Wednesday, April 9, 2014

BC Administration Responds to Faculty Resolution.

Brooklyn College spokesperson Jason Carey told the Eagle on Wednesday,
“While the President of Brooklyn College must transmit recommendations
of the Faculty Council to the Chancellor, these proposals must be
lawful and in line with recent court proceedings that ruled in favor
of the CUNY Board of Trustees in initiating academic policy.”

He added that reviews of general education happen periodically at the
college, and have been encouraged by the Provost. “Our faculty plays a
key role in shaping the academic curriculum at Brooklyn College. When
reviewing and revising our general education requirements, however,
the College is obligated to be guided by the broad framework of the
Pathways initiative approved by the CUNY Board of Trustees."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Brooklyn Eagle: Brooklyn College faculty breaks with CUNY: votes to retake control of curriculum

Brooklyn College faculty breaks with CUNY: 

votes to retake control of curriculum

Has 'no confidence' in CUNY Board of Trustees

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The full-time faculty at Brooklyn College passed a resolution on Wednesday to “retake control of curriculum decision making” and demand that the Brooklyn College and CUNY administrations “respect the faculty’s historic role in designing courses,” programs and degree requirements.
Professors are rejecting CUNY's move to “override faculty decision making” to implement the “inadequate” Pathways general education program, according to the Brooklyn College Faculty Council.
Pathways implements a set of course requirements that every student must complete to earn an undergraduate degree from CUNY, making it easier to transfer one CUNY college to another.
But professors complain that Pathways “waters down” the core curriculum and is meant as a cost-cutting measure. Faculty members say they were excluded from the planning stages of the program, and the move is an attempt to “consolidate power at the top.”
Fran Clark, spokesperson for CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress (PSC-CUNY), told the Brooklyn Eagle the Pathways program reduces significantly the number of credits a student has to take to fulfill their general education requirements.
The standardized, "compressed" curriculum will mean “less flexibility for students to pursue wide-ranging academic interests, and fewer opportunities for students to explore different and important ideas, because of a reduction in specialized course offerings,” Clark said. She said she feared the program would lead to a narrower understanding of cultures and international diversity.
Professors from across the CUNY system have complained about Pathways, which was opposed by 92 percent of full-time faculty who voted in a referendum held last year.
Nivedita Majumdar, professor of English at John Jay College, said, “[Pathways] means students could graduate with a bachelor’s degree without ever having taken a literature or a history course or without any training in a foreign language or reduced time in science labs. Our students are denied the intrinsic value of a good education.”
CUNY did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Wednesday’s resolution calls for the Brooklyn College and CUNY administrations to abide by the decisions of local faculty in designing a new general education program at Brooklyn College. The vote was 298 in favor, 9 against and 18 abstentions.
The resolution also states that the faculty have “no confidence” in the CUNY Board of Trustees to make curricular decisions. “The current Board of Trustees is almost completely devoid of educators and is comprised of political appointees, whose main qualification was political support for current and former mayors and governors, rather than their expertise in educational policy,” according to the Faculty Council’s statement.

PSC Address to the Stated Meeting of the Faculty

Address to the
Stated Meeting of the Faculty
By Alex S. Vitale
Brooklyn College Chapter

April 8, 2014

The de Blasio administration has expressed interest in getting bargaining started with the over 150 municipal unions without contracts. Right now there is haggling over whether cost savings in health care should be tied to contractual raises. The Municipal Labor Council, which represents all municipal unions and the City have said they want to avoid increasing premiums. In addition, the MLC leadership has said that city nurses, teachers, and professors should be the first to bargain with the City, since they have gone the longest without a contract. The City hasn’t agreed to this idea, but hopefully this will move us up on the list. The PSC continues to talk with management about a number of non-financial issues, and is ready to begin bargaining in earnest at any time over a full contract.

I’m sure you will hear more on the budget from President Gould. I’ll just point out that the governor reneged on his pledge to maintain the baseline CUNY budget and use new revenue generated by tuition increases to expand funding. In fact, both the governor’s proposed budget and the final budget failed to fund mandatory cost increases such as inflationary cost increases for utilities and other services, forcing CUNY to plow new tuition dollars into maintaining existing services. This is in essence a new state tax on our students. So while the governor has prioritized tax breaks for banks and the very wealthiest New Yorkers, he is happy to raise taxes on our students, who are among the poorest in the state.

The battle over Pathways continues CUNY-wide. While the central administration has changed its position on some key issues, opposition and resentment remain widespread. CUNY has refused to commit to any kind of meaningful outside evaluation of Pathways, so the union is undertaking its own review. We are asking that faculty members and departments concerned about the impact of Pathways on specific courses or programs of study share their stories with us. We have already obtained many of these stories and shared some with the City Council, which has taken up the issue of Pathways and we have reprinted several in the most recent issue of Clarion. I will be sending out a more specific request to all faculty soon.

The PSC recently delivered over 5,000 signatures from HEO union members across CUNY to the Chancellor demanding that CUNY rethink its use of timesheets for these employees. On many campuses 70-80% of HEOs signed the petition, including here at BC. HEO’s view this as a move to deprofessionalize their work and experience the process as demeaning. I urge faculty to talk to the HEOs they work with about this important issue and I would like to state that the faculty chapter here formally endorses their calls for major reforms of this system.

One of the reasons we are gathered here is to support the Faculty Council’s general education development process. The Executive Committee of the PSC chapter strongly urges you to get involved in this process. If we are to argue that the will of the faculty must be respected in curricular matters, then we must take the process seriously and do everything we can to develop the best possible educational program for our students. The ongoing Faculty Council review has included faculty, professional staff, administrators, students and alumni. We have talked about best practices and budget implications as we deliberate on the best general education curriculum for our students. This is exactly what faculty responsibility for the curriculum entails. The administration has said that they support the Faculty Council review process, and faculty control of the curriculum in general. We need them to go on the record that they respect the process and will accept any curriculum changes it might produce, even if they are different from what the local or CUNY central administration would prefer.

I would now like to move the following resolution on general education:

Resolution on General Education

Whereas, Faculty Council is currently undertaking a process to develop new general education requirements at Brooklyn College; and

Whereas, Brooklyn College’s governance plan states that it is the faculty who determine the college’s curriculum and degree requirements; and

Whereas it is the faculty who are best positioned to assess the educational needs of students and determine the best ways of meeting those needs; and

Whereas we have no confidence in the CUNY Board of Trustees as currently constituted to make curricular decisions; and

Whereas Pathways has significantly undermined the educational standards at Brooklyn College, including the elimination of science labs, speech, and foreign language requirements; and
Whereas the purpose of general education requirements is more than just ease of transfer and improvement of 6 year graduation rates, 

Be it therefore resolved that the Brooklyn College Faculty call on the Brooklyn College administration to implement whatever general education requirements are adopted by the Faculty Council,

And be it further resolved that the Brooklyn College Faculty call on the CUNY Chancellor and Board of Trustees to respect the historic role of the faculty in developing curriculum and approve all general education requirements adopted by the Brooklyn College Faculty Council. 

BC Faculty vote to retake control of curriculum; vote no confidence in CUNY Board

Contact: Alex S. Vitale,

Brooklyn, NY--For the first time in decades, the entire full-time faculty at Brooklyn College passed a resolution at a special college-wide meeting on April 8 to demand that the Brooklyn College and CUNY administrations respect the faculty’s historic role in designing courses, general education programs, and degree requirements.

Two years ago the CUNY Board of Trustees instructed local college administrations to override faculty decision making in implementing the inadequate Pathways general education program, which was opposed by 92% of full-time faculty at CUNY who voted in a referendum held last year. This is despite the fact that college governance documents vest curricular decision making solely in the hands of the faculty.

By a vote of 298 in favor, 9 against and 18 abstentions, today’s resolution calls for the Brooklyn College and CUNY administrations to abide by the decisions of local faculty in designing a new general education program at Brooklyn College. The resolution was brought by Prof. Alex S. Vitale, the chair of the Brooklyn College chapter of the Professional Staff Congress, the faculty and professional staff union of CUNY. Prof. Vitale said that this vote was crucial for sending a message to the incoming Chancellor that the faculty will not tolerate political interference in curricular matters.

The process of general education development is being undertaken by the College’s Faculty Council, made up of elected representatives from all the departments at the College. Faculty Council Chair Yedidyah Langsam urged all members of the faculty to attend today’s meeting.

The resolution also states that the faculty have “no confidence” in the CUNY Board of Trustees to make curricular decisions. The current Board of Trustees is almost completely devoid of educators and is comprised of political appointees, whose main qualification was political support for current and former mayors and governors, rather than their expertise in educational policy.

Across the country faculty are experiencing attacks on their control over the intellectual direction of their programs and colleges. Too often administrators are using cost savings as an excuse to undermine educational standards. The faculty at Brooklyn College feel strongly that their daily interaction with students and in depth knowledge of the fields they work in best qualify them to make decisions about educational content.

The faculty expect the Brooklyn College and CUNY administrations to abide by this resolution. Failure to do so will undoubtedly undermine the basic legitimacy of their roles in the eyes of faculty.

Text of the resolution can be found at this link.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Historic Stated Meeting of the Faculty Vote on Tuesday

Dear Colleagues,

On Tuesday, for the first time in decades, the Brooklyn College faculty will be voting on a measure at the Stated Meeting of the Faculty. The resolution to be voted on supports the Faculty Council in their effort, as elected representatives of the faculty, to undertake a process of redesigning general education at Brooklyn College. Given recent attacks on faculty governance and faculty control over curriculum it is imperative that this vote succeed. So far the response has been overwhelming. Over 300 full time faculty have committed to attending the meeting. If those numbers hold true, then we will meet our quorum of approximately 275. But that does not leave much room for error. If you have committed to showing up, we need you there. If you haven’t yet and can do so, please let us know you are coming.

This vote is about much more than just Pathways or general education. It’s ultimately about faculty power. Over the last generation, at CUNY and throughout academia, we have seen our power eroded by constant assaults by administrators, elected officials, and the media. So far, in higher education we have avoided some of the worst abuses meted out on K-12 teachers, but there are many out there, who would like to see us disempowered in the same way, through high stakes testing, one size fits all curriculum, and the erosion of faculty governance. A win on this resolution will send a clear message to the Brooklyn College and CUNY wide administrations, as well as faculty and administrators across the country. Tuesday’s actions are being closely followed and we expect press coverage of the outcome. In addition, faculty governance leaders at other CUNY campuses have already approached us about replicating our strategy at their campuses if we are successful.

Tuesdays vote is open to full-time faculty on professorial and lecturer lines, including people who are currently on sabbatical or leave. Substitutes, visiting professors, and those who have already informed the administration of their intent to resign or retire are not eligible to vote. Be sure to arrive early. Lunch will be served at 12:15, but try to sign in and get your ballot before getting your food, so that we can move swiftly to voting as close to 1PM as possible. We hope to know the results of the vote before the end of the meeting. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Saving CUNY’s Past: The Story of Open Admissions

A Public Launching Event for the CUNY Digital History Archive

April 9, 2014 | 6:30pm

CUNY Graduate Center, Martin Segal Theatre

Hear from activists who have advocated for public higher education for all New Yorkers. Participate in plans for collecting and organizing a public archive of our CUNY history. Join the archiving effort: Tell your story, contribute documents, conduct interviews! The panels will involve activists in the struggle for and defense of Open Admissions from the late-1960s to the present, who will describe their experiences and offer insights about the past and its implications for the future. Come and participate in the community breakout/discussion session after the second panel, where we talk about the archive and community involvement.

The Fight for Open Admissions, 1969–1976

Former student and faculty activists who led the fight on CUNY campuses to open the University to all NYC high school graduates discuss this transformative historical moment.
  • Steve Brier (Graduate Center), moderator; Professor of Urban Education and coordinator of the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy certificate program at the CUNY Graduate Center. He was the founding director of CUNY’s American Social History Project (ASHP)/Center for Media and Learning, which he headed for eighteen years. He is currently working on a book (with Michael Fabricant) entitled “Austerity Blues,” a policy and historical analysis of the transformation of public higher education in America in the post-World War II era.
  • Gerald Meyer (Hostos)historian, a founding member of the faculty at Hostos Community College (which opened in 1970), and a life-long political activist. As PSC Chapter Chair, he helped lead the five-year movement to save the college when it came under attack in 1973.
  • Pedro Pedraza (Centro, Hunter) one of the founding members of El Centro, the Puerto Rican Studies Center at Hunter College (founded in 1973), where he worked as a researcher and activist until his retirement in 2011. He then taught at BMCC and did research on open admissions at CUNY.
  • Charles Powell (CCNY, 1969)a CCNY undergraduate in 1969 and was one of the leaders of the sit-in and the larger movement that fought for Open Admissions at CUNY. After graduating from CCNY, he attended law school and and practiced Civil Rights and Labor law in New York for 25 years and after he retired to advocating for and managing affordable housing in Harlem.
  • Anthony Picciano (Lehman, 1968-75)Executive Officer of the PhD program in Urban Education at the Graduate Center, a professor of education at Hunter, and a CUNY “lifer.” He was a student at Lehman from 1968 to 1975 and was active as an employee in the fight to save Medgar Evers College in the 1975-77 period.

Student Activism against Cutbacks, 1980s–present

Activists and organizers discuss campus-based movements across CUNY that resisted city and state cutbacks. Hear how self-archiving efforts can ensure a more egalitarian CUNY history.
  • Cynthia Tobar (Hunter), moderator;  Cynthia is the founder of the WRI Oral History Project, which is documenting the Welfare Rights Initiative (WRI), a grassroots student activist and community leadership training organization located at Hunter College. She has collaborated with the Occupy Wall Street Archives Working Group, where she conducted life history interviews with OWS occupiers, as well as with the Brooklyn Historical Society on its “Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations” oral history project, which analyzes mixed-heritage issues, cultural hybridity, race, ethnicity, and identity. Currently, she is the Library Archivist at Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College.
  • Maureen Lane (Welfare Rights Initiative); WRI Co-Executive Director, was a pilot year participant in the Community Leadership Seminar of Welfare Rights Initiative in 1995.  On public assistance when she entered the Thomas Hunter Honors Program at Hunter, Maureen graduated cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree and later she earned her Masters of Social Work degree. Maureen has been instrumental in fostering sustainable relationships with policy makers, advocates, activists, academics, service providers, business and civic leaders to support WRIs mission.
  • Suzy Subways (SLAM! Herstory Project); the coordinator of the SLAM! Herstory Project, a collaborative oral history project about the Student Liberation Action Movement. She’s also a fiction writer, a freelance copy editor, and an editor for Prison Health News, a national newsletter for people in prison. SLAM! was a multiracial radical group based in CUNY that fought tuition hikes and the elimination of open admissions, and organized youth to resist police brutality and the prison industrial complex. Suzy was part of the CUNY Coalition Against the Cuts, a founding member of SLAM! and a member of Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation.
  • Conor Tom├ís Reed (Medgar Evers, Occupy CUNY, Free U.); a student, educator, archivist, and activist at the City University of New York since 2006, and a co-founding participant of Free University since 2012. Conor’s work focuses on 20th and 21st century Africana social movement literatures and freedom schools, and recently published “‘Treasures That Prevail’: Adrienne Rich, the SEEK program, and social movements at the City College of New York, 1968-1972″ in Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative, series 4. 
  • Alyssia Osorio (Morales/Shakur Center, CCNY); the lead organizer at City College of New York with Students for Educational Rights and New York Students Rising. She is also the Student Director of the Guillermo Morales Assata Shakur Student and Community Center. She has led numerous campus campaigns and direct actions regarding tuition affordability and accessibility, gender-based violence, queer visibility and resources, access to educational resources, and administrative transparency.
  • Nancy Romer (Brooklyn College); Professor of Psychology, has been an activist for 45 years. She was a founder and/or key organizer of numerous organizations at Brooklyn College (BC) and in Brooklyn including: BC Women’s Studies Program, BC Reproductive Rights Action Group, BC Anti-Bigotry Committee/Multi-cultural Action Committee/Center for Diversity, Executive Board Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, US Labor Against the War, and Educators to Stop the War. Nancy has written on issues of political participation and human development and about social movements in NYC, Mexico, Bolivia, and South Asia.