Friday, November 22, 2013

BC Faculty Council Condemns Violations of College Governance

Last semester the provost unilaterally ended the college’s language and speech requirements over the express objections of Faculty Council. On November 12th the Brooklyn College Faculty Council protested this decision by voting 80-3 in favor of a Special Resolution on Faculty Governance. The resolution asserts that the Provost violated the college's governance plan by changing the College Bulletin to comply with Pathways .  The College’s governance plan makes clear that only Faculty Council, not the Provost, the Board of Trustees, or any other administrator, has the authority to make changes to the College Bulletin.

The resolution raises a fundamental question. Will the CUNY administration abide by its own governing documents? The Board of Trustees asserts that it has total and unquestioned authority to make any educational changes it wants. The PSC, the University Faculty Senate, and numerous campus governing bodies have challenged their contempt for faculty governance through lawsuits and resolutions.

The Chancellery and Board of Trustees seem to believe that faculty governance is merely advisory. They are happy to have us do the busy work of approving courses and granting degrees; but when they want to impose changes to the curriculum, or cut back programs in the name of “efficiency” or “austerity,” we must simply do what we are told. And when we try to put forward a vision of educational excellence that responds appropriately to our students’ real needs, our efforts are ignored, or worse, denigrated.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the leadership of CUNY holds much of the faculty in disdain. They have come to rely on an ever shrinking number of hand-picked faculty to give the patina of faculty support for their initiatives, while actively disempowering elected faculty representatives. But if their initiatives are so important and so positive for the University and its students, why are they unable to convince the faculty? Instead of revisiting their ideas in the face of near universal faculty opposition, they attempt to isolate and demean us.

One of the consequences of this strategy is a broad drop in the morale of the faculty. We hear constantly from our members that they feel that the university is hell bent of series of counterproductive “reforms” that seem designed to cut costs and reduce standards and to give more control and authority to top management at the expense of faculty and students. This is the same kind of demoralization and deprofessionalization being experienced among K-12 teachers, who have been battered by these same “reforms” for much longer.

To see what is coming our way, one need only look at a recent essay by Vice Chancellor Alexandra “Lexa” Logue, key architect of Pathways, in which she sets a framework for on-line courses, MOOCs, life experience credits, and a heavy regime of outcomes assessment measurement systems. The essay also makes clear that if faculty stand in the way of such initiatives that it may be necessary for the university  “to change many of their labor and governance policies.”  In other words, prepare yourself for another raft of cost cutting measures backed up by repressive management techniques. We strongly encourage you to read this for yourself so that you can see first-hand what the CUNY administration has in mind for the future.

We urge our colleagues here at Brooklyn College and around the university to speak out against the changes being initiated by the Board of Trustees and the Chancellery. Top down management practices, fake educational reforms, and the deprofessionalization of faculty and professional staff are moving the university in fundamentally the wrong direction.  Pathways, CUNY First, HEO and CLT timesheets are just the opening salvos. If we don’t stop these efforts now, the alternatives will be more centralized standardization, high stakes testing, and top down control of our professional and intellectual lives—none of which is in the best interests of our students. If the administration’s ideas are so good and necessary then they should make the effort to sit down with the faculty and convince us. If they can’t or won’t, then maybe their ideas aren’t so good after all. 

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