A controversial plan to create a core curriculum at the sprawling City University of New York (CUNY) is now a legal battle as well as a fight over how to teach undergraduate science. It promises to be a bitter dispute between two groups with an already long history of mutual mistrust.
Two professional organizations yesterday asked the New York State Supreme Court to block the university's decision to implement the Pathways Initiative. The initiative, adopted last June by the university's board of trustees, aims to provide a common starting point for all 155,000 full-time students, many of whom enter the 24-school system at one of CUNY's seven community colleges and later transfer to a senior college or professional school. By standardizing the transfer requirements, the new general education requirements are also intended to reduce the overall cost of a degree and shorten the time to graduation. Those goals are high-priority areas for state and federal legislators as well as key elements in the Obama Administration's campaign to increase the number of students with post-secondary degrees.
The suit, brought by the Professional Staff Congress and the University Faculty Senate, argues that the board has violated a 1997 agreement giving faculty a central role in policies that include deciding degree, credit, and course requirements as well as the scope and content of the curriculum. The suit claims that the university failed to provide faculty with an appropriate voice in creating the rules for the so-called Common Core, which requires every student to pass 10 three-credit courses in several areas. Senior colleges can require up to 12 additional entry-level credits in additional or related fields.