Monday, May 13, 2013

Guest Post: Major Pathways Failure at LaGuardia Community College

Last week LaGuardia was notified that the CUNY Central Office had rejected the Social Science Department's proposed revisions in its A.A. program in Psychology to accommodate the Pathways curriculum. The problem was two courses, both part of the existing A.A. program, that the Psychology faculty inserted in the Required Core in the "Life and Physical Sciences" and "Mathematical and Quantitative Reasoning" categories: SCB203, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and MAT120, Elementary Statistics.  The University objected that these were STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) courses and therefore could not be included in an A.A. curriculum.


The University*s decision left the Psychology faculty with two choices. They could, on the one hand, convert the program to an A.S. degree, which would require approval by the CUNY Board of Trustees and the State Education Department.  This lengthy process could not be accomplished before Pathways goes into effect in September and would therefore necessitate suspension of new admissions to this popular program for at least a year. The other alternative was to substitute a non-laboratory science and a less rigorous math course.


The University's decision is based upon a misunderstanding of the difference between an A.A. degree and an A.S. The distinction, according to the New York State Board of Regents, is not one between arts and sciences, but between liberal arts and sciences, on the one hand, and occupational or professional programs, on the other. An A.A. program must contain at least 45 credits (75 percent) of liberal arts and science, while an AS degree need contain no more than 30 credits (50 percent) of liberal arts and science.


More troublesome than this technical issue is the idea of the University administration, or its hired faculty committees (all faculty members serving on Pathways committees receive stipends over and above their contractual salaries for their service) dictating to our Ph.D. psychologists which math or science courses are most appropriate to their field. Our faculty members are stripped of their professional status to decide the appropriate educational qualifications in their field of expertise. We are, as one psychologist complained to me in despair, merely civil servants. Curriculum design, once an integral part of our responsibilities, is now in the hands of  administrators, who may or may not be trained in an academic discipline but  answer to a politically appointed board, and the individual professors whom  they pay by the task to implement their ideas of curriculum and give those  ideas professional credence.


Another reason to vote next week:  no confidence in Pathways.


George D. Sussman, Ph.D.

Professor of History

Social Science Department

LaGuardia Community College, CUNY


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