Monday, September 17, 2012

Shame on Karen Steele and the Administration of Queensborough Community College!

A diversion from my normal blog content today. I've copied and pasted the following blog post from Clarissa at Clarissa's Blog. I am doing this at her request because of the outrageous action being threatened against an English Department at the Queensborough Community College by the QCC Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Karen Steel, a woman who doesn't appreciate the necessity of good written English. I just hope her interim VP position is not made permanent and that she is stopped from doing untold damage to the English Department.

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Colleagues, friends, readers of this blog, and all people who care about education in this country!
I’m addressing you to ask you to stand in solidarity with the educators at Queensborough Community College who are being bullied by a vicious, unintelligent administrator.
Here is what is happening. Classes in English composition are absolutely crucial for the academic success and intellectual development of students. Here is an example of how students write when they first arrive at a university:
During the time of the Black Death, a plague that killed 30-60% of the population all throughout the European countries, the fear of mortal death being at its highest. Because the fear of not knowing how the plague was transmitted and intolerance for anyone who was different, it lead citizens to finding a scapegoat. This inflamed the already tedious tolerance of the Jews and the Jewish religion.
This is how English speakers write in the only language they know. The faculty members of all English departments in this country work extremely hard to make sure that students learn to write better. However, some administrators do not believe in the value of the Humanities and do not appreciate the hard work required to teach students to write well. This is what happened at one college as a result:
On Wednesday the English department at Queensborough Community College voted not to adopt a policy of the City University of New York to reduce composition course credits from four to three. In so doing, they rejected the CUNY Pathways initiative, a proposal for streamlining and centralizing CUNY curricula which many faculty regard as antithetical to students’ needs.
Just think about this, people! The administration of this school is trying to force the faculty members to change their English program and reduce the number of hours English composition is taught because some brainless bureaucrat believes that English is not important. When the scholars refused to participate in the attempts to dismantle their program, the administration retaliated:
In an email sent to the department chair yesterday QCC Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Karen Steele announced that because the English department insists on granting four credits for composition courses, those courses will no longer be offered by the college and QCC students will be sent to other CUNY campuses to fulfill their composition requirements. Since composition represents such a significant portion of the department’s offerings, moreover,
  • All searches to fill full-time positions in the department will be cancelled.
  • All English department adjuncts at Queensborough will be fired.
  • And the appointments of all current full-time faculty in the department will be “subject to ability to pay and Fall ’13 enrollment in department courses.
Ms. Karen Steele is shamelessly threatening to destroy the entire English department in her attempt to wage a war on the academics’ right to self-governance. This is unheard of.
175 of the English department’s 206 sections this semester are in composition, which means that the administration is planning to eliminate nearly 85% of the of the department’s current offerings. Given that English has a total of 26 full-time faculty listed on its departmental page, and given that the full-time CUNY community college courseload for three-credit courses is 4/5, the elimination of composition would mean the firing of nearly three-quarters of the department’s full-time faculty even after the termination of all part-timers.
This means that even tenured faculty are at risk of being fired for daring to have an opinion on how to run their own program. This is unconscionable!
Please consult the extortionate email sent by this irresponsible and anti-intellectual administrator at Queensborough Community College to the Chair of the English Department here.
And here is the most recent update on the situation so far.
We need to step in and tell Ms. Steele – and all other administrators who want to destroy learning and knowledge – that we will not stand for this.

My friends, we cannot just sit there passively and let this happen. Once a precedent is set, any administrator will be able to bully scholars into doing anything by threatening them with collective dismissal and the destruction of entire departments in case they dare to have an opinion on anything. Ms. Steele is forgetting her place and is getting dangerously close to turning herself in to a small-scale dictator at Queensborough Community College.

Here is what I propose we do:
1. Ms. Steele’s email address is: We need to inundate her with emails, telling her of our outrage. It is important that these emails come from many different places in the world and from people in different walks of life. Here is a tentative letter I came up with:
Dear Ms. Steele,
It is with great concern that I have heard of your plan to eliminate the composition program at Queensborough Community College, dismiss all Queensborough English department adjuncts, and immediately cancel all job searches in the department. Such measures will be extremely detrimental not only to the QCC but to the image of CUNY in the academic community. I sincerely hope that you will reconsider your decision to punish the faculty members of the English department at Queensborough Community College for exercising their academic freedom and professional judgment. It is still not too late for you to stop the destruction of the English program at QCC and avoid doing irreparable damage to CUNY’s reputation.
It is admittedly not brilliant but I’m too angry to write anything cogent, yet still at least marginally polite. If you can create a better text, please do so. I will be very grateful for any help with this.
2. Let’s make this story as widely known as possible. If Karen Steele’s superiors realize that she is causing great damage to QCC and CUNY, they will have to do something. Please re-blog and re-post this story on your own resources. The goal is to ensure that the story comes up in search engines any time people search Karen Steele, QCC, and CUNY. There is no blog or website that is too small to take part in this effort. Just copy, paste, and press “Publish.”

If you do decide to re-post this story, please let me know. I want to make a collection of links to all resources that choose to protect academic freedom in this country by making this egregious situation widely known. This is a strategy that worked before, and I’m confident that it will work now.
Thank you for standing in solidarity with educators!