“Pathetic!” Trustees caught on camera mocking 6000 faculty against Pathways

Chancellor Goldstein and the CUNY Trustees gave short shrift to faculty concerns at a Board meeting on April 30, 2012. Halfway through the meeting, Board Chair Benno Schmidt told Professional Staff Congress (PSC) President Barbara Bowen to be quiet as she tried to present nearly 6,000 faculty signatures calling for the repeal of the Pathways general education plan. Bowen and other faculty members were threatened with ejection from the meeting before they left in protest.

The official webcast of the meeting (short excerpt below) shows Benno Schmidt mocking the faculty with choice words and a flurry of hand gestures while other trustees laugh in the background: “Pathetic!” “What a joke!” “Get out of here!”

[vimeo  http://vimeo.com/42274815%5D

Benno was apparently so distraught that Vice Chair Philip Alfonso Berry (former Colgate-Palmolive VP) felt the need to console him at one point with a gentle pat on the arm.

Benno’s remarks came moments after Trustee Peter Pantaleo (known for his litigation against unions) went on for five minutes about the “injustice,” “indignity,” and “personal attack” dealt to College of Staten Island President Tomás Morales by a motion of no confidence placed on the floor for debate at a recent CSI faculty senate meeting (more on that here and here). (Such motions are common when faculty voting bodies lose faith in the ability of college presidents.) “A university comprised of people who agree with each other on every issue would be an intellectual wasteland at best and an ideological gulag at worst,” Pantaleo said, chiding the faculty. “Are we a university that has lost public debate without personal attacks?” he asked, minutes before his fellow Trustee Benno Schmidt called the faculty “pathetic.”

Earlier in the meeting, Goldstein, Schmidt, Berry, and others lined up to back President Morales, who, as Trustee Kathleen Pesile (former JP Morgan VP) noted, was installed “with great opposition from people at the College of Staten Island” five years ago. Goldstein’s remarks were among the most eloquent of the evening: “I think Tomás Morales has been an exemplar of a president. He has been bold, creageous [sic.], he has helped to recruit a codery [sic.] of extraordinary faculty during the time of his tenure.” (We can’t wait to see how this string of Bushisms is sanitized for the official minutes, which will go up here later this month.)

Benno had special remarks for President Bowen and other faculty representing the 6000 signatories, after they left the meeting: “It is, in light of the previous discussion, a remarkable fact that the students here are acting with vastly more maturity and sense of responsibility than the faculty of the university. Or, no, I misspoke. Not the faculty of the university. You saw about 1%, if that, of the faculty of the university at this meeting. That does not represent the faculty of this university.” Benno’s comments met with quick applause from other trustees before Sandi Cooper, Chair of the University Faculty Senate, reminded them that the faculty who attended were elected representatives.

(image courtesy of PSC)

As reported on the PSC Campaign to Repeal Pathways page, Pathways is opposed by:

  • elected faculty bodies [see http://cunyufs.org/A for the complete list]
  • the majority of department chairs,
  • half of the Pathways Common Course Review Committee,,
  • 75 of 131 distinguished professors, and most notably,
  • 5,675 faculty members.
Today, the PSC and University Faculty Senate (UFS) also announced joint plans to create a proposal for facilitating student transfer while upholding the quality of a CUNY degree by the end of the fall semester.

A recent student report responds to Pathways by stating:

  • CUNY should be a bargain for the price, not a cheap education
  • The need to increase the graduation rate at CUNY is no excuse for the implementation of a general education framework that provides for the attrition in rigor of education offered at CUNY, and the University’s efforts must focus on the provision of the highest quality of education to all CUNY student rather than a fast and easy path to a degree
  • The implementation of “Pathways” could possibly result in the elimination or great reduction of academic departments especially in the humanities such as Philosophy, History, Foreign Languages, and Fine Arts, which offer fundamental tools necessary in today’s increasingly globalized world
  • Pathways’ prohibition of required prerequisites and GPA’s for core courses will result in a lowering of academic standards in General Education courses and would substantially devalue the general education curriculum, and the reputation of the City University of New York and thereby threatens the University’s ability to attract and train outstanding scholars and critical thinkers
  • The imposition of a standardized new curriculum by the Board of Trustees rather than by the faculty of individual CUNY campuses stands contrary to nation- wide practices and contradicts the traditional rights of faculty governance over curriculum and CUNY’s doctrine of shared governance as stated in the bylaws
  • Three credit non-laboratory science courses do not meet the nationwide standards for science courses and therefore actually impede transfer rather than support it while at the same time it devalues a CUNY degree
  • The Pathways initiative dismantles the liberal arts education and provides for the inadequate and arbitrary constraint of a 30 credit Common Core and a 12 credit college option for the baccalaureate curriculum
  • The value of our degrees and the standing of the university are threatened by the diminished standards, and that students will be less exposed to a variety of disciplines and opportunities.
  • The press coverage of Pathways, from the academic community at large, has highlighted the above issues
  • Over 4000 CUNY faculty members have signed a petition calling for the suspension of pathways and the development of a more rational way to help students transfer that does not demolish our liberal arts and science courses
  • Over 40 faculty groups weighed in against the proposal in the Spring 2011 semester and many more have since
  • Although the Office of Academic Affairs maintains that there were over 250 faculty members involved in developing Pathways, but these faculty were either picked by the Executive Vice Chancellor or by administrators.  The charters of all the undergraduate colleges require election of colleagues to committees. The Charter of the University Faculty Senate authorizes it to have a major role in programs that cross campuses. The process of appointing faculty rather than electing them violates these charters
  • Many of the 250 faculty members maintain that their recommendations were not taken into account.  Many resigned from this committee and have expressed that they do not support the common core (see this site for their resignation letters)