Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Message Archive

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This email is being sent to all full-time members of the Baruch faculty.

 

This email is meant as a review and update of the status of CUNY’s “Pathways Initiative” on our campus—also a head’s up about developments to come before April 1. With important decisions in our near future, I urge every member of the faculty to familiarize her or himself with the issues at hand. This email is fairly long and detailed. Even so, it is not comprehensive: there are issues that remain obscure even to those most deeply engaged in this process. Please feel free to ask questions.

 

As has been described in various emails from the Chancellor’s office, a university-wide task force and working group developed a CUNY-wide General Education curriculum last fall pursuant to a resolution passed by the CUNY Board of Trustees in June 2011. The proposed curriculum was sent to the campuses in November; the campuses were given two weeks to respond; and a somewhat revised version was adopted by the chancellor in December. The Pathways core curriculum is to go into effect university-wide in fall 2013.

 

The Pathways Core Curriculum (AKA General Education)

The Pathways curriculum comprises three parts:

 

1.     Required Core (12 credits - 4 courses).  The required core will consist of two English Composition courses, one Math course, and one Science course. (The categories are “English Composition,” “Math and Quantitative Reasoning,” and “Life and Physical Sciences.”)

 

2.     Flexible Core (18 credits - 6 courses). The six-course flexible core includes five categories. Students must take a course from each category plus an additional course from one of those categories. They may take no more than two courses from any one discipline:

 

a)   World Cultures and Global Issues

b)   U.S. Experience in its Diversity

c)   Creative Expression

d)   Individual and Society

e)   Scientific World

 

3.     College Option (12, 9, or 6 credits):

 

a)     “Students who transfer with 30 or fewer total credits from any college (including non-CUNY regionally accredited colleges) will be required to earn a maximum of 12 of the receiving college’s College-Option general education credits.” (NB: students who enter Baruch as freshmen also will follow the 12-credit option.)

 

b)    “Students who transfer with more than 30 total credits from any college (including non-CUNY regionally accredited colleges) but without an associate degree will be required to earn a maximum of 9 of the receiving college’s College-Option general education credits.”

 

c)     “Students who transfer with an associate degree from any college (including non-CUNY regionally accredited colleges) will be required to earn a maximum of 6 of the receiving college’s College-Option general education credits.”

 

Those interested in greater detail about these categories, along with the learning goals associated with each, may find them on the attached copy of the proposal approved by the chancellor in December 2011.

 

3 credits = 3 hours

NB: There are rumors to the effect that the Central Administration’s position on the issue raised in this section (regarding credits and hours) will be relaxed. I will circulate additional information when/if it becomes available.

 

Significant issues associated with each part of the core have been discussed and will continue to be discussed CUNY-wide and in the various forums described below. One that should be highlighted is the insistence by the Central Administration that each of the ten courses in the required and flexible cores (not those within the college option) be 3-credit/3-hour courses. This insistence is particularly significant because at Baruch (and on many other campuses) the English Composition (3-credits/4-hours), Science (4-credits/6-hours, including lab hours), and several Math courses of our General Education curriculum currently meet for more than three hours per week. In English Composition, for example, this would mean that our instructional hours—contact hours with students—would be reduced by 25% (from 8 to 6 hours per week).

 

In the Natural Sciences, lab hours traditionally have been counted as half-hours: our current 4-credit versions include two hours of lecture and four hours of lab. The Central Adminstration has insisted, however that each lab hour count as one hour. In response, members of our Natural Sciences faculty are discussing the development of a course that would meet for only three hours and would take place entirely in a lab; students who wish to go on in the sciences (or who are intellectually curious) could take an additional two-hour lecture course that would provide the theoretical framework. (I have over-simplified slightly: so long as we offer enough 3-hour/3-credit courses to meet student demand, we may offer 4-hour versions for students intending to major in the discipline.)

 

Some other issues

Other issues associated with the Pathways changes are inevitable given that our current core curriculum, a curriculum lauded by Middle States and the AACSB, requires more than 50 credits (depending on the degree sought), including our 9-credit “Tier 3 Minor,” a liberal arts minor that has been required of all of our students and that was singled out by Middle States as a model that other colleges should emulate. A reduction in required credits, especially one so extreme, inevitably means difficult choices.

 

Four current requirements at Baruch pose particularly difficult choices. The 9-credit minor, which allows students to explore a liberal arts discipline in some depth and which culminates in a communication-intensive “capstone” course, has been felt to be of significant value to our students, especially those not majoring liberal arts disciplines. Our “Great Works of Literature” course (3-credits/4-hours) has been a vital locus for teaching students to read, think, and write more critically. “Speech Communication” has provided a crucial introduction to public speaking for students who are expected to develop such proficiency for more advanced courses and the workplace. Two semesters of a foreign language, currently required for liberal arts majors and for others depending on high school background, generally have been considered essential for our graduates.

 

One approach to these requirements would be to devise versions of the college option that include them, perhaps in different combinations for the different schools. For example, whereas students in the Zicklin School might be required for the 12-credit option to complete a 9-credit liberal arts minor and take the Great Works of Literature course, students in the Weissman School might fulfill that requirement by taking Great Works, Speech Communication, and two semesters of foreign language. If we do proceed with different such combinations, as seems likely, the faculties of the three schools will need to determine these. If Zicklin were to adopt a model such as the one outlined above, perhaps the Speech Communication course would be added to the courses required for specific majors. These are among the issues/ideas currently under discussion.

 

The Flexible Core: Minimal versus Maximal Approaches

Although the issue of number of hours per course in the required core remains vexed, the courses destined for that part of the core seem more or less settled (English 2100 and 2150), 3-hour courses (to be developed) in each of the science disciplines taught at Baruch (biology, chemistry, environmental science, and physics), and specific Math courses (to be determined). But the courses of the flexible core and their distribution among the five categories are very much to be determined. Pathways has provided us with a series of learning goals for these categories that are less than very specific (see the attached); many disciplines/courses could easily fit multiple categories. Two approaches that would lead to different results are being discussed (along with compromise positions):

 

What might be dubbed the “minimalist” approach is based on the idea that since our current core is an excellent one—steering students from very diverse backgrounds through a coherent series of introductions to a wide variety of disciplines—the best approach would be the one that would aim for a similar result. (Those not fluent in the current core might like to review it at http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/genedreqs/.) That approach would mean a limited number of disciplines in each category (disciplines, not courses) and a limited number of categories for any single discipline (i.e., the discipline could appear in only one or two categories, even if it offered courses that might neatly fit in all five). This would mean that students would be steered toward taking courses in disciplines they might otherwise avoid. For example, our current curriculum (see link, above) insists that students take a course in Philosophy: if Philosophy were to be alone in the category of “Individual and Society” (for example) then students would have to take a Philosophy course. The difficulty with this approach lies in determining which of the disciplines will be represented in each category: since there are only five categories (and more than five disciplines), there probably would have to be two or three disciplines slotted into each category, with some disciplines represented more than once. Even as we would try to restrict choices and guide students to a wide variety of disciplines, it would be doubtful that students would take courses in each of the disciplines—as they do now—because they most likely will have more than one discipline to choose from in each category.

 

The “maximalist” approach would not restrict the number of disciplines in each category. The “Individual and Society” category might easily encompass courses in Philosophy, Psychology, History, Political Science, and Anthropology, for example. This approach provides students with a far wider variety of choices within and across each category and allows departments/disciplines to place a larger array of courses within the core curriculum. (Pathways guidelines would still restrict students to no more than two courses in any one discipline of the flexible core.) The drawback of this approach is that students could more easily avoid some disciplines and could complete the entire flexible core by taking courses in no more than three disciplines.

 

The likely result of this ongoing discussion is a position somewhere between the two extremes, with disciplines competing for enrollment within each category. This will mean potential shifts in each department’s overall enrollment for Core classes.

 

Process at Baruch College

The process by which the curriculum changes at Baruch is straightforward: departments prepare curricular proposals that are then brought to their school’s curriculum committee; once approved by the committee, the proposals are brough to the school’s faculty; if approved, the proposals are submitted to the Chancellor’s Report for approval by the Board of Trustees. Based on the governance principle that curriculum is the province and responsibility of the faculty, this process is faculty-driven.

 

With one significant difference—that the mandate for curricular change does not come from members of our faculty—an approach is now underway regarding Pathways that is as similar as possible to that employed for other curricular matters. The chairs of the departments in the Weissman School represent the departments that offer the courses that have traditionally been part of our core curriculum. That committee, the Weissman P&B, has been deeply engaged in discussions of Pathways and is in the process of developing a proposal (or proposals) for the college at large to consider. Representatives of the Weissman P&B have discussed Pathways with the SPA curriculum committee and with the Weissman undergraduate curriculum committee at their respective meetings last week and will open the topic for discussion at the SPA and Zicklin faculty meetings on Thursday, February 23rd. Other currently scheduled opportunities for discussion and, ultimately, for voting on the proposals are:

 

February 28       Weissman faculty meeting

March 1            Faculty Senate

March 6            Zicklin undergraduate curriculum committee

March 13           SPA curriculum committee

March 15           Weissman undergraduate curriculum committee

TBA                  Joint Committee on Curriculum and Articulation

March 22           Zicklin faculty meeting

 

Additional meetings might be convened in order to vote on a final version of the proposal. If there is sufficient interest in holding an open forum to discuss Pathways, the provost’s office will organize it.

 

At the plenary session of the Faculty Senate on February 2, I announced in error that this process would culminate in a vote at the meeting of the General Faculty on March 27. That announcement was based on the belief that there was precedent for such a vote in the process that took place in 2001 when the college’s General Education curriculum was last revised. Subsequent investigation has revealed that there was no such vote of the General Faculty and that the last revision was based on votes by the three schools—the process we intend to follow now.

 

April 1 and thereafter

The Central Administration has asked each of the colleges to provide its “Pathways framework” by April 1. The Central Administration is making resources available for course development and other areas via application by April 1. Departments and other units interested in such resources should contact me by the beginning of March. In light of the large number of curricular changes, there will have to be major efforts in units even aside from the three schools (e.g., advisement, registrar, admissions, and others) to get ready for Pathways.

 

Thereafter, and continuing until December, we are asked to submit information on specific courses to be included in the required and flexible cores (not the courses of the college option) to review committees. There are eight such committees, one for each area of the required and flexible cores. Baruch is represented by one faculty member on each review committee. The committees will review each course with particular attention to the learning goals for each category (see the attached).

 

I should address one other aspect of Pathways that has raised many questions. According to the process outlined above, in which each college will submit its own list of courses to be judged acceptable or not based on learning goals, the actual content of the different categories on different campuses almost certainly will end up consisting of very different disciplines and courses with little or no overlap with those at Baruch. Nevertheless, if a transfer student has fulfilled the “Individual and Society” requirement on another CUNY campus, for example, s/he will, by definition, have fulfilled that requirement on ours.

 

Dennis Slavin

Associate Provost and Assistant Vice President

Baruch College, CUNY

646-660-6504 (phone); 646-660-6531 (fax)

Dennis.Slavin@baruch.cuny.edu

http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/provost/teaching_learning.htm