Weekly Read December 8, 2014

The Road to Pathways

By Sandi Cooper

2 thoughts on “Weekly Read December 8, 2014

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  2. Have We Lost Our Way?

    Our mission

    For over one hundred years the purpose of higher education has been to serve the public good, to broaden opportunities for all of its citizens. This underlying principle permitted institutions of higher education to develop as more than centers for job training or pipelines to spit out workers, but to provide its graduates with the tools to secure enriched and productive lives. To achieve this goal, institutions of higher education provide:

    1. Free zones for the open development and exposition of ideas and knowledge;
    2. Avenues for the transmission of knowledge and skills that permit students to select their occupational options; and
    3. Incubators for students to emerge equipped to be engaged citizens, lifelong learners, and fulfilled individuals.

    How has this been accomplished?

    The university was founded, nurtured and maintained on the bedrock principles encapsulated in shared governance, academic freedom, and tenure. It was recognized and accepted that for a university to meet its mission there must be a strict delineation of the roles of trustees, administrators, and faculty. Trustees have final oversight of the adoption of curriculum and, until recently, deferred to the experts, the faculty, for the development of curriculum, educational programs, degree requirements, and the learning process.

    The current challenge?

    Our system of public higher education that welcomes all and has provided genuine opportunity for the public, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status is under attack. This paradigm has been whittled away by the underfunding of public higher education combined with creeping corporatization. The emerging model envisions community colleges as “training centers” which exist to push nascent workers through an educational pipeline with little regard for academic integrity, student opportunity, choice or the realization of an educated citizenry. Often trustees have become the primary vehicles for implementation of this new paradigm. Increasingly, trustees are micromanaging institutions by imposing degree requirements, determining curriculum and course offerings, and directing methods of teaching without meaningful faculty consultation.

    Our remonstrance to the NCC BoT

    What we have described is the emerging new reality at Nassau Community College. We are currently confronted with the third Board of Trustees resolution in a single semester, which challenges faculty expertise and ignores the historic role of the faculty in higher education to determine the standards of their discipline. If we are to remain true to higher education’s unabridged mission, we must challenge the Board to reconsider these ill-conceived resolutions. We must call on our Board to restore recognized shared governance practices on our campus in which each constituency has its recognized role and works together to achieve consensual decision making. To do less is to cease to be faculty, as we know it.

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