NEW YORK CITY, March 8 — Today, International Women’s Day, more than 350 City University of New York (CUNY) faculty and staff, at a mass meeting called by the PSC (Professional Staff Congress)-CUNY union, denounced “Pathways,” a scheme for faster graduation imposed by the CUNY Administration. It would standardize and gut the academic quality of basic required courses. Many speakers — a majority women — pointed out that this is a sexist move against the 2/3 of students who are women, a racist attack on the 3/4 students who are black and Latino, and a nationalist attack on the large percentage of immigrant and undocumented students.
Even conservative business profs showed outrage at this insult to their working-class students, calling out “the subtle racism of low expectations.” Other speakers expressed solidarity with K-12 teachers who have already been hit hard by standardized, dumbed-down curriculums, pushed nationally by the think-tanks and government agencies of the capitalist class. The mood was angry and ready for action; we all felt the need to stand up for our students and defend our efforts to teach them well; there was power in our common outrage.
The union is organizing an online petition (2,500 signers in the first two days, 500 in the first hour), two major lawsuits defending both faculty control of curriculum and students’ right to a quality education, and grassroots faculty action to organized non-compliance. Student speakers said they would stand by us in this fight to repeal Pathways — “a pathway to ignorance,” the Queens College student newspaper called it. We need to reach many more students, because the opportunist bosses are appealing to their desire to graduate sooner, downplaying their loss of science labs and languages.
The CUNY Board of Trustees meeting April 30 is the deadline for killing Pathways, and there will be an action at the Trustees’ meeting. It was pointed out that Benno Schmidt, the ruling-class figure who heads the Board, is also a chief investor in a new private school, Avenues, which boasts of graduating students fluent in two or three languages — while Pathways cuts required language study to a single semester.
A PLP flyer, “Pathway to Ignorance or Road to Revolution?” supported organizing a militant fight, and showed how Pathways, like the tightening of control over K-12 teachers, was “another step on the road to fascist control of all workers as the ruling class prepares for war with other imperialists…The decline we see at CUNY simply reflects this decline of the [U.S.] empire.”
While fighting the CUNY bosses we have to fight too for the egalitarian communist society for which workers have dreamed of and fought for centuries. Academic freedom fights in the 20th-century U.S. were often led by communists like the Anti-Fascist Committee at City College in 1938. But there will be no lasting freedom for any workers without communist revolution. The many young profs without tenure who spoke out courageously for their students tonight have a proud communist tradition to carry forward.