Your Moment of Zen–CUNY Edition


Last week, the English Discipline Council of the University Faculty Senate formally resolved to support the four-hour English composition course or its equivalent in the face of a Board of Trustees sponsored effort to whittle the thing down to three hours, reject transfer credits that are not approved by individual English faculties and their college’s governing  body, and to generally support faculty governance and the control of curricular design by departments instead of the BoT.  The resolution was quickly sent to Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost Alexandra W. Logue, who replied with the following email.

Thank you for your message below on behalf of the English Discipline Council, and your more recent message on behalf of the English Department of Hunter College.  The dedication of the English faculty to CUNY students is very apparent throughout the system, and I appreciate your sharing your concerns and the resolutions of the two groups with me.

As you know, CUNY’s new Common Core requires each Common Core course to have improvement in writing skills as one of its learning goals—quite different from the current status of many general education courses on our campuses.  This is one of the reasons why the Pathways Steering Committee, which designed the Common Core after extensive, CUNY-wide consultation and feedback, felt comfortable in changing the first of the two English Composition courses in the Common Core from four credits in the Steering Committee’s initial draft to three credits in its final recommendations.  The Steering Committee also recognized that each campus would have the authority to assign additional work on writing skills—work done in addition to the Common Core learning outcomes—for its students.  Nevertheless, with 20% of the credits in the final version of the Common Core being devoted to English Composition, it is clear that the English faculty have a special role with regard to developing the writing skills of CUNY students.

Related to the resolution from the English Discipline Council, I would like to reinforce what I wrote to you last March 2nd, and subsequently, i.e., that Pathways Common Core courses must each be “3 credits and 3 contact hours….We use the definition [of a contact hour] that comes from the CUNY-PSC Collective Bargaining Agreement Appendix A: ‘An undergraduate teaching contact hour is defined as an organized class which meets at a regularly scheduled time during the semester, quarter or session for one fifty-minute period or its approved equivalent period.’” Thus, as explained in that March 2nd email, and in additional correspondence that you and I had last spring, the time spent in any other sorts of meetings or interactions that occur between students and faculty (e.g., small group meetings or individual appointments or special workshops for a subset of the class) are not considered contact hours and are not limited by the 3 contact hour guideline.  How such additional interactions are scheduled is entirely up to a campus.  Further, how much workload credit a faculty member receives for a given course is entirely up to a campus.

In addition, related to both resolutions, I attach for your reference the email from Chancellor Goldstein last week, which discusses both Queensborough and the role and authority of the CUNY Board of Trustees.

Thank you again for your dedication to our students and your concern for high-quality education at CUNY.


Lexa Logue

Then, on Friday at a meeting of the UFS executive committee and CUNY faculty governance leaders with Matthew Goldstein and Vice Chancellor Logue, the latter two laid out yet another vision of what might be possible for the fourth hour under a new, perverse rubric. According to one participant in the room, “It MAY now be permitted to schedule a fourth hour in the same room provided that during that hour less than 100% of the students are expected to be in the room. Those required to be in the room must not include the entire class. This new directive may permit different subsets of the whole in each fourth hour of the week. A college could schedule the entire four hours in rooms and it could appear on the course schedules and it might be acceptable provided the fourth hour not have 100 percent of the students in the room with the instructor.”

Whaaaaaaa? Talk about commitment to a quality education!

Vice Chancellor Logue and her office have been asked for all of this in an official statement. We’re not holding our breath…

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