below for help
of the Professional Staff Congress
BEFORE THE CUNY BOARD of Trustees
PROPOSED MASTER PLAN
afternoon. My name is Barbara Bowen, I will assume the office of President
of the PSC on Thursday. I am also a member of the faculty in English at
Queens College and the Graduate Center. Thank you for the messages of congratulations on our election
that many members of the Board and the Chancellory have sent. I regret
that the occasion of my first testimony to you in my new role is on the
subject of this Master Plan, a document that is in large part directly in
opposition to the collective professional interests of the members I
represent. I still hope to develop a strong working relationship with you
during my tenure as PSC President, but I must begin by expressing the
union’s position that the Master Plan, as currently conceived, is
illegitimate, destructive of the mission of the University, and in
violation of the professional rights and interests of the faculty and
staff. (I would like to ask for an extension to five minutes of my time to
speak in view of the lack of opportunity for us to comment on the document
in advance as PSC leadership.)
the heart of this plan is an attempt to disguise the political interests
on which it is based. Following the Schmidt Report, with its loaded
rhetoric of ships adrift, the Master Plan manufactures a crisis at CUNY so
that it can interpose itself as the rescuer. In the Master Plan this takes
the form almost of a second coming, with repeated references to the
millennium coupled with praise for the fortuitous “arrival”—as if
without political histories—of new Board leadership. Having
systematically ignored what CUNY currently accomplishes through the
efforts of its faculty, staff and students (though it pays lip service to
a few highlights), the Plan is then free to present itself as CUNY’s
savior. Indeed, the Plan goes a step further: it makes the implicit claim
that the University is the Administration. Page 3 of the Preamble
warns that only by holding steady to the Plan’s coporatizing course can
“the University” avoid “being buffeted by both internal and external
forces.” One of those internal forces is our membership, the
University’s faculty and staff, who have registered widespread
opposition to the Schmidt Report; if we somehow stand apart form and even
opposed to “the University,” then who is the University? This
document carries on a stealth struggle for appropriation of the University
itself; it is an attempt to remake CUNY explicitly as a
corporation, complete with CEOs and COOs, while writing out both the
comprehensive educational mission of the University and the professional
prerogatives of the faculty and staff.
PSC calls on the Board to delay consideration of this Plan until a real
process of response can be undertaken. It is an insult to present a plan
that proposes sweeping changes for the University on April 24, to amend it
constantly in the following two weeks, and then to claim that it can be
voted on on May 22. Vice Chancellor Mirrer states in her cover letter that
the college “presidents were asked to consult with their faculty in
advance of these submissions”: the PSC wants to ask, what form did this
consultation take? It is telling, also that the document must
systematically write out the history of oppositions to the restructuring
it proposes: the hundreds of people who testified against such a plan, the
considered criticisms of the PSC, the University Faculty Senate, Friends
of CUNY, CUNY Is Our Future and the Bar Association of New York. Just as
history is rewritten in this document, evidence is ignored: on page 83 the
Plan claims that “the Board has reason to believe” a list of claims
about remediation for which it offers no evidence and which fly in the
face of the statistical studies of the issue.
Plan proposes a dangerous usurpation of faculty and professional staff
rights. I have time only to outline them here:
financial basis is the promise, made on page 4, to “achieve productivity
and program savings.” This bland language conceals the intention to
raise workloads that are already double those of comparable institutions
and to cut academic programs and jobs from our already bare-bones
threatens the explicit faculty prerogative of control over curriculum in
its announcement of a core curriculum and its prescriptions for the
teaching of writing and other subjects.
offers no protection of faculty control of our work and no observance of
academic freedom in its plan for on-line teaching.
threatens to write faculty and professional staff out of the admissions
proposal for an Honors College substitutes a “cultural passport” for
the one thing honors students and all students really need—close
mentoring by faculty who have time to be active scholars in their own
proposes hiring in clusters that reflect the priorities of the current
CUNY Administration, rather than those identified by the faculty. While
the PSC strongly supports new full-time hiring and endorses the
University’s expansion into new fields of knowledge, it opposes hiring
conducted without broad-based discussion among the faculty and
professional staff in all fields.
undermines faculty knowledge and ability to assess our students work by
advocating outsourcing of testing to for-profit firms.
attempts to mandate how writing will be taught within our classrooms,
while failing to address the real need in these classes for smaller class
presages a tiering of salaries and resources among the colleges and among
on page 95: it ominously promises to review “existing personnel systmes,”
an idea that leaves open the door for undermining the union cntract’s
strict protections of tenure and promotion.
is an anti-union document.
result of this plan will be an instrumentalizing of education for
students—to make them serve the interest of for-profit employers—and
an instrumentalizing of the faculty and professional staff—to serve the
predetermined interests of the Administration. The university is one place
where values can still be questioned, where the value of the marketplace
has not yet assumed hegemony; and this plan attempts to replace the
traditional mission of academia with the more cynical one of providing
low-level workers and reserving cultural capital for a thin layer of the
the union election, a few weeks ago, we received a mandate from CUNY’s
faculty and professional staff to represent interests that were
explicitily opposed to the aims of Schmidt Report. We were elected on a
platform of restoring public investment in CUNY, rebuilding the
University as a scholarly institution for all New Yorkers—not just those
who do well on standardized tests—and defending the professional lives
of our members. Thus the Master Plan proposal comes at a rare moment when
we know exactly where the majority of the faculty and professional staff
stand on the issues it raises. The PSC asks you again, in recognition of
this mandate and the hasty presentation of this plan at exactly the moment
that the faculty and staff have chose new leaderhip of the union, to admit
that the timetable is in error and allow a reasonable period for true
public response. If you bring this plan to a vote next week, especially if
you vote to approve it, know that you are opposing the stated will of the
faculty and staff. The PSC urges you, while there is still time, to take
this illegitimate plan off the table and allow the future of the
University to be planned by those who are, in fact, the University:
its faculty, professional staff and students.
of the Professional Staff Congress
BEFORE THE CUNY BOARD of Trustees
PROPOSED MASTER PLAN
Thank you for
the opportunity to testify on this important document.
This opportunity, however, is too brief and the consultative
process leading to the adoption of the Master Plan has been very limited
and inadequate. I request
that the decision on the adoption of the Master Plan be delayed until
there can be adequate and appropriate consultation with the elected
representatives of CUNY faculty and profession staff, elected officials,
community organizations and other outside interested parties.
leadership of the PSC represents a new and important faculty and staff
voice and must be part of the consultative process leading to the
formulation of a new Master Plan. We
have much to offer.
The reason, I
fear, for the failure to engage in such consultation is boldly announced
in the first paragraph of the “Preamble” and restated in the final
paragraph of the “Preamble.” This Master Plan is the vision of three men, Chairperson
Badillo, Vice Chairperson Schmidt, and Chancellor Goldstein and relies
“principally” on the recommendations of the Mayor’s Advisory Task
Force on CUNY (“Schmidt Report”).
As such, this
Master Plan document is a narrowly based political document and does not
represent broad opinion within or without the University.
A new vision for a great university should not be dictated by the
narrow views of a few.
hundreds testified in open hearings against the recommendations of the
“Schmidt Report”; including hundreds of faculty and staff, many
elected public officials (including Comptroller Carl McCall, Assembly
Higher Education Chairperson Ed Sullivan, Public Advocate Mark Green,
City Council Higher Education Chairperson Helen Marshall, and many other
New York City and State representatives), the New York City Bar
Association, labor leaders, Friends of CUNY, religious leaders,
community leaders, and the list goes on.
The testimony critiquing the recommendations of the “Schmidt
Report” was extensive and thorough.
The “Schmidt Report” was shown to be an ideologically driven
document, written by political appointees, whose conclusions had little
to do with quality education or the mission of CUNY.
Is the Board
referring to this broad body of expert and representative opinion in the
final paragraph of the “Preamble” when it says, “...only by
holding fast to [the University’s] objectives can it avoid being
buffeted by both internal and external forces.” In other words, it appears the BOT in adopting this document
is not prepared to enter into good faith consultation over its
provisions now or in the future.
approach, the document reads as a declaration of war on the
professionalism of the unionized faculty and staff of this university.
For example, the Master Plan contemplates the imposition of a new
core curriculum and other curricular initiatives without following
faculty governance procedures, and changes in admissions policies are
proposed without faculty consultation.
Faculty governance rights over curriculum and admissions are
guaranteed under Article 8.6 of the BOT Bylaws and were reaffirmed by
the 1997 Settlement Agreement in Polishook V. Reynolds.
This Master Plan document disregards the Board’s affirmation of
and confrontational nature of the Master Plan skews the document into
being a special pleading for certain types of program development,
mainly applied science and economic development programs.
I want to be clear that these are worthy efforts if developed
with appropriate faculty control and support.
The Master Plan’s almost exclusive concentration on this area,
however, presents an imbalanced plan for the future.
The Master Plan
admits on page 23, “The largest proportion of new programs under
development within the University is in the liberal arts and
sciences.” What about
faculty and program development in these areas?
The Master Plan is silent on the majority of program development
in the University or how to enhance its liberal arts and sciences
driven document ultimately makes for bad policy.
It leads to confrontation instead of cooperation and
ill-conceived programs instead of professionalism.
The unionized faculty and staff are prevented from discharging
their duties in a professional manner and our students do not get the
education they deserve. In
order to serve the University, its students and New York City, I urge
you to rethink this Master Plan and engage the many supporters of CUNY
in an effort to forge a truly comprehensive Master Plan that will carry
out CUNY’s mission of access and excellence.
Secretary of the PSC
Vice Chair of the University Faculty Senate
Professor of English at Baruch College
ON THE CUNY MASTER PLAN, 2000-2004
at the New York State Board of Regents Hearing
September 6, 2000
morning, I am Dr. Cecelia McCall. I
have prepared this testimony wearing three hats: one as the newly
elected Secretary of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) of the City
University of New York, the collective bargaining agent for the faculty
and staff; another as the elected Vice Chair of the University Faculty
Senate (UFS) and the third as a long-time faculty member at Baruch
a three-hatted hydra, therefore, I want to thank you once again for
conducting this Hearing, though we have heard rumors that some of you
may be suffering from CUNYitis, a disease brought on by the clamor of
various advocates for CUNY.
you know that this wonderful University is worth fighting for.
CUNY has provided the faculty with rigorous academic careers that
combine teaching, research and scholarship; it has given the staff
equally challenging positions as directors and coordinators of sundry
programs; it offers students an opportunity for meaningful and enriched
lives and supplies the city with well-educated alumni who contribute to
its economic foundation. I
won’t list the many accomplishments of these constituencies because
you are as much aware of them as I am, but I must underscore that the
prizes, triumphs and accolades continued to be won by students and
faculty throughout the years of open admissions.
They didn’t cease with the class of 1965 as some in the press,
the CUNY administration and city and state government would have you
2000-2004 Master Plan that you have a statutory obligation to review, if
accepted by you, becomes your Master Plan, the Regents’ plan for the
development of higher education in the state of New York.
I need not remind you that State Education Law (section 237)
says, “the regents . . . shall review and act upon the proposed plan
and recommendations . . . of the board of higher education in the city
of New York and incorporate such information, recommendations . . . into
a tentative Regents’ plan . . . thereof for the development of higher
education in the state.”
you must think of this plan as your own for that is what your imprimatur
signifies. In receiving it
as your plan, you must be satisfied that this is what you yourself and
your staff would have designed as a comprehensive plan for the only
institution of public higher education for all the people of the City of
you accept that this is not the Chancellor’s plan or the Trustees’
plan but the Regents’ plan, then you must conclude that from the first
section, the section designated “Preliminary Observations,” through
to the end, it is neither a comprehensive masterful vision for the
University, nor a blueprint to chart its course through the first few
years of this new century. It
is, in fact, little more than a wholehearted embrace of “A University
Adrift,” the report produced by the Mayor’s Task Force on CUNY.
that the Vice Chairperson of the CUNY Board of Trustees, Benno
Schmidt, was at the helm of that endeavor and in the year since its
release his privatization scheme has become quite transparent.
His motivation and goal was profit.
Profit gained from the privatization of university function,
particularly remediation and testing, and perhaps the takeover of some
of its major programs such as teacher education.
If this isn’t a conflict of interest, I don’t know what is.
doesn’t have to read too deeply to discern the nefarious strategy of
scapegoating students. The
introduction is replete with buzzwords such as “rigorous standards,”
“most qualified,” “rigorous” and “mainstream.”
It suggests that the traditional student body is somehow
responsible for the marginalization of the institution as well as the
reason for severe underfunding. You
must reject this subterfuge and perversion of language.
CUNY is now and has always been preeminent. Once again, look at pages 22 to 24 of the document which list
but a few of the honors conferred on faculty, students, programs and
colleges in the years prior to the machinations of the current crop of
know as do we all that underfunding has been a deliberate government
policy and is a result of the budgetary process itself whereby fiscal
decisions are made by three men in Albany and reflects the ongoing
tensions between upstate and downstate interests.
You must demand a just budget for CUNY while rejecting that the
student body of the last thirty years is to be blamed for this problem
and that barring from the senior colleges those who need academic
support is a part of the solution.
second section, the Preamble, is equally disturbing.
Once again it reiterates the buzzwords to suggest that there have
been no standards nor quality in performance and adds “selectivity”
and “differentiation.” It
substitutes this kind of language for the language of inclusivity and
outreach. It mentions
various admissions indices, but fails to note that there is already some
evidence to indicate that the new policy is seriously flawed and may
lead to the bankruptcy of the community colleges. Over the summer, some representatives of these colleges
reported to the union severe problems in recruitment.
80th Street would have you believe that the economy is
attracting high school students directly into the workforce, no similar
shortfall in enrollment has occurred in the community colleges of the
SUNY system, nor in the nation. Something
is wrong with CUNY and that something is 80th Street’s
evidence indicates that community college students have been siphoned
from those colleges into the senior colleges to bolster enrollment.
While, at the same time, the admissions policy has resulted in
the exclusion of ESL students. It
is easier for a foreign student to be admitted to a senior college than
a native-born youngster who may speak a language other than English at
home and in the community. 80th
Street will supply you with much data on “Prelude to Success,” the
joint venture in remediation between senior and community college, but
you won’t see any references in that data to the numbers of students
who were eligible for this program but who refused it, stayed away, went
to a private school, or did not go to college at all. A student who applies to a senior college wants that school
and will not agree to even a temporary sojourn elsewhere.
80th Street discovered last January that the majority of
those who needed “Prelude to Success” were transfers from outside
CUNY, not new freshmen, and that too many of them were refusing the
program and enrolling elsewhere, it promptly changed the admissions
policy for transfers so that those with 45 or more credits are no longer
required to take the skills examinations.
Thus one ill-conceived plan is followed by one even more
ill-conceived, ad hoc policy, which will devastate retention and
graduation rates. Most
distressing for a person of color who has been at the University for
more than thirty years is the omission from the Introduction and
Preamble of any mention of affirmative action.
No surprise since affirmative action at the senior colleges died
when you approved the Amendment to the Master Plan.
It is now being interred at the community colleges.
During the deliberations on the Amendment to the Master Plan you
gave Matt Goldstein the benefit of the doubt.
Many of you said your vote for the amendment was a vote of
confidence in him. Well, he
has had a chance and his policies are leading to the hemorrhaging of
community college students, the undermining of those schools, the
wholesale exclusion of ESL students, and the admission of less
after this Chancellor has gone off to his next position, you, the
Faculty Senate and the Union will have to sit together to undo the
damage that he has wrought.
I ask that you not adopt this Master Plan and not make it your blueprint for public higher education for the people of the City of New York. Send it back to the Chancellery for another amendment.
Community Colleges, the Professional Staff Congress
BEFORE THE City council committee on higher education
PROPOSED MASTER PLAN
June 19, 2000
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today about CUNY’s newly proposed Master Plan. As always, I appreciate the respect and dedication that this committee and its esteemed chair has shown to our students and faculty and the tenacity with which you have monitored and advocated for CUNY as a vital and vibrant institution in this great city.
There are certainly positive aspects to this plan. Commitments to augmenting the full-time faculty that has been so drastically decimated over the last 25 years, promoting cutting-edge technologies and infusing nationally recognized curriculum initiatives such as writing-across-the-curriculum programs are commendable. Yet, on the whole there is much to question in this hastily prepared and patchwork document. It is clear that the CUNY Board of Trustees and Chancellery have adopted the Mayor’s Task
Force Report of 1999 as the blueprint for CUNY’s future. With its unfortunate metaphor of our university as a “ship adrift” this document has been sold as map that will chart CUNY’s course through the turbulent waters
in this new
decade of a new millennium. Hours
upon hours of testimony presented by faculty, students, leading
politicians and representatives of numerous community constituencies
have been summarily dismissed. Reams
and reams of documents challenging this poorly researched, politically
generated report—including a comprehensive, compelling and scholarly
critique by the New York Bar Association and even data generated by the
Board’s own researchers—have conveniently found their way into the
shredder or circular file. Legitimate
representative faculty governance bodies continue to be ignored and
insulted with not so subtle implications that we professors are whiny,
petulant and self-serving upstarts.
It becomes increasingly difficult for faculty who have devoted their professional lives to education and scholarship to engage in reasoned and measured debate in such a hostile and demeaning climate. It is deeply disappointing to see a chancellery where the faculty this fall placed great hope and confidence now complicit in steering us to the fringes of the decision-making process about the missions and priorities of our institutions. Our visions and knowledge, based on well-earned and stringently monitored credentials, of how best to serve the students whom we know best, in the professional fields in which we are expert, in the real world of the classrooms, halls and lawns where we row the small and fragile boats that make this university great have become afterthoughts to plans cleverly infused with corporate language and political agendas dictated from powerbrokers above.
It is chilling to read in this new Master Plan the endless mantra of raising standards as code language for exclusion and it is nothing short of insulting to find CUNY portrayed from the outset as currently being on the margins of public higher education. Why does this document glorify the need to “achieve productivity and program savings” and “to identify external funding sources” rather than asserting the responsibility of the public to fund public higher education and the obligation of CUNY’s trustees to ensure that we have adequate funds in a state and city economy that is flush with dollars? Why, after Chancellor Goldstein repeatedly reassured the faculty that “flagship environment” did not mean “tiering,” does the plan for “top-tier colleges” appear right up-front in this new document? And where will the community colleges sit in these tiers ‘ and will there be tiers within tiers for community colleges as is explicitly recommended in the Schmidt Report?
In a number of respects CUNY community college faculty are on the front lines of a struggle to maintain an honest and meaningful open admissions policy at CUNY. Despite denials, slick language and euphemisms used to mask the reality that such opportunities for New York’s neediest and least prepared students are in very real and imminent danger, it is clear that the emphasis in our new Master Plan is on attracting the most highly qualified students. We read of having standards “equivalent to the nation’s most selective institutions.” The shift towards serving the best educated is overt. Even in the area of remediation where one would expect community colleges to continue offering its well-tested courses and programs within the context of the academic environment, the verbiage in the Master Plan is alarmingly vague. On page 16 we read about shifting “the administration of remedial instruction to the most appropriate locus in the University?” Where is this locus? Can one infer that it will not be in traditional academic departments at the community colleges? If so, why not? On p. 99 we read . . . “the Board had reason to believe that students who completed their remedial needs prior to engaging in college level work would accumulate credits at a faster pace, achieve higher GPAs, etc. etc.” Did members of the Board, the Chancellery hear, listen to, read, process, consider seriously the evidence to the contrary presented at countless hearings last year? Where is the research to support what the Board “had reason to believe?”
This Master Plan represents a redefinition of the priorities of CUNY, away from an emphasis on access and opportunity that are epitomized by the community colleges. We read code language such as “educational opportunity within the context of standards” which translates in reality to exclusion and barriers. The emphasis is on “first rate graduate and professional programs” and highly selective colleges and an Honors Academy. This signals a shift of focus from undergraduate to graduate education, from the many to the few. And this will necessarily reallocate resources to these elite programs, further starving the students who need and deserve the most help, those battling to overcome prior miseducation or undereducation, those returning to school, or new immigrants. This reordering is clear in the pie chart on p. 119 which displays almost 40% of a budget targeted for the “flagship environment” with half as much to academic support services for the entire university.
The agenda for community colleges in this plan is very limited - there is brief mention of preparing the underprepared but it is hardly a priority. There is no mention of creating the same kind of support system for community college students as for honors students or of enriching program options as for graduate and professional schools or of hiring first rate faculty. The report barely mentions any commitment to the educational missions of the community colleges except as servants of senior colleges (for transfer and articulation) or participants in a core curriculum. We see a vision of community colleges as functional - remediation (perhaps), transfer, and jobs. There is no sense that we are educational institutions with an essential role to play in providing quality higher education to people most in need of the smallest classes, the best professors, the latest technology, the most extensive tutorials and skills labs. We see little, if any interest in the democratic mission of community colleges.
In the annals of higher education history, the people’s history and story of CUNY 2000, what will we read about its policy makers and master planners? Will we read of them as guardians of a public university, as independent decision-makers with respect for students and faculty, committed to ensuring the best and widest ranging educational opportunities for all New Yorkers? Or will this text tell a different tale?
In closing, I know I speak for many, many of my colleagues in expressing deep appreciation for the difficult and important work of this committee and your profound commitment to CUNY. I thank you once again for the opportunity to address you today. I am confident that we will continue to work together as allies in shaping the future of our city’s university and in recognizing the comprehensive nature and essential missions of our community colleges.
Dr. Lorraine Cohen
Dr. Lorraine Cohen
BEFORE THE NY State Regents
PROPOSED MASTER PLAN
I am a full Professor of Sociology at LaGuardia Community College. I am a member of LGCC 's Faculty Council, Co-Chair of the CUNY Community College Conference, and a CUNY faculty member who works with the American Social History Project, a collaborative project between CUNY and NYC public high schools. I stand here today in front of you first and foremost as a teacher. I have taught for over 25 years and over that time I have worked with students who do not fit the traditional model of the college student. They are not the young, middle class, mainly white 18 year olds who are featured in the ads for clothes, computers, CDs, and cars. Over 60% of the students I teach are women, many are mothers, many are born other countries, many have been educationally disadvantaged and live in households that earn less than $25,000 a year, and many would be classified as "non-white." It is precisely the lives and futures of these students who are in jeopardy even now as this Master Plan is being implemented.
Indeed this document should be called not the Master Plan but the "Master's Plan." Like all Masters throughout history the makers of this plan view those who fall within its sphere of power and control as passive inert objects, not as real living thinking human beings. The Masters in this case, the Chancellor, the BOT, and corporate and political leaders upon which their authority rests do not see or feel the desire of my students to gain knowledge, or their will to overcome obstacles and adversity.
For those who are making the educational decisions an entire class of people who are not well educated is quite acceptable within the context of an economy that will have a limited supply of good jobs. If certain students do not meet the criteria of educability as determined by the Masters, they are simply the losers in a system that above all else values competition as the bedrock of a capitalist "meritocracy." If this plan becomes a reality many of my students and those that would have become my students will be pushed into what Marx called the reserve army of labor. They will fill the unemployment lines, the welfare rolls, do the cheap dirty jobs making hamburgers at McDonalds, work as home attendants and become new recruits for the burgeoning prison industrial complex.
Above all this Master Plan reflects the priorities of a corporate educational agenda. It prioritizes program development in fields that will expand links to new areas of corporate investment; it centralizes power in the hands of the CEO, the Chancellor answerable to a highly politicized Board of Trustees. It treats community colleges as places mainly to develop "basic skills" or to train people in niches to fill the needs of employers. It proposes creating new instruments for effectively disciplining labor, i.e. faculty, staff, and administrators. It demands changes in the curriculum in ways that do not challenge its hegemony and view of the world. It moves resources away from undergraduate into graduate programs, privileges research over teaching, and openly calls for new partnerships with the private sector that will bring them most of the benefits.
Those who write this plan do not see my students, nor do they see me or my colleagues working in and out of the classroom to develop the capacities of these students for engaging with a world of ideas, developing the skills of literacy, critical thought, and a new self-awareness. To the extent that our labor does not clearly quantifiably add value to the expansion of capitol our work is deemed insignificant and potentially dangerous. Thus the Master Plan emphasizes teaching "basic skills" that are pulled out of a context that holds meaning and purpose for students themselves. Thus they demand that students pass tests imposed from above and created by outsiders, as against tests and standards created by faculty. As faculty we are viewed as the enemy, inherently suspect, because we are not neutral disinterested observers, but precisely because we are engaged with our students.
I ask you before proceeding to endorse this plan that you do your own studies of the results of the policies that have already been implemented. Meet with faculty, staff, and administrators from around the University. Look at the new ACT test that will be used as an exit test from remediation, that was commissioned and will now prevent community college students from proceeding with course work towards receiving an Associates' degree. Compare this test it to existing exams that were in place to allow students to exit remediation. Look at the data on the results from the Language Immersion Institutes. Examine the new proposals that are being openly discussed to limit remediation not only at the senior colleges but also at the community colleges. Speak with admissions officers at the community colleges to get answers as to why community college enrollments were down significantly this past fall. Ask the Chancellor why in his full page add in the NY Times not a single story featured a student who graduated or transferred from a community colleges. Interview the guidance counselors at NYC public schools to see what the results are of these policies on students' decisions to go to CUNY.
The triumph of this plan is the triumph of the privileged over the oppressed, the wealthy and the educationally advantaged over the poor and working classes and the educationally disadvantaged, the native born over the immigrant, men over women, and whites over African- Americans, Caribbeans, and Latinos. The City University is a unique institution. It is a hothouse of exploding colors, languages, struggles, and histories. Do not allow the makers of this plan to destroy this dynamic vital institution by cutting it off from its roots: the children of the whole people, the disenfranchised and powerless. A CUNY that remains open to the many and not the few is the best hope for this city, and for the future of American society and the world.
BEFORE THE NY State Regents
PROPOSED MASTER PLAN
Montaigne ends "Of Cannibals," his essay on New World peoples, after a catalogue of their natural virtues which showed to such advantage against sixteenth century European barbarities like religious torture, with an ironic shrug: "All this is not too bad -- but what's the use? They don't wear breeches." Four hundred years later this is still the attitude of the CUNY Board of Trustees’ Master Plan which, following the blueprint of the Schmidt Report and in the spirit of the Board’s ending remedial courses, has already warned off tens of thousands of our prospective students and resulted in a huge drop in enrolments. A mean-spirited exclusion of certain students is the real design of this Master Plan, which the Regents now have a last chance of rejecting. Our working-class and immigrant students may be not too bad, in their motivation, their life skills, their solidarity with their struggling families, the energy and experience and diversity they bring to our classes: but what’s the use, say the authors of this Plan? They don’t wear breeches. They are not tailored to the measure of the standardized test or the student profile of 1925 or the market values of the New Economy. They don’t belong in CUNY. The tired Trustee rhetoric of "standards" and "accountability" is like European colonial myths about New World cannibalism: camouflage for a cruel policy. The Regents should be able to see through the rhetoric of this Masters’ Plan to its cruel reality, and reject it as Montaigne rejected the myth of the cannibal.
The cultural attitudes Montaigne pillories in "Of Cannibals" remind me of the Board of Trustees’ view of our students, especially given Chair Badillo’s widely-reported racist remarks against rural immigrants from Central America: They're not real students, the ones who don't have children, the ones who went to suburban schools, the ones who don't need to work more than ten hours a week, the ones with time and money to study fulltime and graduate in four years, the ones whose parents bought stocks and shares at the right time, the ones with native-born language skills and a middle-class sense of entitlement, the ones who don't have to contend with a racism as pervasive as their air and their language. They're not canonical students, and the proof is, many don't pass on their first try the WAT, the MAT, and the RAT, all good measures of those class-, race-, and gender-bound qualities; they don't wear breeches. Besides, there are far too many of them -- more than 60% going to college now! Imagine! After 150 years CUNY might actually be 60% of the way along the road to doing what it was set up to do, "educate the children of the whole people -- but what's the use? 60% of the sans culottes is way too many!
The prejudice Montaigne exposed beneath early European imperialist assumptions of cultural superiority is still the underlying dynamic of the Master Plan’s attack on CUNY students; and it has the same cover story, the claim to reason, the pretense of reform, the shibboleth of standards, upholding civilization in its glorious avatar The Writing Assessment Test -- the usual shreds and patches covering the ugly truth, which is that this whole movement against CUNY is aimed squarely at preserving cultural capital from the invasion of populist education. What the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu describes as the function of cultural taste and fine discrimination -- to mark and reproduce upper-class affiliation -- has begun to clash too markedly with educating the children of the whole people, a goal still absurdly far from realization, but nevertheless real enough, with that terrifying 60%, to begin to disturb the class function of higher education in this city. It is especially disturbing to new and insecure members of the Establishment that a college degree, historically an important marker of class belonging, is beginning to lose that function. This is the real meaning of the cry that the CUNY degree is losing its value: not its value in the light of critical reason, not even its market value in the New Economy, but its value as "distinction," as boundary marker between classes. Beneath the cover story that the content of the degree is being devalued lies the truth that higher education, if it becomes too common, loses its snob value. That is the real "standard" or flag the Master Plan flies, the banner of exclusion, racism, and class prejudice. Reject it; reject the myth that our students are cultural cannibals; and give back to them a university worthy of the whole people.
BEFORE THE NY State Regents
PROPOSED MASTER PLAN
is ironic that, over the past few months, there has been so much talk
about requiring U.S. history as part of the core contained in CUNY’s
new Master Plan. The irony lies in the disparity between preaching
democratic values on the one hand and violating them on the other.
Indeed, this Master Plan is thoroughly undemocratic.
a word on methods. The Master Plan has only been discussed sporadically
and mainly among administrators. Somehow the politically motivated,
controversial Schmidt Report has become policy, thereby recasting CUNY
into a corporate mold at the expense of our public service mission.
core itself was a last minute addition to the Master Plan requiring a
hasty rewrite of the preamble before open hearings. The faculty were
only allowed to comment on it ex post facto. If it is not implemented as
ordered, our Chairman has warned that the Board of Trustees will dictate
its own core. King George III would approve.
when confronted by the Chancellor’s public relations “fora,” the
faculty adopted the colonial weapon of the boycott to avoid condoning an
insulting process. As expected, the “fora” were then used to show
support for the Master Plan without mentioning the opposition of the
most representative faculty organizations, the UFS and the PSC. The
colonists called this technique “virtual” as opposed to “real”
representation. The Crown later learned that the exercise of arbitrary
authority always proves unwise, even if legal.
a word on content. The Master Plan is aggressively elitist. It hallows
“the most talented and qualified.” It extols “rigorous standards
for admissions” and “progressively increased entrance
requirements” in order to achieve “greater differentiation and
selectivity” among CUNY colleges. In other words, the Master Plan
recreates the rigid heirarchical social system of Old England, the very
system which the colonists (and immigrants ever since) wanted to escape.
the process of promoting tiering, flagship environments and a “highly
selective honors college,” the Master Plan shifts priorities, and
therefore resources, away from serving those who are disadvantaged by
their previous academic experiences in favor of pursuing those who are
already advantaged. It is at war not only with the history of CUNY, but
also with the history of public education in the U.S. and the long
struggle to be inclusive, not exclusive.
a word on community colleges, the last bastions of access to CUNY. It is
significant that our enrollments have suddenly plummeted and it is
imperative that the Regents carefully monitor the impact of the new
Master Plan on our institutions, not just on the senior colleges.
colleges appear in the Master Plan but only as auxiliaries to the senior
colleges or to camouflage CUNY’s abandonement of access. Of course,
access itself has been redefined in terms of standards, better known as
barrier exams--exams to get in and exams to get out.
just in case you can’t get out, there is a new emphasis on workforce
preparation and certificate programs. This reorientation has not been
discussed by the faculty either. Yet, it downgrades community colleges
into vocational institutes designed to “cool out” students’
ambitions and track them into jobs for which others consider them
suited. The nation’s community colleges are moving in precisely the
is missing for the community colleges is what is so eagerly given to the
flagship programs and honors students--small classes, tutoring, skills
labs, first rate faculty and the best technology, not to mention free
computers. It is no accident that the new Master Plan views community
colleges in such limited terms. The new CUNY has no use for our
commitment to social mobility and academic opportunity, our flexibility
and responsiveness to student needs, our innovative and supportive
Continuing to fulfill these functions will be like Washington trying to run the patriot army without clothing, food, and ammunition. The difference is that our Continental Congress, the Board of Trustees, does not support our military objectives. In fact, it is systematically dismantling the democratic mission that has heretofore rendered CUNY so distinctive. Make no mistake about it: the Trustees are the Royalists and the Master Plan marks their counter-revolution. As Tom Paine would say, no wonder “these are the times that try” every liberal educator’s “soul.”
BEFORE THE NY State Regents
PROPOSED MASTER PLAN
Good afternoon. I am a professor of English literature and composition at LaGuardia Community College, a member of the University Faculty Senate and of the UFS Community College Caucus, as well as the CUNY Community College Conference. I’d like to focus my remarks today on the impact of the master plan on the CUNY community colleges.
But first to the question of whether there was faculty input into the creation of this plan. Let me be clear: it is only in considering a complete text (not isolated bits of proposals) that one can understand the drift, the emphases, the trajectory of a plan. What has been emphasized? Overemphasized? Minimized? Left out altogether? What is in the details? What are the details? Without a complete text, there is no plan, and no complete text was released until May, when it was shown to the Board of Trustees. At the eleventh hour, some suggestions from the UFS Executive Committee were adopted before the final form of the plan was passed by the Board. Indeed, it is my understanding that major chunks of submissions even from college presidents were ignored in the plan’s preparation.
So what is emphasized in this plan?
1. How CUNY can make money from business and private funding;
2. Corporatization, in the form of business incubators, applied science, photonics;
3. Elite selective institutions, flagship programs, an honors college;
4. The imposition of a core;
5. Tests: SATs, ACT remediation tests, the Proficiency, the ACT Compass for ESL.
How might the community colleges fit into these emphases? We fear that we ourselves will be reduced to incubator status to allow businesses to make profits off the property that we rent to them. We are omitted from the so-called "flagship environment." We are omitted from the honors college (explicitly, according to the latest proposal). We are certainly not included among the favored "highly selective colleges" (not that we want to be), and we are not mentioned when the flagship programs are described. If a core is thrust upon us, we believe illegally and certainly improperly, we fear there will be an impoverishment of our liberal arts and science distribution requirements, developed with great care over the years, and we ask you to remember that it was the Board that lowered standards by forcing us to reduce our credits from 66 to 60. Finally, we see the tests as designed to bar students from entering college-level work in which they might be capable, and ultimately to bar them from graduating or transferring from our colleges.
What, on the contrary, is omitted or minimized in this master plan?
1. The concept of democratic access to, and public funding for, CUNY;
2. Any plans to reduce class sizes;
3. Any serious plan for hiring and developing liberal arts and sciences faculty and skills faculty, independent of the privileged flagship programs, and commensurate with the loss over twenty-five years of 5500 out of our 11,000 full-time faculty;
4. Any detailed plan for developing AA or AS degree programs, except for those most narrowly constructed to fit business and applied science and technology needs;
5. Any numbers to indicate whether the CLIP program in five years has been successful in helping its students actually gain admission to degree programs within CUNY;
6. Any plan to support student retention, despite the Chancellor’s admirable emphasis on it elsewhere. (I agree with the Chancellor, so why does the plan say absolutely nothing about retention beyond a heading on page 94?)
7. Finally, any mention whatsoever of Open Admissions, which is still the policy of CUNY as far as I am aware.
We fear that we are being pushed aside in the rush toward flagship programs, highly-selective colleges and the honors college. Community college enrollments this fall will suffer severe declines–only frantic last-minute efforts will prevent our figures from being truly disastrous. Where does that leave the optimistic projections in Table 1? We know that CUNY has strong motivation to support senior college enrollments by any means necessary: you are watching them! But is there motivation to support our enrollments?
We are open admissions institutions; any marginalizing of open admissions marginalizes us. But the community colleges still see themselves as an equal part of the university. So can this Master Plan be remediated? Of course! Here’s how:
1. Significant hiring of full-time liberal arts and science, including skills, faculty (not tied to the flagship programs);
2. An intelligent testing program designed to diagnose, support and retain but not to bar students;
3. A serious commitment to our comprehensive missions (career, transfer, skills);
4. A plan to support student retention;
5. Financial resources to support smaller class sizes across the board;
6. An evaluation of CLIP;
7. A serious commitment to preserving access for our students.
I urge you to press for these commitments, and for outside monitoring of the results, before you approve the master plan. Thank you.
Dr. Sandi Cooper
BEFORE THE NY State Regents
PROPOSED MASTER PLAN
Thank you for this opportunity to address the Master Plan proposed by the CUNY administration as the opening blueprint for the new century.
As an historian, a long time member of the University Faculty Senate and its former chair, I can
unequivocally state that this document represents a radical departure from the historic, customary and statutory
mission of CUNY. Its motivation is not rooted in respect for high standards, as its authors proclaim, but in a mix of business school
management mantras married to the conviction that public higher education
is primarily a gateway to corporate employment. Work force preparation has
replaced liberal arts education.
Previous master plans cared about access and proudly presented the diversity of CUNY campuses as its great strength. This one transforms CUNY into an academic McDonalds where the same kind of previously frozen meat patty is served to all comers.
The Chancellery has maintained that faculty supported this document and that the University Faculty Senate ignored its invitation to participate. The former is a half truth and the latter is a total lie.
Faculty in a few specialized fields such as technology transfer,
About the allegation that the Senate refused to participate, here
Indeed, from the little I have been able to learn behind the
Never before has a plan so insulted the college leadership. Presidents are reduced to local area managers whose
The track record of dissimulation of this current Board and its
BEFORE THE NY State Regents
PROPOSED MASTER PLAN
Thank you for
this opportunity to give you some of my thoughts on the proposed Master
Plan now before you.
Many of my
colleagues will today offer sharp critiques of several aspects of the
Master Plan. Some may even applaud it. The genius of this disparate and
energetic university lies in its diversity, the clashing opinions among
its faculty and students, and the rich variety of experiences brought to
it by 200,000 students of all ages and origins, and several thousand
equally diverse faculty members.
I hope you
listen carefully to these concerns raised by my colleagues, and take them
seriously into account.
My purpose today
is slightly different. Rather than comment on specific aspects of the
Master Plan, I want to raise questions about the Board of Trustees’: Its
role in exacerbating the problems of CUNY, and its competence to pass on
this Master Plan Proposal and send it to you.
have exacerbated our problems. For many years, CUNY has been seriously
short-changed in its budget. Faculty salaries have fallen precipitously in
comparison with our colleagues in similar institutions.
Our students’ tuition pays a disproportionate share of the costs,
again in comparison with other similar institutions. And so on. The
Trustees have not made the slightest attempt to alleviate this situation.
In fact, over the last several years, in the midst of the university’s
fiscal problems, many Trustees have launched public attacks on the
faculty, the students, and on the worthiness of the degrees we grant.
resources have declined largely because elected officials, and
particularly the Governor of the State and the Mayor of New York City have
consciously reduced the university’s budget---and in the case of the
current Mayor, have purposely and illegally withheld approved funds.
This has severely handicapped our ability to recruit new faculty,
and to provide adequately for our students. As a result, classes are
large, not enough elective courses can be offered, and we have a
disproportionate number of sections taught by part-time faculty.
Governor and Mayor appoint the Members of the Board of Trustees. In the
recently issued second volume of its report on CUNY, the Association of
the Bar of New York is particularly critical of the appointment process,
pointing out that the overwhelming majority of Trustees are employed by
agencies controlled by the Governor or the Mayor, or hold positions in
which they are dependent on those officials.
In other words, these Trustees are by no means an independent body
representing the community being served, but are simply extensions of
their masters in Albany or in City Hall. I refer you to the section of the
Bar Association report subtitled “Board of Trustees—Selection
Process”. There, we find that the Trustees in no way reflect the
diversity of opinion, experience, or thought that marks the university
they are supposed to oversee. Their assaults on the university they are
chosen to nurture are no less than reflexive kowtowing to their masters in
Albany and in City Hall.
The Chair and
Vice-Chair of the Trustees are especially culpable with regard to their
representation of special interests. The Chair, Herman Badillo, is a
long-time close political associate of both the Governor and Mayor, and
his law firm generates a considerable portion of its income lobbying on
behalf of clients before those elected officials and agencies under their
Schmidt, the Vice-Chair, a moderately accomplished academic administrator,
now has a second career as a principal in a for-profit educational
company. He is now embroiled in a possibly serious conflict-of-interest.
The much-maligned Schmidt Commission report, which he chaired, set the
tone for this Master Plan. Then, after he played a major role in the
Trustees’ approval of this Master Plan, Dr. Schmidt’s company
announced its intention to reap the rewards, including bidding on the
privatization of 45 New York City schools, and opening a teacher training
institute. This would be in direct competition with CUNY’s teacher
training facilities which, on pages 26 and 36-40 of the Master Plan, are
singled out as major program innovations and improvements over the next
four years. If there is a fox in our chicken coop, it is Dr.
In brief, there
is reason to believe that the Board of Trustees of CUNY, through its
method of appointment and in the behavior of its Members, may not be
capable of properly carrying out its fiduciary responsibilities on behalf
of the University. If that is true, then the Trustee’s approval of this
Master Plan is suspect. When you suspected irresponsible behavior among
Adelphi University’s Trustees, you took appropriate action. The
situation at CUNY equally cries out for intervention. As you know, even
the appearance of impropriety in the public sector must be taken
I ask that you
postpone your consideration of this Master Plan, and take some time to
investigate the competence of the Board of Trustees to render the
important, independent, and community-responsive judgments that are
clearly required in an undertaking of this magnitude. I believe you will
find that they had few deliberations on this complex document—indeed, I
would be surprised if more than a few Trustees even know in detail
what’s in the Master Plan. What they did, yet again, is rubber-stamp the
stated preferences of their leaders, who in turn reflected the interests
of their political masters and their own coffers.
If we are to
re-create a vibrant, creative and responsive and creative university, we
should begin at the top, and get a Board of Trustees that reflects those
attributes. Thank you.
BEFORE THE NY State Regents
PROPOSED MASTER PLAN
Honorable Regents, thank you for the opportunity to testify.