CUNY Declares War On QCC English Department

Angus Johnston at Student Activism:

At Queensborough’s English department the primary practical issue with Pathways was its reduction of weekly course hours for composition classes from four to three. This change would cut into students’ class time, require heavier faculty courseloads and — not incidentally — dramatically reduce faculty compensation for teaching composition, a particularly writing and grading intensive class.

The shift from the department’s existing four-hour composition courses to new Pathways-compliant three-hour offerings required a departmental vote, and as it became clear that faculty were disinclined to approve the change, administrators made it known that a failure to approve the Pathways plan would result in harsh consequences.

Pathways is CUNY’s way of standardizing the curriculum across its various campuses. It seems that the English Department at Queensborough Community College wants to maintain a four-hour course, but under Pathways, an English composition course would only earn three credits and, accordingly, would be restricted to three hours per week. The downsizing will undoubtedly hurt students and their progress to write proficiently.1

I am not sure what the constraints are, but it might be possible reduce the credits earned for students. The class could meet for four hours, and teachers earn four contact hours of pay. For example, most of our film courses are four hours in length, but students receive only three credits. When I was an undergraduate, our Film History classes met for nine hours per week (two hours on each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and ninety minutes on each Tuesday and Thursday) but we only received four credits. 2

But if under Pathways, CUNY insists on maintaining a one-to-one relationship between credits earned and contact hours, then it would be gross reduction in educational quality for students who are already disadvantaged.

  1. Incidentally, it is at CUNY where I have had to do the most amount remedial work in academic writing. I actually enjoy doing so as students have seemed receptive to learning something they can use in all their classes, not just mine. Reducing the emphasis on writing and composition at CUNY will only hurt not help students. 

  2. According to the General Catalog, the Film and Media Studies department at UCSB raised the credits earned for the “Film History”, “Advanced Film Analysis”, and “Film Theory” courses to five. The department did so in 2001 given the amount of time a student spends in class and for the amount of extensive writing done in these classes. In my many years teaching, I have yet to teach courses as intensive as these. 

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  1. UCSB is on quarters and it always seemed to me that on quarters there was more latitude re the relationship of class time to credit hours, I am not sure why.

    In my state, there is an initiative like the CUNY one, and it applies to all postsecondary institutions. But, they did not make institutions change the number of credit hours. They just created a table showing that X 4-hour course at University 1 was equivalent to Y 3-hour course at University 2, etc.

    It means that if you transfer from University 1 to University 2, only 3 of those 4 credit hours transfer. I am guessing some accounting office in CUNY has decided that means money lost, or money that could be saved.