Last month the Provost unilaterally ended the college’s foreign language requirement. This was done as part of the Provost’s implementation of the Chancellor’s Pathways initiative. Pathways gives colleges the option of requiring foreign languages, but only for students admitted as freshman or possibly those transfer students without an associates degree. This is known as the College Option.
The Provost did not include that requirement in the Pathways framework that he developed. Instead, foreign language courses are given as an optional choice.
The Provost changed the requirement despite the explicit rejection of the Pathways framework by Faculty Council. In fact, it directly contravenes a Faculty Council resolution passed in May of 2012 that established a framework for implementing Pathways in the event that it went forward despite faculty opposition. That resolution called for the implementation of a language requirement for all direct admit and non-Associate degree transfer students.
Other colleges, such as Hunter, used this option to maintain their language requirement, which was the clear will of Faculty Council. The Provost has argued that this would compromise his desire to preserve other upper tier Core courses. Herein lies the ultimate problem. Pathways is a failed system that is reducing standards and creating a one-size-fits-all curriculum at the lowest common denominator.
The Provost’s decision was taken without consultation with Faculty Council or the departments affected by this change, which are Classics, Judaic Studies, and Modern Languages.
In addition, the Provost has dropped the Speech requirement unilaterally. There will be a resoluion before Faculty Council on Tuesday opposing this change.
These are just more examples of how local administrations are overriding faculty governance in their rush to implement Pathways, which is becoming the Chancellor’s departing sock in the eye to faculty. It also clearly demonstrates how Pathways is devaluing the CUNY education, creating yet another educational impediment for our students.
At Tuesday's Facutly Coucnil meeting the following resolution will be voted on. We urge Faculty Coucnil members to support it.
Resolution on the Language Requirement
Approved by the Core Committee of Faculty Council
Whereas the posted College Option under Pathways essentially eliminates any language requirement from Brooklyn College's General Education curriculum; and
Whereas the clear intent of the Contingency Resolution that passed Faculty Council last May was to preserve a robust language requirement for Brooklyn College students; and
Whereas it is the conviction of the faculty that such language skills are essential for the future success of our students in an increasingly small, globally interconnected world;
Be it resolved, for the record, that the faculty is strongly opposed to the elimination by Pathways of the language requirement from the General Education curriculum of the College.
We also call on the Provost to respect the resolution passed last year by Faculty Council and to take no further steps to implement Pathways that are contrary to the official positions of Faculty Council.
We also encourage the faculty to vote NO CONFIDENCE in Pathways starting May 9th.
Below is the Provost’s letter justifying the elimination of the language requirement:
I am writing in response to your inquiry and our conversations regarding the incorporation of foreign language study into our posted Pathways College Option for 13-14.
First, I want to reiterate what I have said for the past two years on the issue of submitting a Pathways program to the university without Faculty Council participation in the process. My two commitments were to keep intact to the extent possible the existing Faculty Council-approved Core Curriculum AND to conduct the planned full review of our general education curriculum by spring 2014. I could not take the Contingency Plan that you reference into account in constructing a Pathways program document because it explicitly stated that: "This resolution does not constitute adoption of the "Contingency Plan" as a new general education framework."
One way in which I attempted to approach the problem of creating Pathways compatible courses that align with the current framework was to invite faculty last May to "scribe" existing courses over the summer into a specific category within the Flexible Core component of the Pathways framework. Most departments who engaged in our approved general education curriculum came forward and participated in that effort in the interest of crafting a program that would serve students as of fall 2013. Languages could have fit (even temporarily) into the World Cultures and Global Issues category but no language courses were submitted in response to this call.
This left the dilemma of how to construct a College Option that is based on a sliding scale of 0-12 credits (depending on whether a student was admitted as a first-time full-time freshman or an advanced standing transfer student) that truly reflects all of the priorities of our current general education curriculum. So, first and foremost, our College Option respects the primacy of the Upper Tier Core as the basis of Brooklyn College's distinctive Core Curriculum. Where our current Core requires that all BC students take Art, Music, Shaping the Modern World, and Classics, the Pathways framework imposed choices within the Flexible Core requirements, and the College Option respects our current Core curriculum by placing these highly-valued BC Core experiences in the realm of student choice.
With language, the issues were more complex: first, because some introductory language courses do not comport with the 3-credit/3-hour policy, and second because in reality less than 20% of our students are actually required to take a foreign language under the current policy. Had a foreign language requirement been promoted to the equivalent of Upper Tier, this would have been inconsistent with current policy. Therefore, until the entire college could reasonably engage in a discussion of what constitutes the general education program at Brooklyn College going forward, foreign languages were treated equally with former lower tier core courses and incorporated into the College Option as an explicit choice and not a universal requirement.
I am extremely sympathetic to the issue of maintaining a language requirement at Brooklyn College, and I am deeply committed to incorporating that issue into our discussions in the upcoming general education curriculum revision effort. However, given the circumstances described above and the fact that the University's deadline for final Pathways program approval has already passed, I can make no change to the College Option that imposes a foreign language requirement for students admitted in the coming academic year.
The one change that I can introduce is to promote the choice of study of a foreign language or literature above the choice of fixed or flexible core courses not already taken in all of our descriptions of the College Option policy. These changes will be implemented as soon as possible next week. While this does not reinstate a foreign language requirement for the coming year, it does provide greater emphasis to the choice of language study, a choice that I am directing CAASS advisors to promote in their workshops and advisement sessions. I urge the Core Committee and the three language departments to incorporate a strong academic advisement outreach to our entering students on this important issue, and I especially urge the departments to work with the Associate Provost for Academic Programs to find ways to incorporate the benefits of language study into programs directed at student success.
I look forward to working with you on crafting a revised general education curriculum and addressing the issue of a Brooklyn College language proficiency requirement in the context of that effort.