Sunday, April 28, 2013

NY Times Letter: CUNY Chancellor's Tenure


CUNY Chancellor’s Tenure

To the Editor:

From inside the City University of New York, we have a more damning assessment of Chancellor Matthew Goldstein’s tenure than Eleanor Randolph’s recent encomium (“The Man Who Saved CUNY,” Editorial Notebook, April 21).
In fact, Mr. Goldstein’s initiatives lowered academic standards and restricted faculty autonomy, while black and Latino enrollment dropped. During his tenure, Mr. Goldstein’s total compensation doubled to well over half a million dollars, and top administrators’ salaries increased. Meanwhile, tuition has almost doubled, and more than half of CUNY classes are taught by adjuncts who make under $20,000 annually. Scandals proliferated, ranging from grade-fixing to presidential incompetence to gutting faculty governance, even as suppressing dissent has become policy, enacted in police assaults on peaceful protests at Baruch and Brooklyn College.
We call on the next chancellor to build a CUNY that publicly funds tuition, faculty autonomy, and a work force paid a living wage. We call on the CUNY administration to involve students, faculty and staff in choosing a chancellor who will make our university serve the public good, and put Mr. Goldstein’s abysmal legacy behind us.

New York, April 22, 2013
Ms. Adams, a CUNY Graduate Center student, and Ms. Nastasia, a Brooklyn College student, are writing on behalf of the CUNY Graduate Center General Assembly, Adjunct Project, Free University NYC and New York Students Rising.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Nation: California, CUNY and MOOCs

California, CUNY and MOOCs

The bill is packaged by its champions as a necessary measure designed to defend the best interests of a student body under siege. “We want to be the first state in the nation to make this promise,” said Darrell Steinberg, the State Senate president. “No college student in California will be denied the right to move through their education because they couldn’t get a seat in the course they needed.” Detractors, however, attack it as a top-down effort to allow private companies to profit from public institutions of higher learning—what some have labeled the University of Phoenixization of the U Cal system.

Whatever the outcome, this bill has direct implications for the City University of New York (CUNY) as well as other public universities nationwide. The debate in California arrives during a period in which CUNY’s public system has come under great strain from rolling budget cuts, privatization measures and major battles between administrators and faculty over curricular decision-making and control. The potential embrace of MOOCs could well contribute to further contention.

MOOCs are the latest craze in higher education’s push to reinvent itself. Offered by venture capital start-ups, these online courses generally feature a single teacher who lectures remotely in front of a video camera to hundreds, if not thousands, of students. Up until recently, these courses were offered free to those with an internet connection. Increasingly, however, colleges and universities—facing increasing enrollments and uncertain fiscal futures—are considering developing credit-bearing MOOCs, offered for a fee by private companies.

MOOCs have received considerable attention in the past year, including an endorsement from Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. “Nothing has more potential to lift more people out of poverty…Nothing has more potential to unlock a billion more brains to solve the world’s biggest problems. And nothing has more potential to enable us to reimagine higher education than the massive open online course, or MOOC, platforms that are being developed by the likes of Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and companies like Coursera and Udacity,” Friedman enthused.

Critics of MOOCs movement aren’t so sure. Richard Wolff, economist and Professor Emeritus at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, denounced Friedman’s championing of online mega-classes, noting that his columns constitute “another exercise in (1) finding a potential positive dimension of capital’s latest profit-driven move, (2) hyping it and (3) ignoring its contradictions, especially those that are negative.”

In The Chronicle, Rebecca Schuman pilloried Friedman’s MOOCopia as representing “nothing less than the creation of an über-oligarchy that is even more exclusive than the current state of academe—which is already elitist enough, thank you very much.” And memorably, in a first-person account of her experiences as a student in one of these courses, university dean at CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College, Ann Kirschner, reported her realization that “In a MOOC, nobody can hear you scream.”
CUNY has hardly been immune to MOOC mania. At the end of January, Chancellor Matthew Goldstein delivered a speech castigating universities for being stuck in their ways. The chancellor noted that “Nowhere is the notion of challenge to the established norms of instruction more apparent than in the explosion of attention to MOOCs and other alternative delivery models. [These] new models of delivery have the potential to change traditional instruction, financing, facilities and assessment models.”

Goldstein predicted that “Eventually, an institution may determine the curricula, governance and pricing to offer an entire degree through the existing menu of MOOCs. Students will pick and choose among professors from Stanford, MIT, Penn and universities across the globe…. But we are in the infancy of these developments, and more empirical research will be needed before we can answer basic questions about whether demand will result in a tectonic shift in the way we deliver content.” Goldstein’s enthusiasm for MOOCs fits squarely within his broader market-based understanding of education, and that’s why the California bill is so important to the future of CUNY.
The structure of SB 520 practically guarantees a cycle of demand and supply. Underfunding has rendered California colleges unable to meet student demand, the argument goes, which can be met by MOOCs. As MOOCs attract more and more students with their theoretically unlimited capacity, pressures to preserve education funding for regular classes might diminish, which at the very least will sustain consistent demand for more MOOCs.

The University of California Academic Senate issued a strong statement rejecting the proposed legislation. In an open letter, senate leaders wrote:

“Limits on student access to the courses this bill targets are in large part the result of significant reductions in public state higher education funding, especially over the last six years. Second, the clear self-interest of for-profit corporations in promoting the privatization of public higher education through this legislation is dismaying… Lastly, the faculty at the University of California…approves courses taught for credit at the University and reviews courses offered for transfer credit…There is no possibility that UC faculty will shirk its responsibility to our students by ceding authority over courses to any outside agency.”

In anticipation of the likely embrace of MOOC’s by CUNY administrators, faculties across CUNY should consider issuing a statement rejecting any possibility that MOOC’s will ever be welcome at the City University.

If the California State Senate bill is passed into law, precedent will be set for state university systems across the country. The CUNY chancellor and board of trustees will likely use such an outcome as a point of departure in advancing their vision of a university run on a model of corporate supply and demand. The best way to resist these pressures is to advance alternative visions for the future of our university—visions that include proper funding, freedom from private interests and meaningful community control.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

No Confidence in Pathways Referendum

April 25, 2013

Dear Colleague,

In a few days you will receive in the mail a secret ballot for a referendum on a motion of No Confidence in Pathways. Voting by secret ballot takes place from May 9 to May 31. I urge you to participate in the referendum and to vote in support of the No Confidence motion.

Why a No Confidence vote, and why now? Because this is the strategic moment to send a message to the incoming CUNY administration in a form they cannot ignore—and because the opposition to Pathways is so profound that it merits a No Confidence vote.

University faculties traditionally take No Confidence votes only when the future of the institution is at stake and when all other methods of registering opposition have been unheard. We are in that position now. More than 100 resolutions have been passed against Pathways, more than 5,000 people at CUNY have signed a petition calling for its repeal, both the University Faculty Senate and the PSC have registered their opposition, and several college governance bodies have voted for an outright halt—a moratorium—on any action on Pathways.

Yet the current CUNY administration plows ahead. Worse, they justify their adherence to Pathways in part by misrepresenting the faculty’s views. Despite overwhelming faculty opposition, CUNY’s reports on Pathways are studded with references to faculty support.

We know it’s not true that the faculty as a whole is in support of Pathways. But we need to make that clear in a form that the CUNY administration cannot ignore and about which they cannot lie. That’s why the union has taken the unusual step of initiating a secret-ballot referendum on a motion of No Confidence. The vote will be conducted by the American Arbitration Association through a secure ballot among all full-time faculty. Voting—which can be done through a website, by telephone or by surface mail—will take place between May 9 and May 31. All you have to do to vote No Confidence is click or check the box indicating that you support the motion. The text of the motion appears below.

CUNY is about to see a change of at least the two top management positions—interim chancellor and chair of the Board of Trustees. This moment of transition offers a chance to demand a rethinking of Pathways and a return to respect for academic freedom and faculty governance. A strong vote of No Confidence would send a message to the new administration that the faculty responsible for teaching the curriculum have no confidence in the curriculum that has been imposed. It would register the injustice of moving ahead with a curriculum that will hurt our students. It would constitute a public demand for change.

Many faculty over the past two years have taken courageous stands against Pathways, sometimes risking their jobs to do so. But too many faculty have been intimidated or coerced into remaining silent or voting against their conscience. A secret ballot, administered by the most respected balloting organization, eliminates opportunities for coercion. The American Arbitration Association will protect the secrecy of your ballot, just as it does in union elections and contract votes. You are free to vote for what you believe.

Pathways is not the only battle we will face as the “reforms” that have attacked the soul of K-12 education are visited on higher education. Pathways is about deprofessionalizing the faculty and consolidating administrative power at least as much as it is about a new curriculum. If we do not do everything we can now to challenge the deprofessionalization of the faculty, we can expect to see it take root and grow.

Take the opportunity that has been created by a change in administrators at CUNY to send a strong message. Take the opportunity to vote, from May 9 to May 31. After hundreds of conversations with faculty across the University, the other union officers and I have heard a profound lack of confidence—intellectual, professional and moral confidence—in Pathways. If that is your position, make it known by voting No Confidence. Whatever your position, vote in the referendum in May. Your voice should be heard.

In solidarity,

Barbara Bowen
President, PSC/CUNY


Faculty control of curriculum is essential for academic quality.

Faculty must formulate and oversee curriculum if the University is to retain its academic character. The CUNY administration has put academic quality at risk by circumventing elected faculty bodies and college governance in the development and imposition of Pathways. The Administration has further jeopardized educational quality—and violated academic freedom—by responding to legitimate faculty objections to Pathways with intimidation, threats and coercion.

Pathways reduces academic rigor at CUNY.

Pathways lacks academic integrity. It introduces basic science courses without lab sessions, decreases requirements for foreign language study, and replaces academic disciplines with vaguely defined interdisciplinary fields. As a curriculum designed to accommodate to underfunding, in part by centralizing administrative control, Pathways compromises CUNY’s historic mission. The City University of New York was founded to challenge existing inequalities of access to higher education. A curriculum that shortchanges students undermines that mission.

I have No Confidence in Pathways.


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Sunday, April 21, 2013

CUNY Board to Give Chancelor Golden Parachute

CUNY boss’ $weet goodbye

NY Post
April 21, 2013
CUNY is planning a golden parachute for Chancellor Matthew Goldstein.
Goldstein, 71, who announced last week he will retire in June, will be offered an undetermined salary for activities such as teaching a graduate math class, fund-raising or helping with special projects, said Benno Schmidt, chairman of the CUNY Board of Trustees.
“We’ll craft a special package for Matt,” Schmidt told The Post. “We definitely want him to stick around and be active. He’s in very good health and in a position to make a good contribution.”
Schmidt said the salary — the first for a retired CUNY chancellor — has not yet been decided.
“I expect to discuss it with Matt probably in the next few weeks and take some set of recommendations to the board, probably in our May or June meeting,” he said.
In a move seemingly tailored to Goldstein, the CUNY trustees in November 2011 added the title “chancellor emeritus” to its executive compensation plan, allowing the board to appoint a departing chancellor to a five-year stint.
Goldstein, a former math professor and president of Baruch College, currently gets $490,000 a year in salary, plus a $90,000 housing allowance.
Schmidt said the post-retirement salary would be less, but the board is “going to want to be on the generous side.”
“I think he’s been underpaid as chancellor, The board has wanted to give him raises. He has repeatedly refused raises.”
Goldstein’s salary ranked No. 68 among public college presidents nationwide, according to a 2011 Chronicle of Higher Education survey.

But Goldstein has other income. While chancellor, he has served since 2003 as a funds trustee at JPMorgan Chase & Co., which paid him $325,000 in 2011. Last December, the board overseeing mutual funds elected Goldstein its new chairman, a post that paid his predecessor $500,000 in 2011.
He is also entitled to a New York state pension.
Schmidt acknowledged that Goldstein’s post-retirement pay is likely to stir controversy among students and faculty members amid tuition hikes and budget cuts, but said private funds may subsidize the salary.


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Friday, April 19, 2013

Next Mayor to Pick Chancellor? PSC Mayoral Forum April 23

Dear Colleague, 
I am pleased to invite you to a mayoral forum focused on higher education—probably the only forum on higher education during this stage of the mayoral race. The event is organized by the PSC, and will take place this Tuesday, April 23, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College: 2180 Third Avenue, at 119th Street. Reserve your space by replying here.

Candidates for mayor Bill de Blasio, Adolfo Carrión, John Liu, Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson will be joined by journalist Tom Robbins as moderator. As an audience member, you will have an opportunity to propose questions for the candidates.

Chances are that one of the people who participates in this forum will be the next mayor of New York City. For the first time in many years, CUNY will have a new chancellor; the newly elected mayor will have a significant role in filling the post. What positions do the candidates take on the future direction of CUNY?  More centralization and Pathways? More restriction of academic freedom? MOOCs? Come and find out.

Come and hear, too, their positions on funding for and access to CUNY, and on retroactive raises for public workers—including ourselves. Space is limited; sign up now to attend.

One more reason—an important one—to be there on Tuesday evening is to show our strength.   The new mayor will not forget it if there is a packed house and an audience with an intense commitment to public higher education.

Don’t miss this chance to be part of an important discussion about the future of CUNY and the future of New York City: Tuesday, April 23, 7:00-9:00 PM at 2180 Third Avenue, (119th Street).
In solidarity,
Barbara Bowen
President, PSC

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Guest Post: BMCC Administration Makes Major Curriculum Changes Without Faculty Approval

by Anne Friedman
The CUNY Pathways website lists eighty BMCC courses “approved” for inclusion in the Pathways Common Core, including courses in or cross-listed with Computer Science, Developmental Skills, English, Ethnic Studies, Mathematics, Media Arts and Technology, Modern Languages, Music and Art, Science, and Social Sciences. But only about ten percent of these courses have been approved for Pathways curriculum categories by the BMCC Academic Senate. Some of the courses have never been put to a vote by the relevant departments. What’s more, several of the listed courses are phantoms: the Academic Senate has never approved their creation, let alone their inclusion in Pathways.
If the BMCC faculty’s elected senators have not approved most of these new Pathways-ready courses, then who has? The answer seems to be that the BMCC administration has made curriculum decisions unilaterally, sending new courses or course revisions directly to CUNY Central. Faculty members are unclear about the criteria our president has used to send unapproved courses to 80th Street.
What is evident, however, is that Pathways is in trouble. In bypassing governance procedures, administrators tacitly admit a truth they have tried not to acknowledge: the CUNY faculty, as a body, does not accept Pathways. Chancellor Goldstein claims that the June 27, 2011 Board of Trustees resolution justifies his unwavering insistence on implementing this new general education design, but in reality we seem to be living in a lawless environment where local college presidents impose arbitrary decisions and the chancellery makes things up as they go along. Never hesitant to claim by fiat what it can’t achieve following the rules, CUNY Central dodges faculty governance procedures even while it seeks the imprimatur of elected faculty governance bodies for its proposed curriculum changes.
Pathways is in trouble because it was an ill-conceived plan to begin with and because of widespread and ongoing resistance in college governance bodies. The deadline for submission of Pathways courses has been extended twice, most recently until June 30. The chancellery claims that Pathways will be implemented “starting in Fall 2013”—but it is clear that CUNY Central is far from being ready for the complete implementation of Pathways. With the expiration of Pathways’ initial Common Course Review Committees (CCRCs), Executive Vice Chancellor Logue has created new extra-governance committees to vet courses. While the first set of CCRCs had an end date (at first December 15, then February 25) the new ones may last indefinitely. According to a memo from Logue, 80th Street “will assess the performance of this new structure, as well as the projected future CCRC workload, to decide how to constitute the CCRC going beyond June 30, 2013.” So, another layer is added to the Pathways plan: the portent of permanent 80th Street curriculum committees that operate outside normal governance procedures. What will be the future role of these committees? No one seems able to say.
Many battle-weary BMCC faculty members have felt intimidated by the constant pressure to accede to Pathways, and some now feel insecure about the future of their courses. Nevertheless, we have remained steadfast in our commitment to do what is best for our students. Our administration continues to pressure department chairs to convince us to put through Pathways courses, and we must decide how to proceed once the Academic Senate’s current moratorium on Pathways implementation expires on April 24. Should the moratorium end, or should it be extended? Should departments offer to revise their courses to accommodate Pathways, or are there sound pedagogical reasons not to do so?
The mantra that Pathways is inevitable and that we should get with the program forces us to face crucial choices. The situation requires that we debate the pros and cons of complicity while gauging what the future is likely to hold. The potential for the new CCRCs to continue indefinitely should give us pause about continued violations of faculty primacy in determining curricula and graduation requirements. When the CUNY Central Office of Academic Affairs announces that it plans to develop “University-wide general guidelines” for “assessing general education outcomes,” we should ask ourselves how much control of our profession we are willing to cede to administrators. What does it mean to agree that present and future general education courses will be defined in terms of broad “student learning outcomes” rather than focusing on the development of disciplinary-specific knowledge? Are we willing to approve curriculum changes even if we think those changes might lead to problems in the implementation phase and might devalue our students’ education?
We all must continue to deliberate with the same seriousness and resolve that has brought us to this juncture. Pathways is in trouble and it is not a “done deal.” It’s not too late to speak up.
Anne Friedman is Professor of Developmental Skills at BMCC, is Vice President for Community Colleges at the PSC, and is on the Executive Committee of the University Faculty Senate.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Guest Post: Goldstein’s Legacy

By Costas Panayotakis

On April 13, Ariel Kaminer’s “Longtime CUNY Chancellor to Step Down After Pushing Higher Standards” reported on Matthew Goldstein’s decision to step down as chancellor of the City University of New York, one of the largest public higher education systems in the country and one of the most important educational institutions in New York City. (i) I do not claim in what follows to present a comprehensive or ‘objective’ assessment of Goldstein’s long tenure at CUNY. Instead, drawing on my more than 10 years of experience as a CUNY faculty member, I am offering what I feel is a needed corrective to Kaminer’s largely hagiographic account.

As the title of Kaminer’s article suggests, the reporter has bought into Goldstein’s and CUNY administration’s claim to have raised standards. In backing up this claim, the article quotes the statistics, provided by CUNY, about the SAT scores of students entering “CUNY’s top five four-year colleges – Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hunter and Queens.” While this line of argument is reflective of CUNY’s obsession with SAT scores, the reporter accepts it at face value without mentioning that SAT scores have been shown to be less reflective of a student’s potential for college success than her socio-economic background. It is for this reason that the trend among the most prestigious universities in this country is to place less rather than more emphasis on SAT scores. So as the prestigious universities that have long focused on educating the children of the economic elite are trying to increase diversity by moving away from biased indicators, CUNY, whose mission has historically been to provide educational opportunity to New York City’s underprivileged groups, has increased its reliance on such biased indicators. It is not surprising, then, that Goldstein’s policies have led to a reduced representation of black and Latino students in CUNY’s most competitive colleges. (ii) In fact, things have gotten so bad that, as a letter to the Editor of the New York Times has pointed out, “in 2011, the percentage of black freshmen at Baruch College (6 percent) was lower than that of Harvard University (7 percent), despite the fact that an overwhelming share of CUNY students come from predominantly black and Latino public high schools.” (iii)

Given its focus on ‘higher standards,’ it is also curious to read what the article has to say about the raging controversy over Pathways, the new CUNY-wide general education requirements that Goldstein and his Board of Trustees are trying to impose against the objections of the most appropriate people to make decisions on curriculum, namely faculty and their elected governance bodies. The article uncritically accepts CUNY’s stated rationale for Pathways, which is to “make it easier to transfer credits from one CUNY college to another.” This rationale has by now been thoroughly debunked by the research of a number of CUNY faculty, who showed that CUNY’s claims regarding Pathways were based on faulty research that overstated the transfer problems within the CUNY system. Its rationale debunked, CUNY pivoted into a claim that Pathways was not about transfer but about student choice. Such a claim seems even more absurd, given the fact that, before Pathways, students interested in CUNY could choose between the different CUNY colleges’ general education programs. If and when Pathways becomes implemented, students interested in CUNY will have to take a Pathways-based general education, no matter what college they end up attending.
However, the main problem with Pathways is not the dubious rationale offered by CUNY but the fact that it reduces academic standards, rather than raising them. At a time when, even before they enter college, American students’ performance in Math and science lags behind that of their peers in other advanced countries (iv), Pathways will reduce the exposure to Math, science and labs of students who pursue non-technical degrees. At a time when the world is going through its deepest socio-economic crisis since the Great Depression, Pathways will make it possible for many students to graduate from college without any exposure to social science. At a time when cultural contact is at an all time high and bound to continue increasing, Pathways will reduce the exposure that students in many of CUNY’s colleges will have to foreign language.

This is why most CUNY faculty (as well as thousands of faculty from across the country who have signed a national petition against Pathways) are opposed to Pathways. Faced with faculty opposition, CUNY has relied on intimidation. As Kaminer has reported in the past, in the most egregious case the administration at Queensborough Community College threatened faculty members’ jobs when they voted against the Pathways-prescribed 3-unit composition courses that reduced the time students had to spend in class with their composition professors. (v) Anyone who has taught at CUNY knows that many of our students, including (but not only) the ones who are not native speakers of English, need all the help they can get with their writing. So pushing for these 3-unit courses is as antithetical to truly raising the quality of CUNY students’ education as all the other changes mentioned above.

Apart from assaulting the quality of a CUNY education, Pathways’ reliance on intimidation has understandably poisoned the climate, leading, as a CUNY faculty member quoted in the article correctly points out, to “the worst morale since the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.” Oddly enough, however, the faculty member in question also adds that, apart from that, Chancellor Goldstein’s achievements were terrific! I hope I am not too presumptuous when I say that, apart from the students themselves, the most valuable resource of any university are the faculty. If that’s true, there is no greater indictment than the fact that faculty morale is at an all-time low and suggesting that a chancellor is great, except from the minor fact that his actions have destroyed faculty morale, is hard to fathom.

Costas Panayotakis is Associate Professor of Sociology at CUNY’s New York City College of Technology and author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy (Pluto Press).

(i) See .
(ii) On this point see Richard Perez-Pena, “At CUNY, Stricter Admissions Bring Ethnic Shift,” .
(iii) See ‘Diversity at CUNY’ by President of Community Service Society David R. Jones, .
(iv) On this point, see Motoko Rich, “U.S. Students Still Lag Globally in Math and Science, Tests Show,” .
(v) See Ariel Kaminer, “College English Dept. Fights Class-Time Cuts,” .

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Who will Choose the next Chancellor?

Many of us may be happy to see the departure of Chancellor Goldstein, who has done more to abrogate faculty power than any Chancellor in recent history.  While his departure may be welcome to some, do we really have confidence in the current membership of the Board of Trustees who will pick his replacement? Goldstein’s departure seems timed in part to insure that Board Chairman, and fellow architect of the Chancellor’s agenda, Benno Schmidt, will play a central role in choosing his successor. Schmidt’s term on the Board is up this summer, but the Board will be choosing an interim Chancellor later this spring.

In addition, the timing of the Chancellor’s departure seems designed to preserve a major role for our billionaire mayor in choosing a new chancellor. This is disturbing news, given the mayor’s record in K-12. Does this mean we can expect more “education reforms” designed to facilitate additional budget cuts? Will this usher in an even greater role for the Gates Foundation and other groups who want to “enhance performance” by reducing faculty power, homogenizing and digitizing the curriculum, and reducing standards, a la Pathways?

And who will be left at CUNY Central to help guide a new Chancellor? The two top administrators are Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Alexandra “Lexa” Logue, chief implementer of Pathways and architect of the shadow system of centrally appointed committees that bypass governance and Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer Allan Dobrin, who brought us the boondoggle that is CUNY First.

The Chancellor’s resignation presents an opportunity to clean house. We need a new Board of Trustees whose primary concern is providing the best possible education to working and middle class New Yorkers, not a group of political hacks, self-interested “reformers,” and champions of corporate, top-down authoritarianism. The terms of several Board members expire this year including Schmidt, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, Frida Foster, and Charles Shorter. Mayor Bloomberg should leave the mayoral appointed positions vacant, so that the new mayor can fill them, and Governor Cuomo should bring in new Trustees, with real qualifications.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

UFS Passes Resolution Calling for Dissolution of Pathways Committees

The following resolution was passed Tuesday night at the University Faculty Senate plenary by a hand vote with all in favor except one nay, and no abstentions:

Resolution Objecting to the Extension of Pathways Common Core Course Review Committees

Whereas, the CUNY Bylaws give the University Faculty Senate and college senates jurisdiction over curriculum, and

Whereas, the central Pathways committees have wrongly usurped the role of these legitimate senates, and

Whereas, although these committees had expired, the Office of Academic Affairs is now extending the life of these committees until the end of June 2013, and

Whereas, if the pattern holds OAA is likely to make these committees permanent,

Therefore, Be It Resolved, that the University Faculty Senate objects to OAA’s further extension of these extra-governance curriculum committees and calls for a permanent end to them.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Trustee Profile: Political Fixer uses CUNY as a Platform to Attack Academic Freedom

 Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld is an investment banker at Bernstein Global Wealth Management, appointed to the Board of Trustees by Gov. Pataki in 1999. Wiesenfeld’s primary qualification for being a trustee is his loyal service to a string of local politicians, including Senator Alfonse D’Amato, Congressman Thomas Manton, Mayor Ed Koch, Borough President Clair Shulman, and Governor George Pataki.

Wiesenfeld’s primary accomplishment during 13 years on the Board has been to instigate a series of scandals in which he has denigrated local politicians and undermined academic freedom.

His most notable achievement is his launching of the Affair Kushner in May 2011. In his role as Trustee, he sought to block the awarding of an honorary degree to playwright Tony Kushner by John Jay College. In his speech at the Board and in subsequent comments he attacked the Jewish playwright as an anti-Semite and went on to accuse Palestinians who support attacks against Israel of being “non-human.” Wiesenfeld was joined in this embarrassment by 4 other Board members, who failed to stand up to his bloviating. They were Judah Gribetz, Peter S. Pantaleo, Deputy Mayor Carol A. Robles-Roman and Charles A. Shorter

In response, thousands sent letters, some past honorary degree recipients returned their degrees in protest, and dozens of news reports scoffed at the Board’s ignorance and intolerance. The faculty responded forcefully to Wiesenfeld’s ideological meddling as well, and Board President Beno Schmidt quickly orchestrated a vote to override by the Board’s Executive Committee, granting Kushner the degree.

Weisenfeld was also at the center of attacks against adjunct professor Kristofer J. Petersen-Overton, who was denied appointment by the Brooklyn College administration. This was the result of public protests by Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind and behind the scenes pressure from Wiesenfeld, who directly lobbied the Chancellor. Once again, as a result of public backlash and a strong response from the Political Science Department and the PSC, he was rehired. PSC Vice-President and BC faculty member Steve London spoke out at the time against Wiesenfeld’s interference in personnel matters saying, “A trustee intervening in this decision is completely inappropriate and out of bounds. He has a public trust, and he has violated that trust.”

In 2007, Wiesenfeld, as part of “Stop the Madrassa,” worked to block the opening of the Khalil Gibran International Academy and succeeded in ousting its first principal over the use of the word “intifada” on a sweatshirt being sold by a group that supported the school. Wiesenfeld claimed that, “while not all Muslims are terrorists, almost all terrorists are Muslims.” At the same time Wiesenfeld was involved in forming Citizens for American Values in Public Education, which was intended to be a national organization to fight a “radical Islamist agenda.”

In 2008 Wiesenfeld engaged in a very public scrap with City Council member Charles Barron, who was then chair of the Council’s Higher Education Committee. He verbally attacked Barron at an event celebrating the reopening of Fiterman Hall at BMCC, which was destroyed on 9-11. Wiesenfeld went on to actively oppose Barron’s bid for Congress last year.
More recently, Wiesenfeld played a similar role in trying to block the BDS event at Brooklyn College. He accused the Political Science Department of staging a racist, anti-Semitic, and “Nuremberg- type event.” He again worked closely with Dov Hikind, who organized a protest outside the College gates, attacking the rights of faculty to co-sponsor the event. Some of those involved, including City Council members, went on to write letters threatening the College’s funding, a position Wiesenfeld has never publicly denounced.

Just before being appointed to the CUNY Board by Gov. Pataki, Wiesenfeld was at the center of a scandal involving the selling of paroles for incarcerated violent offenders, including drug traffickers from Israel and Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, who was convicted of kidnapping teenager Shai Fhima Reuven from his mother. Wiesenfeld wrote several letter to the Parole Board calling for the paroles in his capacity as a Jewish community liaison in the Pataki administration. Prosecutors termed his conduct “outrageous.” Though Wiesenfeld was never charged, four others involved in the scandal were convicted and several of them pointed to Wiesenfeld’s involvement as part of their defense.

Finally, according to the Daily News, during Wiesenfeld’s conformation process for appointment to the Board there were “allegations that he referred to blacks as ‘savages’ and Hasidic Jews as ‘thieves,’ leading Sen. Daniel Hevesi to speak out against his confirmation.

Wiesenfeld's conduct demonstrates his lack of concern for academic freedom and his behavior as trustee has been injurious to the reputation of the university. We join with the late Ed Koch, Charles Barron, and others in calling for him to step down and we call on Gov. Cuomo not to reappoint him, when his term ends later this year.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Baruch Faculty Senate Calls for the Elimination of Unelected Pathways Committees

On Thursday, April 4th, the Baruch College Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling on 80th St. to put a stop to the extra-governmental Pathways Common Core Course Review Committees that have been used to approve Pathways courses. This is in response to a letter from Vice-Chancellor Alexandra W. Logue of March 8th announcing that this unelected body would continue to operate, despite earlier claims that these committees were only temporary. Thursday evening the Executive Council of the PSC passed a similar resolution and on Tuesday, April 9th, the University Faculty Senate will also vote. The text of the resolution and the Vice-Chancellor’s letter are below. We encourage the Brooklyn College Faculty Council and other governance bodies across CUNY to consider similar resolutions.

Resolution Objecting to the Extension of Pathways Common Core Course Review Committees

Whereas, at Baruch College none of the appropriate curriculum and governance bodies have approved any pathways-compliant courses;

Whereas, the CUNY Bylaws give jurisdiction over curriculum to appropriate faculty bodies at Baruch;

Whereas, the central pathways committees have wrongly usurped the role of these legitimate faculty groups;

Whereas, although these committees had expired, the CUNY Office of Academic Affairs (OAA) is now extending the life of these committees until the end of June 2013, and

Whereas, if the pattern holds OAA is likely to make these committees permanent,

Therefore, Be It Resolved, that the Baruch Faculty Senate objects to OAA’s further extension of these extra-governance curriculum committees and calls for their permanent end.

Passed April 4, 2013

From: academicaffairs <>
Date: March 8, 2013 11:26:06 AM EST

Subject: Nominations for Reconstituted CCCRC

Dear Colleagues,

As you may know, the members of the Pathways Common Core Course Review Committee, which has consisted of approximately 120 full-time faculty divided among eight subcommittees (one for each area of the Common Core), have completed their terms of service.  However, in accordance with the Board of Trustees June 2011 Pathways resolution, we need to continue to review additional courses that campuses wish to have as part of the Common Core.  Having considered the many factors involved in the CCCRC review process, including the differing numbers of courses that have been being submitted to the different Common Core categories, I have decided that, through June 30, 2013, there will be three committees in operation: (1) a STEM committee that will review all courses submitted to the three Common Core categories of Life/Physical Sciences, Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning, and Scientific World; (2) a committee that will review all courses submitted to the two categories of World Cultures/Global Issues and  US Experience in its Diversity; and (3) a committee that will review all courses submitted to the three categories of Creative Expression, English Composition, and Individual and Society.  Each of these three committees will have one representative from each undergraduate college, should a qualified nominee be available, and one of the committee members for each of the three committees will serve as committee chair.  The overall chair of all of the committees will continue to be Sociology Professor Phil Kasinitz of the Graduate Center.  Thus there will be a total of 58 faculty continuing to review courses through the end of June.  At the end of the term of these three new CCCRC committees (June 30, 2013), we will assess the performance of this new structure, as well as the projected future CCCRC workload, to decide how to constitute the CCCRC going beyond June 30, 2013.

At this time I am asking for your nominations for the members of these three committees.  Nominees should be tenured associate or full professors or, in rare circumstances, tenured assistant professors.  Please nominate as many people as you feel are qualified, with your preferences indicated among them if you wish.  Given that we will be trying to balance disciplinary expertise within the three committees, please feel free to nominate people from a range of disciplines appropriate to each committee.  In addition to being experts in one or more disciplines, nominees should be dedicated committee members, should be respected by their colleagues, and should be good communicators.  Committee members will receive a stipend for their service.

Please confirm the willingness of your nominees to serve before you nominate them.  Then please send to , by 5 pm Thursday, March 14, the list of your nominees.  For each nominee please indicate the committee for which the person is being nominated; the full name of the nominee; and the nominee’s rank, tenure status, email address, phone number, and disciplinary expertise.

Please let me or Associate University Provost Julia Wrigley know if you have any questions.  Thank you very much for your help.  We greatly looking forward to receiving your list of nominees!


Alexandra W. Logue
Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost
The City University of New York

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

BC Administration Increasing Class Sizes

Promising increased revenues and attention to the needs of individual departments, the administration forced through a new structure of schools and deans. What we've gotten instead, are larger class sizes, more bureaucracy, and less support for research.

The natural sciences are facing a double attack. While Pathways has reduced the depth of general education requirements in the bench sciences, the Dean's push for increased class sizes means hands-on lab work, writing, and individual attention will become untenable in many courses.

For example, the Dean has demanded that Computer and Information Science squeeze still more students into its already overcrowded teaching labs. (The extra students sit where they can, using college laptops which must be deployed and stored using class time.) This is in stark contrast to the department's own plan, which has sought to undo years of diminishing retention by decreasing class sizes and increasing individualized attention.
Other departments have heard from the dean that since there is no writing in science courses, there shouldn’t be any problem with expanding sections to 80 students. When faculty in Health and Nutrition disagreed—their courses generally do include writing assignments—they were rebuffed and told to “figure it out.” Faculty in Anthropology and Psychology have raised similar concerns.

Class sizes are also going up in some Core classes. Without approval from departments, sometimes without consultation, primary and secondary limits on some courses have been increased. Some faculty have also reported being pressured to accept overtallies even above the new limits.

This is a classic management speed-up, a scheme to require faculty to take on extra work for no increase in pay.  It is bad for the students, who need more, not fewer, high-impact learning experiences—experiences which require significant faculty time and attention to deliver. And it's bad for faculty, including part-timers, who, when they're not simply being forced out of their jobs, are being required to do extra work without extra compensation.

Deans are also increasing minimum enrollments in many courses to justify eliminating sections, and even pressuring departments to cut the number of Independent Study sections. Though Pathways is supposed to be a panacea for speeding student time to graduation, the problem may lay not with general education transfers but with policies like these, which make it increasingly difficult for students to fulfill the requirements of their minors and in some cases even majors.

When the union and Faculty Council confronted the BC administration with these trends, the administration provided section averages for 2012. The changes being called for, however, won’t have shown up yet in this data.

This pressure to increase class sizes is being driven by several management imperatives. The first is that the new deans, rather than raising outside money, are busy penny-pinching existing budgets to free up resources for pet projects. While some of these initiatives are laudable, we were told that the new system of deans would be a source of new revenues, not a system for increasing faculty workload. In addition, compensation for the Provost and President is tied to a series of management performance measures, known as PMPs, created by 80th St. One of these measures is the number of FTE’s taught by full-time faculty. In short, the Provost and President benefit directly from stuffing more students into classrooms, eliminating student writing assignments, and dismissing departmental expertise in how students learn best.

While increasing contact with full-time faculty is a goal we share, increasing class sizes is not the way to do it. The PSC’s number-one legislative priority continues to be to get the City and the State to fund more full-time faculty lines. Instead, per-FTE State and City investment in CUNY is being decreased and full-time to part-time ratios remain mostly flat, with over 50% of undergraduate courses at CUNY taught by part-timers. The Chancellor’s response to this is to reduce standards, increase faculty workload, and support tuition increases for students.
Please join us in calling for more transparency in, and the enforcement of faculty-determined limits on, class sizes. If you have more information about increasing class sizes, please email us at Stay tuned for more Trustee profiles and details on the Provost’s effort to restrict the use of grants to buy out of teaching.