their writing, which means that they would possibly be at risk for struggling with their essays throughout the rest of their college career because they were not able to get that one hour of extra help that could have made all the difference. Science classes will also go from four credits to three credits (unless you’re a science major), which means that you will still have the two credits worth of lecture and the one credits worth of recitation, but no lab, which means that any lab experience will have to be limited to an in-class demonstration.
A three credit science course with no lab will make us “non-standard” which means that sure, within CUNY it will transfer seamlessly, but if you want to transfer from CUNY to another College/University like SUNY or a private institution, there is a 100 percent chance that you will not get credit for those science classes. And I know this because I am a member of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.
But you may be thinking, “well why don’t you and your curriculum committee just not adopt that credit structure? After all we are our own college in the CUNY system.” Well his Lordship, the CUNY Chancellor, strictly said that we can impose nothing more than three credits for general education. And defiance is out of the question, since our friends in the English department at Queens Borough Community College tried that, and now will have their entire department dissolved, meaning that QCC students will have to take their required English courses at another CUNY campus as of Fall 2013.
It’s ironic how a system designed to make college life at CUNY colleges easier is actually making it more inconvenient, and Pathways hasn’t even gone into effect yet!
So what are we doing here at QC to prepare for the coming of this abomination? Well in the Academic Senate, we have made it our primary goal to take this overbearing and overly restrictive curriculum and make it into something as worthwhile as we can by way of responsible and well thought out implementation.
There have been many problems along the way and there will sure be more, but we have an amazing faculty and some outstanding administrators, and as a student leader I can tell you we are working diligently with them to make sure that QC does not lower its standard of education because we are being forced to. At the same time we are gearing up to negotiate with the chancellor to make some tweaks to Pathways such as restoring four credit science courses and advocating alongside the PSC, a professor and faculty union, for its total abolition, but only time will tell if our efforts will be successful or in vain, for now we must be vigilant in its implementation and creation of Pathways certified courses.
Michael Bento is a senior at QC majoring in history and anthropology. He is the Chief Advisor for Academic Affairs in the Student Association and a candidate for Deputy Chairman of the Academic Senate as well as an Undergraduate Curriculum Committee member.