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Queens College Faculty Refute the Administration’s Decision to Suspend Academic Programs

CORRECTION 6/23/21: This article has been edited to correct an inaccuracy. The article previously stated that “academic departments” would be suspended, when, in fact, the suspensions and changes applied to academic programs.

Following the shutdown of many popular academic programs at Queens College (QC) last year, three QC professors filed a formal complaint directed to Members of the Academic Senate Executive Committee, alleging that the QC administration violated its authority. 

The complaint was founded on a varying interpretation of QC’s academic policies. Per the letter, as it pertains to the closure of an academic department, that responsibility lies solely within the QC Academic Senate, otherwise known as the curriculum government on campus: “Our complaint is simple. The Provost and designees, cannot by administrative fiat alone, end a program as appears to have occurred with Irish Studies, American Studies, Journalism, or simply end all program support, and course releases for running Labor Studies, or threaten to eliminate ‘low enrolled’ programs such as Latin American and Latino Studies 7-12 BA, or Chemistry 7-12 BA that are actually part of a larger composite. Any such actions must have a curriculum review process.”

QC Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Elizabeth Hendrey, responded that the (now) suspended programs were targeted due to low enrollment and insufficient student interest: “There are several factors involved in maintaining academic programs at the college, such as enrollment numbers, overall class size, and the availability of faculty members to lead them. In the case of our Journalism, Irish, and American Studies programs, sufficient student interest was not demonstrated. . . . Journalism — and other programs mentioned — has not been deregistered with the hope that the program can be revamped to generate more student interest.”

Some students who were previously enrolled in (now) suspended programs are facing growing uncertainty. QC Senior and English Major, Bruna Alison Ragona, had only three courses left to complete before achieving her BA in Journalism. She says the administration’s decision to place the journalism program on hiatus was bewildering: “Before they canceled the program entirely, the department emailed me along with other students enrolled in the program–stating that we would be the last class graduating with a Journalism degree. I was sad to hear that the program would come to an end, but I was relieved that we’d still be able to continue working towards our BA in journalism. Shortly after, the department sent us another email, stating the program was coming to an end altogether. All of a sudden, what they had initially informed me about (being able to complete the program) went out the window.”

As students and faculty hope for these suspended programs to return to QC, select students may be eligible to pursue their degree through registering for necessary courses at other CUNY campuses, via the CUNYFirst ePermit process. Students who were previously enrolled in QC’s journalism minor may pursue QC’s Fall 2021 writing minor, which albeit English-based, will feature some journalism-related courses. According to QC Provost Elizabeth Hendrey, “depending on its popularity, the journalism component [of the writing minor] could be expanded.”

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