College English Dept. Fights Class-Time Cuts

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

When members of the English department at Queensborough Community College voted last week against a plan to curtail their basic writing courses to three hours a week from four, they said they wanted to send the school a message: “We support our students,” Elise Denbo, a lecturer in the department, said Monday. “Sometimes they need extra time.”

The college, which is part of the City University of New York, sent an even stronger message back. In an e-mail, Karen B. Steele, Queensborough’s interim vice president for academic affairs, outlined “serious repercussions.” The writing courses, currently a requirement for all students, would be canceled, she wrote, and students would be asked to take them at other colleges. The contracts of all adjunct faculty members would be terminated. The employment of all full-time faculty would be reviewed. All current attempts to hire additional faculty would be dropped.

She signed it: “Regretfully, Karen.”

In a follow-up e-mail Monday afternoon, Dr. Steele apologized for the earlier message, and said the outcomes it mentioned were hypothetical. But the proposed course changes, and the strong reactions they have elicited, are part of a universitywide program called Pathways that has been a source of conflict since it was introduced two years ago.

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