Second Judicial Ruling This Week Also Upholds Pathways

For the second time in a week, a New York State Supreme Court judge has upheld the Pathways to Degree Completion Initiative (Pathways), which ensures the full transfer of academic credits that students earn within CUNY colleges and establishes a set number of general education courses designed by faculty.

State Supreme Court Justice Anil C. Singh ruled that the plaintiffs “have not met their burden to show good cause warranting judicial relief” in their suit alleging violations of the state Open Meetings Law.

“There is no evidence whatsoever that the procedures followed by CUNY to develop, approve and implement the Pathways Initiative were designed to circumvent the law,” Justice Singh wrote. “On the contrary, it appears that respondents disseminated information widely and sought input from any interested parties through meetings, websites, webinars, consultations, discussions with members of the CUNY community, and telecasts online, on cable television and on the CUNY channel. In other words, the record clearly reflects that the Pathways Initiative was not drafted behind closed doors.”

Ruling in a related lawsuit earlier this week, Justice Singh affirmed the authority of the CUNY Board of Trustees and both described and recognized the extensive faculty consultation involved in creating the Pathways Initiative.

Interim Chancellor William P. Kelly said, “We are gratified that this second judicial decision again upholds Pathways, which reinforces academic rigor and assures that students will retain the credits they’ve earned when they transfer among CUNY colleges.”

Justice Singh’s decision detailed the background that led the Trustees to develop Pathways, noting that New York State Education Law requires CUNY to “remain responsive to the needs of its urban setting and maintain its close articulation between senior and community college units.”

Because “each CUNY institution had reserved the right to create its own general education and major requirements, and to evaluate whether courses taken at other CUNY institutions were deemed equivalent, transfer students were often denied credit for courses and had to take additional classes. This situation was further complicated by the fact that the colleges had varying requirements as to the number of necessary general education credits. All this led to increased costs to students, longer times to obtain degrees and enter the workforce, and to students leaving CUNY without obtaining their degrees,” Justice Singh explained.

The ruling stated that the Board of Trustees and the CUNY administration fully observed the Open Meetings Law as they sought to devise a system of credit transfers that was fairer to students.

The judge traced the origin of Pathways to October 2010; tallied 70 meetings between the CUNY central administration and the campus community, including the Faculty Senate; and noted other outreach efforts, including creating of a Pathways Initiative website, newsletter articles and “a webinar open to all.”

Singh wrote that these communications “resulted in some modifications of the initial proposal and the drafting of a proposed resolution, which was discussed at a public hearing on June 20, 2011.” The Board of Trustees adopted the proposal on June 27, 2011, after giving public notice and airing their action in live telecasts online and on CUNY-TV. The follow-up to implement Pathways also took place in the open, including the extensive work of a task force composed “predominantly of faculty” that recommended curriculum guidelines and sought comments from CUNY college presidents. CUNY’s chancellor adopted the final curriculum guidelines on Dec.12, 2011.