Insult to Injury via Pathways

AAUP Conference , June 2013

Philip A. Pecorino. Ph.D.,

Professor of Philosophy,

Queensborough Community College, CUNY

In my view:

Academic Freedom exists in part to permit educators to fulfill their professional responsibilities towards their students and society. In contributing to the greater social good, and because of the standards set by the profession itself, professionals are granted an extraordinary amount of autonomy to make judgments within their profession. The general public expects professionals to make those judgments for which they are best prepared and dedicated by their discipline to render. The professoriate is an association of professional educators responsible to make academic judgments that will provide for those contributions for the realization of the social values of social cohesion and progress. Professional educators are given a measure of freedom, Academic Freedom, to provide safeguards for the rendering of those academic judgments as they can best be made freed of any number of pressures and interventions.

The aims of higher education are multiple and once included:

·        Preparation for careers and not simply job training

·        Pursuit of truth and advancement of knowledge

·        Transmission of culture and civilization through transmission of knowledge

·        Development of character-appreciation for the value of truth and knowledge

There are movements to transform higher education that would have its aims reduced to the nearly singular focus of short term job training and the production of employed graduates, quantifiable and publically transparent outcomes.  Part of the transformation would have the role of a member of the professoriate reconfigured to that of an employee and the academic and collegial nature of an institution of higher education reconceived along the lines of a corporate entity with the coincident managerial models.

In the corporate conception faculty are not to be seen or respected as professionals with professional responsibilities provided for and expected of them by the larger society.  Problems with the exercise of Academic Freedom through shared governance arise in part where there is not a strong identification of faculty with being members of the profession of education.  There are incumbent responsibilities for the professoriate who are professional educators that involve their exercise of their best academic judgments through governance structures within their institutions.  Principal among those responsibilities is the proper exercise of their Academic Freedom in making academic judgments concerning the curriculum and other aspects of the operation of a college.  The failure or weak exercise of their prerogatives as faculty and assertion of their rights as educators facilitates administrators’ dismissals of faculty as professionals and promotes their regard of faculty as mere employees  In CUNY despite more than a pro forma demonstration of the fulfillment of these duties by faculty these professional responsibilities have been disregarded by the CUNY Chancellery that has deliberately removed the conception of university faculty from the larger social context in which it is imbued with professional responsibilities preferring to delimit faculty to mere employee status completely circumscribed by the corporate entity.

Actions of the Chancellery over the last decade have severely diminished the role of university faculty outside of the classroom and within the university.  So far reaching has been the efforts of the Chancellery to limit the role of faculty as professional educators with a role in governance that with the Pathways initiative there has been entre into the classroom itself as this series of reforms have extended to dictating to faculty what is taught and how it is taught.


The faculty of CUNY have had their professional roles diminished to the point of near total extinction within the sphere of academic judgment in all vital areas of academic life.  In 1998, Sandi Cooper, chair of the University Faculty Senate of the City University of New York, inquired of the new chairman of the Board of Trustees of CUNY, Benno Schmidt, his view of faculty rights and authority. His answer was in sum, “To carry out trustee policy.”   There was no quarter given for faculty exercise of their autonomous, professional academic judgments.  The legal grounds for the actions of the University have been cited repeatedly:  There has not been a defense of the actions of the Chancellery based upon pedagogic grounds and in due consideration of data and proper consideration of alternative approaches to whatever the goals of the current initiative involving General Education reform might be.

The Chancellery has gone further under Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, and to one degree or another seriously delimited faculty academic judgments concerning:

·        Who is to teach

·        To whom it is taught

·        What is taught

·        How it is to be taught

Who is to teach

The Chancellery has had the CUNY BOT revise it bylaws to remove the criteria for appointments to the faculty and, with neither consultation with nor approval of the faculty, it has given to the Chancellery alone the authority to set and alter at will the criteria for appointments, tenure and promotion.

The Chancellery has disregarded faculty concerns and opposition to the appointment of persons who have academic credentials from institutions that are not duly accredited and of persons who have dubious publications.

To whom it is taught

The Chancellery has had alterations in the admissions criteria for the colleges set through actions of the central administration, at times, against the position of local faculty and at times without the involvement of local faculty ion the decision making.

 What is taught

Pathways is a controversial policy adopted by the CUNY Board of Trustees in June of 2011 entitled Resolution on Creating an Efficient Transfer System.  This “System” as placed before the Board of Trustees was conceived by the Chancellery without faculty involvement and it was conceived as involving an entirely new general education curriculum for all the 17 colleges of the CUNY. In so doing CUNY bypassed and ignored elected faculty governance bodies at every level from individual curriculum committees to the university wide elected body of faculty representatives, the University Faculty Senate.  This avoidance of the established faculty governance structure has led to two law suits being filed.  With Pathways there has been direct alteration of the curricula as established by faculty and the changes substitute not only content but the very approach to General Education.  The Chancellery determined that the core of all Associate in Arts and Sciences and Baccalaureate degree programs would be outcomes oriented and would no longer specify disciplines to be studied or knowledge to be mastered.  Nor would the Chancellery allow local colleges to tamper with the course of studies set by the Chancellery.  Up to an additional 12 credits for General Education might be added but the basic 30 credit core was beyond the ability of faculty to seriously consider as an acceptable foundation for a quality education.

How it is to be taught

With Pathways there came the inexplicable denial of a pedagogically justified discrepancy of contact hours with students and credits for a course in the new Common Core.  Courses were limited to be 3 credits and 3 hours of contact as directed by the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs.  There was no authority for this given by BOT nor in its actions creating the Pathways initiative.  There was no authority for this in the Task Force report mandated by the BOT actions and accepted and promulgated by the Chancellor. Ex post facto the Chancellery claimed an implicit authority to carry out Pathways implementation that gave unto itself all manner of authority over curricula.

The Pathways actions by the Chancellery directed that the teaching of Liberal Arts and Sciences in CUNY in courses in the Common Core would need to produce certain learning outcomes and were in some demonstrable way to achieve this in manner subject to review by the Chancellery through mechanisms of its own devising. 

The Position of the CUNY Administration

In reference to the claim of university faculty leadership (the elected officers of the University Faculty Senate and the Professional Staff Congress) that faculty had responsibility for curriculum, a claim that was advanced in lawsuits filed against the action of the Board on Pathways,  on September 19, 2012 CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein sent a communication to the entire University community:

“This claim misstates the core principle, embodied in state law and the bylaws and policies of the University, that the authority for the governance of the University on all matters rests with the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees has delegated a significant role to the faculty on academic matters, and the faculty have the right to exercise their professional judgment in fulfilling that role. However, the faculty are not empowered to ignore or violate a policy established by the Board of Trustees or the implementation of that policy by the Chancellor.“

On September 28, 2012 Chancellor Goldstein elaborated on his position in a letter to the AAUP Dr. B. Robert Kreiser:

“As my message makes clear I am in complete agreement with the principle that faculty have the right to vote on matters of curriculum according to their professional judgment and free from threats and intimidation. However, faculty are not empowered to ignore or violate a policy established by the Board of Trustees or the implementation of that policy by the chancellor.”

In the passage on shared governance in his remarks on February 26, 2103 Chancellor Matthew Goldstein The City University of New York addressing the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities Annual Meeting  on “The Future of Higher Education” provided his view of the conditions under which faculty rights would be ignored: 

In addition, what does “shared governance” mean in an era of financial and technological change? It is clear that a substantial faculty role in the academic governance of the university is a sine qua non for academic freedom. However, there will continue to be considerable disagreement as to the exact contours of that role. For example, where does the impetus for structural change originate? How does an institution create necessary change in the absence of faculty unanimity and cohesion? Administrators may feel justifiably compelled to generate a framework for new innovations—whether a gen ed/transfer system, or alternative course models—in order to improve the educational experience and progress of students, while still remaining committed to the faculty prerogative to make decisions about the development of curricula. “

In response to a request to elucidate on this sentence: How does an institution create necessary change in the absence of faculty unanimity and cohesion?” the Chancellor provided this explanation: 

“ I observed that there will continue to be disagreement about the contours of the faculty role in decisions regarding the genesis of structural and operational change.  Different faculty bodies and organizations within a single institution, each purporting to represent the faculty perspective, may disagree about particular issues and ideas; faculty in different disciplines and with different workloads may disagree.  Conflicting recommendations, or no recommendations, may emerge.  However, after appropriate consultation and discussion regarding administrative changes, particularly those proposed for the improvement of the institution overall and the students it serves, a decision must be made.  Action must be taken.  After all parties have participated in a consultative process, institutional decisions may, and sometimes must, originate from the appropriate administrative body.”

The issue devolves to how the notions of “appropriate consultation” and  “Conflicting recommendations, or no recommendations, may emerge.” are to be understood and the manner in which they are to be handled that respects both academic freedom and the role of faculty in determining academic policies and creation of academic programs.

Apparently there are several interpretations of what has occurred with regard to the Pathways resolutions and general initiative and the role of faculty.  Does Pathways represent structural and operational change? If so, in what way?  If it is regard to the basic academic programs of the university then surely there would need to be acknowledged in practice “a substantial faculty role in the academic governance.”  The Chancellor conceded or recognizes that there will exist “disagreement about the contours of the faculty role in decisions”.  How then to proceed?  Apparently the Chancellery has proceeded by selecting those few score members of the faculty amidst a total of over 7,200 who are willing to support or comply with the decisions made by the Chancellery and to disregard the overwhelming majority of faculty opposed to those decisions on pedagogic grounds.  The opposition of faculty was neither simplistic nor idiosyncratic.  The opposition was supported by national organizations of faculty, academic discipline councils and professional organizations and organized bodies of faculty inside of CUNY and outside as well.

 More than 60 percent of eligible voters (4,322) participated in the no confidence vote, and 92 percent (3,996)  of those voted no confidence.


The Chancellor adds to the injury of the denial of faculty prerogatives and rights multiple insults to faculty.


 One obvious insult continues to occur when he oft times declares that the faculty have no option but to obey the Board of Trustees Policies and those guidelines and directives of his own as part of his asserted Board empowerment and then proceeds to repeatedly place faculty into positions where they are pressured to exercise their right to make their best academic judgments in but one manner and that is to accept the decrees of the chancellery on all academic matters. 

On September 28, 2012 Chancellor Goldstein elaborated on his position in a letter to the AAUP Dr. B. Robert Kreiser:

As my message makes clear I am in complete agreement with the principle that faculty have the right to vote on matters of curriculum according to their professional judgment and free from threats and intimidation. However, faculty are not empowered to ignore or violate a policy established by the Board of Trustees or the implementation of that policy by the chancellor.”

What academic freedom can there be when faculty are repeatedly instructed to vote on academic matters but that they are to vote only to accept and comply with the dictates of the Chancellery and Board of Trustees?  Why is there even a vote needed?  Why are votes of faculty demanded?  When there is no outcome but that desired by the Chancellery why the pretense of acknowledging any role for the faculty on curricular matters?


An additional insult is made when the Chancellery repeatedly claims that the Pathways Initiative is based on a need to resolve the “problem” with transfer of credits from one college to another inside of CUNY.  The reasoning offered for this position and narrative about need  contains specious argumentation, logical fallacy, lack of supporting data and ignorance of counter evidence. Such shoddy reasoning insults faculty when the Chancellery expects that its claims and position would be accepted without notice of its weakness by faculty.  Claims were made about a transfer problem being extensive and endemic but there was not adequate data to support such claims presented.  Selective anecdotal reports were used in lieu of evidence.  Confirmation bias was demonstrated in reports issued by the Chancellery in support of the narrative being offered about the need for university wide reform of general education.   While problems with the transfer of credits would usually result in a total number of credits accumulated to be in excess of the minimum needed for the baccalaureate degree not all cases of excess credits are the result of any problem with the transfer of credits.  The Chancellery offered a fallacious illicit conversion of a universal affirmative proposition at the heart of its case.


All cases of transfer problems result in excess credits accumulated.

All cases of excess credits accumulated are the result of transfer problems.

 Based on such an error in reasoning there were claims of the cost millions of dollars and additional years of study.  The alternative careful analysis of the university data disclosed a difference of less than three credits in the total on average for students who transfer as opposed to native students who graduate with a degree.


One of the worst of the insults is offered in placing responsibility for whatever problems that exist with the transfer of credits on the faculty and the purported refusal of faculty to resolve the problems.  This indictment was repeatedly offered by the Chancellery to silence faculty raising questions and objections to the approach of Pathways through reform of General Education throughout all of the University and had the effect to deflect the attention of faculty from the failure of the Chancellery to fulfill the responsibility placed upon the Chancellery and not upon the faculty by the CUNY BOT in 1999 to enforce previous policies designed to resolve credit transfer problems.


Yet another insult occurs when the chancellery expects that faculty, as professional educators would take their professional responsibilities to their students to cause them no harm and to produce benefit as best they can, and place above those responsibilities instead their self interest in the own welfare and the preservation of their jobs in the light of threats that they would have no courses to teach and no positions in the university. This occurred when faculty were being pressured into agreement to reduce the contact time they have with their students in the classroom or to reduce the quality of their courses, particularly science courses, and accept the one size fits all decree of the Chancellery for courses in the new CUNY Common Core under Pathways that would all be reduced to the one form of 3 credits and 3 hours. 


Faculty have been expected to accept as true what is patently false in the claim that the Pathways Initiative is “faculty driven”.   There were no current faculty involved in the development of the proposal for approaching whatever  existed with transfer of credits by means of a reform of General Education let alone through a reduction in the size of the General Education Core to 30 credits.


Along with the ludicrous claim of the Initiative being “faculty driven” came the repeated insulting dismissals of claims, supported with evidence in statements of academic groups and referenda results, that faulty were largely and strongly opposed to the Pathways Initiative.  The insult came with the characterization of the dissenters as being “just a few” or not representative of the faculty.


Coercion has been used in direct and indirect manner.  The presidents and provosts have been repeatedly reminded that they are officers of the University and must carry out the policies of the board.  As they serve at the pleasure of their superiors the message is clear and it is even stated in written form that such officers of the university can be removed for failure to respect ad carry out Board policies and the efforts of the Chancellery.  It is then understandable when they display the consequent temperament of nervous anxiety when they repeatedly communicate the urgency and inevitability of the Pathways reforms to department chairpersons and faculty. In some notable cases, one at Queensborough Community College, the threat of loss of courses and lines and positions became quite direct and visible.  At the same time many such threats were without substance as laws and regulations and accreditation standards would prevent some of the most disturbing of the threats from being carried out. Nonetheless in the climate of fear that came over many areas of the university that emotion blocked reason and faculty lost sight of their professional responsibilities and placed their own security before the interests of students in their own enunciation of their best academic judgments.  This was as astonishing as deplorable and disappointing.


The Chancellery and administrators throughout the University attempted to secure student support for Pathways and in addition to presenting the initiative as making it easier for them to transfer and graduate their narratives portrayed faculty in a negative light. Faculty received reports from students that some administrators were informing them that faculty would oppose Pathways and that their opposition would be based on their selfish concern for their jobs.  Further some reported that students were told that faculty wanted to preserve their jobs and so they are doing things to force students to take courses that they did not really need so that faculty jobs would be protected.  Still other reports indicated that faculty were being depicted as resistant to any form of change and so would be resistant to Pathways.


The top down imposition of the General Education reforms was premised on the position that faculty have no special expertise or knowledge of pedagogy and academic matters to which administration need pay any heed.   Many of the basic decisions and implementation guidelines connected with Pathways were made by people with no undergraduate teaching experiences.  Many of the most significant of the decrees issued by the Chancellery needed to be revised as those who made them learned more about curricular matters and realized that they were nonsensical or counter-productive or in some way or another not workable.  The approach of the non-educators was that a single solution would be workable and a “one size fits all approach” was a solution to a problem that they declared existed. This was their position although there were thousands of courses and over 700 degree programs involved across 19 campuses.

Impact on English composition

From the “University Adrift “ report chaired by now CUNY BOT Chairman, Benno Schmidt, to a “University Submerging”

The Mayor's Advisory Task Force on the City University of New York issued its report, The City University of New York: An Institution Adrift, to Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani on June 7, 1999

Benno C. Schmidt, Jr., Chair Chairman, The Edison Project / Herman Badillo Chair, CUNY Board of Trustees, Jacqueline V. Brady, Vice President of Structured Finance, Nomura Securities International / Heather Mac Donald , The Manhattan Institute , Contributing Editor, The City Journal / Manfred Ohrenstein , Ohrenstein & Brown / Richard T. Roberts, Commissioner, NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development / Richard Schwartz , President and CEO, Opportunity America. This  report critiqued CUNY due to public scandal of Hostos CC graduates with a low level of facility in English.  Amongst its conclusions was that “Academic standards are loose and confused ….”

With Pathways the Chancellery is now using Hostos CC and its English Composition Course set as 3 credits with only 3 hours of contact time as the model for all of CUNY !!!   The other CUNY community colleges struggling mightily to overcome the K-12 deficits with underpreparedness for college level work for 80% of entering full time students the English Composition Classes have had 3 credits but 4 hours of contact time each week.  The removal of the fourth hour was the central element in the resistance at Queensborough and then LaGuardia and Bronx Community Colleges.


What might be the reasons for the Chancellery advancing the Pathways Initiative?


The Chancellery fashioned a narrative to support the set of resolutions paced before the CUNY Board of Trustees and before the University community and the public. That narrative identified a problem with transfer as the need for the set of resolutions.  The CUNY attempted to document the extent of the problem by identifying it with excessive credits.  This was a logical error.  While cases of problems with transfer may often result in credits taken above the minimum needed for a baccalaureate degree not all cases of excess credits are the result of a transfer problem. There was evidence to the contrary CUNY chose to ignore.  The latest (2006) survey (SES) at CUNY indicated that there was a high degree of satisfaction with the transfer process amongst those students who were at four year units and completed the survey with the percentage answering satisfied or very satisfied totaling 80%. Dissatisfied and very dissatisfied were 19%.  CUNY ceased administering this instrument in 2007.  The Chancellery went on, nevertheless, to portray the extent of the transfer problem as being severe without supporting evidence.

For those familiar with undergraduate education and in particular the CUNY system, it is upon even the most modest of critical examinations, a fundamental need to separate the issue of Excess Credits from the Transfer Problem because not all cases of a student with credits accrued above those needed for the baccalaureate degree are cases of problems with transfer. There are many reasons for students accruing credits in excess of those needed. Most such credits are the result of student volition and are not remediable by any action of CUNY. Further, they will not be reduced by the Pathways initiative.  

There have been several detailed arguments presented by faculty and organizations that indicate that the Pathways resolutions could not be principally or solely motivated by a desire to resolve a “dysfunctional transfer system”.  The Chancellor had promised in a letter to the AAUP to provide an explanation of the severity of the transfer credit problems and why it was that the reform of General Education was linked to the resolution of those problems and why it was necessary to have General Education reform as the ONLY or NECESSARY measure that would produce the resolutions needed.

In a letter January 23, 2012 to the AAUP Chancellor Matthew Goldstein replied to the Dr. B. Robert Kreiser of the  AAUP and indicated:

“Please be assured that we will respond to your concerns in detail including the reasons why , in our view, the reform of CUNY’s dysfunctional transfer system, which necessarily included an overhaul of the general education requirements, was long overdue and could not be accomplished solely or, or even primarily, through elected faculty bodies. “

As of June 2013 no such detailed argument presenting the necessity of general education reform as the only possible solution to the purported problems with transfer has been presented. 

Here are some of the many studies that indicate that the transfer problem is not as portrayed by the Chancellery and that there were other approaches possible thus disproving the claim that the Pathways reforms were “necessary”..

(1)  The Real Motivation For Pathways? It Can't Be Transfer  posted Dec 5, 2012, 12:37 PM  by UFS Chair Terrence F. Martell, Baruch College at

In it is this passage:

If you subtract the mean of excess credits not related to transfer from the six CUNY related transfer categories and weight each of the six by the number of graduates in each category in the chart, the number of excess credits attributable to transfer is 2.66 credits! All the controversy, all the threats, all the law suits, all the negative impact on faculty morale and governance, all “The Improving Student Transfer at CUNY” is about less than one course! CUNY is eviscerating the core curriculum of 17 community and senior colleges in the name of improving student transfer at CUNY when we are talking about less than one course. 

A PSC –UFS  report titled “Where is the data?’ at    concludes with :

The implementation of Pathways must be slowed to allow necessary data analysis and sound policy making to occur . Anything less is a hollow, cynical exercise that will ultimately hurt both the students and faculty at CUNY . More to the point, there is a potential disaster on the other side of implementation if, as we suspect, the solution does not fit the problem . For instance, the three-credit requirement for courses in the general education curriculum will prevent students from having enough classroom time to develop strong writing skills and to learn-by doing in science labs . This is a looming disaster for all students within the university as they are exposed to continuing delay, a cheapened education and the frustration of paying more and more for less and less. It is therefore important to reiterate that the university has a responsibility to collect the appropriate data, analyze it, and involve faculty governance in the development of a solution . Anything less is a betrayal of the basic ethos of a public university as a research institution-a setting committed to providing high quality, accessible education to students in collaboration with faculty .

In sum, perhaps the most central question is : How, as a university, can we defend policy being developed and implemented with woefully inadequate data to guide our decisions? This breaches the most basic principle of higher education-data driven decision-making . The conflation of transfer difficulties and excess credits, the failure to account for the role of double majors, changes in major and high credit majors, the exclusion of elected faculty governance from the process, and the implications of instituting such an extreme overhaul of the curriculum in the absence of sufficient data warrants an immediate moratorium on the implementation of Pathways.

(2)  Austerity Education: The Real Agenda of Pathways  By Barbara Bowen, PSC President  at   In which it is presented that:

The CUNY administration hasn’t considered the obvious alternative approaches to improving student transfer problems because Pathways is not about transfer. It is about “the college completion agenda” – a national higher education agenda that, while it names a worthy goal, is ultimately tailored to reinforce economic austerity. It is promoted by many of the same interests that are behind the testing-not-teaching “reform” movement in K-12 education. Even the name Pathways is not original; it has appeared since 2005 in documents issued by the Lumina Foundation, one of the main proponents of the agenda, and a foundation whose assets derive from the student loan industry.


There is report from a 2006 CUNY Task Force on Retention - Creating the Conditions for Students to Succeed This report  on the challenges to the retention and graduation of students identified “killer courses” as those with the lowest retention rates and yet required for progress to the degree.  These included: College Mathematics, English Composition and introductory level Science courses.  All of these courses have been impacted by Pathways and the basic direction of the impact was the reduction in time with students and in the case of Mathematics the reduction in the level of mathematics required of a college student.  College Mathematics is to be substituted for with Quantitative Reasoning. Pathways reduces the level of study in the killer courses and provides paths for avoidance that are intended to increase the retention and graduation rates of students under prepared for college level work.  The report advocates

 "... fixing the areas in the curriculum that are flawed (developmental education, math,science and other "killer courses,“ General Education requirements),

It goes on to say that:

 “According to data from the Office of Institutional Research, all the colleges have "killer courses," or high fail-rate courses, particularly in math (including algebra, pre-calculus, calculus, and quantitative analysis). Accounting and economics also appear to be high-risk subjects. At many colleges, chemistry poses the largest threat among the sciences, but biology and physics also enter into the equation. "

It claims that:

" Roughly 34% of the "killer courses" at comprehensive colleges are in mathematics (20 out of 59, with the highest number in algebra), and at the community colleges that number is 30% (most of them algebra as well). Out of the 265 "killer courses" identified University-wide, 92 of them are in mathematics, representing 34.71% overall. "

These "killer courses" will be largely eliminated or reduced in Pathways.  The expectation is then that the retention rates will rise and with them the graduation rates as well.


In another letter dated March 12, 2012 Chancellor Goldstein offered a bit more of the possible rationale for Pathways and justification for the General Education reforms.

a solution to CUNY’s transfer problems had to ensure not only the transfer of credit among colleges but also the transfer of credit that would satisfy general education and major requirements, not just electives. Students satisfying general education requirements at one college must be able to satisfy them at all colleges in order to ensure smooth transfer and efficient progress towards graduation. Moreover, students at some colleges must be offered more opportunities to take electives and pursue minors and double majors, which is currently all but impossible at some colleges. Thus, action was required by entities such as the Board of Trustees and the chancellery, which possess a university-wide perspective and are not primarily answerable to a particular college or department.

This statement introduces another motive for Pathways reforms and that is to increase the opportunities for students to have electives.  This would be produced by reducing the size of the General Education and Liberal Arts and Sciences cores of associate and baccalaureate degree programs.

Why was this thought necessary?  Because the Chancellor wants it to be so due to his own experience as an undergraduate. This was stated by the Chancellor in several communications to the CUNY community and in response to correspondence from the AAUP.

February 6, 2012:

the current system leaves little room for upper division students to explore electives that often lead to new, exciting and unexpected avenues of learning. Lamentably, through no fault of their own, too few of our students are experiencing the joys of college.

They might discover a passion for opera, as I did many years ago at City College. As a CCNY student I concentrated on technical subjects, but I was also interested in literature, philosophy and music, and was able to take advanced courses beyond what I needed to graduate. My parents never went to an opera or took me to one, but I took an advanced course and became seduced by opera. That exposure enriched my education, and my life.

Again on March 21, 201 the Chancellor stated in a letter to the AAUP : “In addition, as a result of the Pathways Initiative, students will have more opportunities to take elective and advanced courses, as well as to pursue minors and double majors.


Any resolution of the problems that exist with transfer credits or credits above the minimum needed for the baccalaureate degree must begin with a thorough analysis of the data and the determination of the causes of excess credits.  A more careful analysis and consideration of the causes of excess credits than previously demonstrated supports the finding that the causes of excess credits may be placed in three categories:  


There are causes of excess credits that are not remediable as many students make choices that lead to the accrual of credits beyond the minimum for a Baccalaureate degree, even an Associate degree. These include

·        Change of Major

·        Double Major

·        Late selection of a Major with a high number of courses required in the major

·        Preparation for Graduate Education and the GRE’s

 Institutional Issue  

Many students have a need for full time program for financial aid eligibility and no space available in required courses leading a student to take a credit bearing course but not satisfying degree program requirements. This situation can cause excess credits and is possibly remediable but the excess credits are not due to transfer problems.  

Institutional Issue  

There is then a legitimate problem with transfer in that there is still the refusal of a receiving college in CUNY to accept credits from the sending college despite CUNY BOT policies. These situations are well known and have been addressed by the CUNY BOT several times and several policies have been adopted to resolve the difficulties in 1967, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1985, 1993 and 1999. (see below attachment D and at

 In 1973:

All City University Community College Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degree recipients shall be accepted as matriculated students at a senior college of City University, and that these students be given priority for transfer over non-University students seeking transfer and that upon such transfer they be granted a minimum of 64 credits toward a baccalaureate degree and be required to complete only the difference in credits between 64 and the total credits required in the baccalaureate program in which the student enrolls.

In 1985:

All liberal arts courses taken in one City University of New York college are to be considered transferable with full credit to each college of the University. Full credit is to be granted for these courses in all departments and programs, and they are to be recognized for the fulfillment of degree requirements. (BTM,1985,06-24,005,_D)

Based on a fair and reasonable evaluation of a student's transcript at least nine credits are to be granted in the student's major unless the senior college determines that it wishes to grant additional credit in the major. It is understood that the relationship of course sequence and credit within the major will vary from college to college and major to major and that the allocation of credits will vary slightly. (BTM,1985,06-24,005,_D)

All science courses taken in one University college are to be considered transferable, with full credit, to each college of the University; full credit is to be granted for these courses in all departments and programs, and they are to be recognized for the fulfillment of degree requirements. (BTM,1985,06-24,005,_D)

Based on a fair and reasonable evaluation of a student's transcript at least nine credits in laboratory science are to be granted in the student's major unless the senior college determines that it wishes to grant additional credit in the major. It is understood that the relationship of course sequence and credit within the major will vary from college to college and major to major and that the allocation of credits will vary slightly. (BTM,1985,06-24,005,_D)

In 1999 the CUNY BOT adopted resolutions including this:  

1.29 Transfers

The Chancellor, in consultation with the Council of Presidents and the faculty, including the Discipline Councils, shall establish a process that will entail a review of transfer program distribution requirements, ensure full implementation of all transfer policies including those related to student admission and testing, and ensure that the policies are properly interpreted and broadly disseminated to students, faculty and administrators. (BTM,1999,11-22,005,_C)

Unfortunately, enforcement of these policies of the BOT by the University’s Chancellery has not been in evidence over several decades. This has led to far too many incidents of students being made to enroll in more courses than would have otherwise been needed to fulfill graduation requirements. In light of clear cases of injustice and violations of BOT policies and instead of enforcement of previous policies, the Chancellery offered to the BOT yet another approach to whatever problems may exist with transfer.  

CUNY appeared uninterested in the pursuit of more secure transfer via articulation agreements.  Yet a recent CUNY study “Does Earning an Associate Degree Lead to Better Baccalaureate Outcomes for Transfer Students?” January 2012, by David Crook, offers the following:   “Finally, some combinations of associate and baccalaureate majors may create relatively efficient transfer pathways, owing to articulation agreements between colleges and departments within the CUNY system. “ 

Instead of this approach a radical alternative was enacted through another set of BOT policies, June 2011, with the RESOLUTION ON CREATING AN EFFICIENT TRANSFER SYSTEM (  

The approach taken was through a reform of General Education throughout CUNY and the introduction of a Common Core. This approach was not based on the data concerning problems with transfer and the causes for excess credits and as such is incapable of addressing or remediating most of the situations that lead a student to have more credits than needed for a baccalaureate degree at the time of graduation.  

The ten resolutions of June 2011 did include this resolve and policy: ” Resolved, that all courses taken for credit at an undergraduate CUNY college be accepted for credit at every other CUNY undergraduate college, regardless of whether a specific equivalency exists at the transfer college, to an extent consistent with grade requirements and residency rules at the transfer colleges “  

This does cover the problem of credits earned at one college in CUNY not having those credits accepted at another college in CUNY particularly in light of the previous BOT policies. There was no need for the General Education reforms found in the other nine resolutions dealing with General Education. There has been a need for the Chancellery to have enforced the previous BOT policies.  

In order to remedy those problems with transfer that still exist and that can be remedied by an action of the BOT without major disruption of the academic programs and possible diminution on academic quality there have been and there are still actions that could have been and can be taken by the BOT and the Chancellery. These include:  

·        The CUNY BOT reiterates its policies of 1967, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1985, 1993 and 1999 and specifically charges the Chancellery to enforce them.

·        The CUNY BOT rescinds its resolutions of June 2011 except for the resolve that states: ”that all courses taken for credit at an undergraduate CUNY college be accepted for credit at every other CUNY undergraduate college, regardless of whether a specific equivalency exists at the transfer college, to an extent consistent with grade requirements and residency rules at the transfer colleges”

·        Following previous BOT policies, articulation agreements should be reviewed, updated where needed and their number increased

·        The CUNY BOT adopts a statement that articulation agreements are enforceable by the Chancellery

·        Dual Joint programs should be increased in their number

·        The CUNY BOT following its 1999 policy again directs that there be a process operated by the Chancellery for students with problems in transfer involving violations of CUNY BOT Policies. Such a process might have a review panel composed of faculty from the sending and receiving colleges who review the cases and make determinations that are final and have the authority of the CUNY BOT for enforcement.

·        As an alternative to the Pathways Initiative (RESOLUTION ON CREATING AN EFFICIENT TRANSFER SYSTEM, June 2011 ) the CUNY BOT might also adopt a Transfer Program for Assuring Transfer such as several that can be offered as already developed by CUNY faculty leaders that are far less disruptive and cumbersome and costly than the current mandate.


In the actions and statements issued by the Chancellery there is evidence of attitudes and behaviors exhibited in and typifying the post modern mindset. In  Explaining Postmodernism Stephen R.C. Hicks states that postmodernism holds that :

Objectivity is a myth. There is no truth and there is no right way to read nature or a text. All interpretations are equally valid. Values are socially subjective products…. Coexisting with these relativistic and egalitarian themes we hear on the other hand deep chords of cynicism. Principles of civility and procedural justice simply serve as masks for hypocrisy and oppression born of asymmetrical power relations. Masks that must be ripped off by crude verbal and physical weapons: ad hominem argument, in your face shock tactics and equally cynical power plays. Disagreements are met not by argument, the benefit of the doubt and the expectation that reason can prevail but with assertion, animosity and a willingness to resort to force.

That description aptly fits what has been transpiring in CUNY with regard to the transformation of degree requirements and the contents of degree programs. . The attempts by faculty to offer arguments indicating the weakness of the Pathways rationale have been met with flippant dismissals or outright rejection of consideration.  The cries of faculty in opposition to Pathways have been met with animus in the dismissal of their leading voices.  Repeatedly, the Chancellery has resorted to referencing the alleged raw legal power of the Board of Trustees over all academic matters.  This reliance on the alleged legal power of the Board has been asserted over the prudential path of reason that would acknowledge as do the state regulations (New York State Education Department Regulation TITLE 8 CHAPTER II REGULATIONS OF THE COMMISSIONER  § 52.2 ) the important and indispensible role for the academic judgments of faculty in their rightful role within the academic institution and so provided in the CUNY Board of Trustees Bylaws article VIII. That departure from the traditional and prudent path is now at issue in at least two actions in the courts of New York..

Rather than examine the real problems with transfer and credits above the number required for the degree and rather than entering into a thorough examination of past history and present  options available the Chancellery proceeded with due haste and deliberate intent to circumvent the proper role for faculty involvement in approaching the alleged problems dealing with curricula matters and headed directly to have a Board of Trustees and a few willing collaborators, amongst thousands of faculty, decree and determine an approach to general education reform that does not address the major causes of excess credits and  does provide ample opportunities and temptations for undergraduates to avoid taking more demanding college level courses in Mathematics and Science and in the Liberal Arts.  The new Common Core devised by those who cooperated with the Chancellery provides for learning outcomes but not a guarantee for the breadth and depth of liberal arts knowledge that sustains graduates over many decades and perhaps several occupations and careers.  The new Common Core appears designed to increase retention and graduation rates and to do so at the expense of long term success.   The new Common Core has deleterious potential primarily for those who enter the CUNY with the poorest of academic preparation and knowledge.  These students tend to be students of color and poorest in financial resources.  In this there is a soft bigotry involved with Pathways, designed by a chancellery and approved by a Board of Trustees that appear to reside in the upper “1% “ of the American population.

Postmodernism holds for no objective truths or knowledge of the physical universe.  It presents arguments for multiple paths to truth and knowledge and all of equal value.  Science is held to have no particular privileged position with regard to knowledge of the physical universe.  The removal of hours of contact with student in Science courses and the removal of the laboratory experience in the CUNY Common Core is in keeping with this postmodern trend. The postmodern regards scientific knowledge as just another belief system.  Pathways removes the element in science that provides for the distinction of science from all other forms of knowledge and what supports the argument against post modernism’s epistemological theorizing.  Pathways thus undercuts respect for Science and devalues science and with that scientific knowledge as being more than simple beliefs or folk tales.  Instruction in Science without direct experience of the scientific method and the involvement of physical research including laboratory work is not instruction in science.


Academic freedom arose as a concept and then a social good a century ago when there was a common sharing of values by most administrations of colleges and universities with their faculty.  This is no longer the case as boards of trustees and then chancellors and presidents are arising from non academic locations, often from the corporate or political institutions that have different values.

According to Dr. Rosalind Carey, CUNY, Lehman College,  the AAUP, June 14, 2013 in her remarks ‘“Justifiably compelled”: Pathways and the erosion of the concept of faculty expertise and authority’”

There are any number of subtle and not subtle ways in which to undermine the concept of professional authority over curriculum and the related notion of shared governance… how the weakness in the notion of academic freedom makes it possible to attack both the practice and principle of faculty determining curriculum. ..academic freedom is in part protective of administrations, since back in the day, faculty could assume that administrators had the same values, and the threats to it were from outside. The formulations by the AAUP in 1915 and 1940 are posed in terms that highlight the university, assuming this to be the faculty, but this is now often not the case. Now threats are from within, from the administration, and so academic freedom is at cross-purposes with itself. .. the documents don’t anticipate how rules on curricula may be made to issue from a department at the behest of the administration or some external group. In other words, the documents do not anticipate a forced hand that clouds the origin of new norms to look self-imposed when they are not. This is why the administration repeatedly calls Pathways “faculty driven”, when it is patently not. In this way academic freedom is a weapon that can be turned against academic freedom... academic freedom itself needs to be re-thought, as the older formulations are clearly not applying to the present...

There is in the actions of the Chancellery with regard to the Pathways comprehensive curricular reforms the ascendency of the institutional values of economy and efficiency within the corporate conception of the institution over the academic values of knowledge and truth and cultural transmission and career preparation for lifelong learners.  The orientation of the curricular reforms with its accent on learning outcomes rather than subject matter is decidedly in the interest of producing skills for job training.  The goals appear to be increasing the percentage of graduates and graduates who become employed.  These are quantifiable objectives that can be made transparent to the public and private sources of funding for the University that have short term interests in having an increase in employed youth.  This is the effective insertion of external forces into the academic decision making of the institution that Academic Freedom is afforded to faculty to insulate them and their institutions from such external intrusions of the short term and non academic aims and values into the construction, maintenance and operation of their academic programs.  The current intrusions are not from religious or political agencies, as was the case a century ago, but the agencies of the economic institutions.   What appears to be most effectively operative in the decision making of administrations that operate as does that of CUNY  is that academic judgments concerning curricular matters should be based on the immediate needs of the marketplace. 

There are in the policy statements of the American Association of University Professors and of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges provisions for trustees overriding the academic judgments of faculty when there is a divide in their judgments.  Acting in fulfillment of their fiduciary responsibilities on behalf of the institution and its students trustees are to substitute their judgments for that of their faculty.  The conditions for such substitution are to obtain when the judgments of faculty are deemed to be not in the service of their students and society.  At this time it would appear that presidents, chancellors, and boards are interpreting that the criteria for their overriding faculty academic judgments are met when faculty are basing their judgments on academic values and the traditional aims of higher education and not on the values of the current marketplace.  This would appear to be a tragic flaw in the current conception of how Academic Freedom is situated and to operate.

Means of preventing or mitigating the usurpation of faculty prerogatives

What are the possible means of preventing or mitigating the usurpation of faculty prerogatives and denial of their exercise of professional responsibilities from occurring or worsening?  Here are some based on lessons learned from the experience in CUNY with the Pathways Initiative.

1.      Strengthening Faculty identity as professional educators and duty for involvement in governance as career long professional responsibility

2.      Need for strong shared governance policies and laws and regulations

3.      Faculty control over narratives concerning academic matters

4.      Faculty need to understand the effective uses of media and the need for public relations measures to present their own narratives

5.      Faculty involvement with government and accreditation agencies




Key passages with emphasis added relating to the role of faculty in CUNY relating to curriculum.

1.   New York State Education Department Regulation

TITLE 8 CHAPTER II REGULATIONS OF THE COMMISSIONER  § 52.2 Standards for the registration of undergraduate and graduate curricula.  

(d) Admissions. (1) The admission of students shall be determined through an orderly process using published criteria which shall be uniformly applied.

(e) Administration. (1) Responsibility for the administration of institutional policies and programs shall be clearly established.

(2) Within the authority of its governing board, the institution shall provide that overall educational policy and its implementation are the responsibility of the institution’s faculty and academic officers. Other appropriate segments of the institutional community may share in this responsibility in accordance with the norms developed by each institution.

2. CUNY Board of Trustees Bylaws 



The faculty shall meet at least once in each semester, or oftener, upon call by the president or by petition of ten per cent of its members. The faculty shall be responsible, subject to guidelines, if any, as established by the board, for the formulation of policy relating to the admission and retention of students including health and scholarship standards therefor, student attendance including leaves of absence, curriculum, awarding of college credit, granting of degrees. It shall make its own bylaws, consistent with these bylaws, and conduct the educational affairs customarily cared for by a college faculty. The president shall preside at its meetings, or in his/her absence, the dean of faculty or a dean designated by the president.



There shall be a university faculty senate, responsible, subject to the board, for the formulation of policy relating to the academic status, role, rights, and freedoms of the faculty, university level educational and instructional matters, and research and scholarly activities of university-wide import. The powers and duties of the university faculty senate shall not extend to areas or interests which fall exclusively within the domain of the faculty councils of the constituent units of the university. Consistent with the powers of the board in accordance with the education law and the bylaws of the board, the university faculty senate shall make its own bylaws providing for the election of its own officers, the establishment of its own rules and procedures for the election of senators, for its internal administration and for such other matters as is necessary for its continuing operations. 

2.   Letter from Chancellor Matthew Goldstein to AAUP B. Robert Kreiser March 21, 2012