CUNY Faculty Grievances Reflect Lack of Gratitude - The Jewish Voice
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Friday, August 19, 2022

CUNY Faculty Grievances Reflect Lack of Gratitude

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The Board of Trustees at the City University of New York (CUNY) have been pushing for an initiative, backed by student groups and experienced educators, which would form a core curriculum to unify the eighteen undergraduate colleges under one educational umbrella. The reasons for this new proposal are manifold: In addition to providing students with a well-rounded educational base and preparing them to enter an ever-changing workforce, the new core curriculum will cater to the large number of transfer students, who frequently transfer among campuses during the course of their schooling. These students have encountered strong resistance in the past during their transfer attempts, as credits from some schools are not accepted as others (again, these are schools within the same CUNY system), leaving cash-strapped students in a precarious financial state while delaying their educations for an even greater length of time. While the arguments put forth by faculty relate to the curricular costs they believe will be incurred by the system overhaul, the battle on the ground largely stems from a deeper, more difficult question.

Yes, the Board of Trustees has solicited student groups and faculty members to evaluate and implement the new proposal. And yes, the faculty union and its supporters have collectively voiced a litany of complaints with how a new core curriculum may sacrifice the individual qualities of CUNY campuses, reduce the academic rigor of some of the prouder CUNY institutions, and, generally, facilitate matters for students while compromising on the educations they receive. But the root of the recurrent problem derives from something more profound. The relationship, and the balance of power, between an institution’s financial backers and its purpose-driven delegates is really the question at the heart of this issue.

And the truth is that, at the end of the day, the money rests in the hands of the donors. These people were responsible for putting the school together, for crafting its foundation and orchestrating its provenance, and allowed educators the ability to use their skills for the betterment of their students and of society in general. It is true that the educators should have a say in the matters at hand, but the fact that they are in such a position at all is something they should appreciate. As vital as the faculty is to an institution of higher learning, it’s easier to recruit new teachers than new patrons.
So, when your employer makes a proposal to treat a problem hurting many students, consults with students and more than a hundred recognized faculty members to refine and present the new program, you should reconsider voicing your complaints, or at least present them in a way that might actually help. Do you feel that a core curriculum is going to compromise the quality of a given CUNY school’s education? Instead of shooting down the idea outright, how about helping to improve it? Rather than being worried about bringing down a particular CUNY school to the lowest common denominator of its sister schools, how about thinking of ways to elevate the CUNY experience for everyone? Requiring fewer core classes at some of the more rigorous colleges is not an abandonment of one’s standards.  Surely there exists a way to facilitate student transfers that shortchanges neither the student, nor the school. If a class at CUNY A isn’t good enough to be recognized by CUNY B, why is it a CUNY class at all? Are CUNY faculty willing to accept sub-par classes, but only on certain campuses?

The fact of the matter is that the board of trustees does have the right to formulate academic policy. And if they wish to form policy in such a way as to respond to the needs of CUNY students whose ability to complete their studies would otherwise be jeopardized, then more power to them, we say.
A little hakarat hatov— appreciation— on the part of the faculty would be nice. These teachers need to know where they stand, they need to recognize to whom they are accountable, and appreciate the academic liberties they have always been granted. Kvetching alone rarely fixes problems. Want to preserve the quality of instruction at your school? Then don’t just rest on the laurels of your tenure. Roll up your sleeves and get involved!

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