Author Archives: Dennis Torres

Week 3 – D.Torres Response – Is ASAP really the answer?

            Community colleges have the arduous task of remediating the long-term, and often times inter-generational educational inequities derived from both public and parochial K-12 school systems.   These educational institutions tend to not turn away students based on standardized testing (i.e. SAT, ACT, etc.), but instead accept most with the intention of ameliorating learning gaps. In contrast private universities, such as Columbia University rely on their substantially lower acceptance rates in order to reinforce images of prestige by selecting already high academic performers that will enhance institutional rankings via increased graduation rates.  According to US News (2021) Top 100 -lowest acceptance rates for 2019, Columbia’s 5%  acceptance rate was second in the nation next to Stanford University.  These two different approaches both have their respective benefits and drawbacks.  The adoption of different academic measures has also been discussed in both Fabricant and Davidson’s pieces. A  push – pull dynamic between institutional management and faculty seems to be common across higher-ed campuses when addressing student related items, such as curriculum development and transfer policies.   

            Community colleges claim to not “measure their success in supposedly objective measures of “excellence” that typical four-year institutions rely on.  I question this proposed altruistic principle that Davidson claims to guide community colleges in only being concerned with “the overall increase of a student’s greater knowledge.”  Are these the same set of guiding principles that led CUNY’s own 12% community college graduation rates of the 1990’s and early 2000’s? The rates were so low that the creation of ASAP was necessary in order to address this alarming issue.   Even CUNY relies on its own community colleges to serve as feeders into their more prestigious senior colleges.  Abductive reasoning leads one to believe that financial factors associated with low graduation rates led to investments in academic research meant to help retain community college students. 

            Neo-liberal ideologies and principles have become so pervasively entrenched in fields such as healthcare, criminal justice and education that it often goes overlooked within everyday interactions.  The over reliance of adjunct faculty and technology, and the commodification of knowledge are all deeply rooted within academia.  Fabricant and Bier go on to further explain as to how non-student-oriented business models often clash with faculty governance concerning quality.  Unfortunately, there’s no limit in sight as to how low austerity measures can go when using neo-liberal paradigms.  The adoption of  “bots” to replace financial aid and bursar counselors are an example of the stage of austerity.  I’d like to re-imagine a community college graduation ceremony that doesn’t state the intended university that students have committed to transferring too next, but instead emphasizes all of the achieved knowledge and skills.

Follow-up Questions:

  • How viable are ASAP’s at CUNY’s senior colleges or external Universities?
  • Can institutional leaders be both student and business orientated? 

D. Torres – Week 2 Response

Higher education has been impacted by COVID-19 in a multitude of aspects, which are still being identified and experienced by students across the United States. Social inequalities such as healthcare, and income were easily hidden while on-campus when learning within a traditional in-classroom environment. Online learning has opened the window into personal living spaces, household responsibilities and arrangements. Professors now must incorporate extraneous variables such as unreliable internet connectivity, learning devices, and sick relatives into their already difficult learning plans. Educational institutions must take the time to re-evaluate pre-pandemic policies that no longer support faculty and staff members in meaningful ways. It will be critical to formulate new updated policies that do not unintentionally impact groups in a negative manner. An example can be seen by Florida State University’s attempt at imposing a childcare policy that would have adversely impacted employee caregivers. The City University of New York demonstrated its own commitment to students when it refunded a portion of activity fee funds to all students regardless of finances during the Spring 20 term.

Furthermore, how do we address the public sentiment that online instruction isn’t as rigorous or credible as in-classroom learning? According to former President Trump, online learning is “not the same thing as being in a classroom in a great college or a college of any kind” furthering the devaluation of current academic degrees. The same sentiment has also been documented within academia by Brown University’s President stating “the fierce intellectual debates that just aren’t the same on Zoom” which demonstrates the pervasive valuing in-classroom over online learning. In order to combat this sentiment the CUNY system may raise public awareness as to how it’s colleges’ liberal arts degree develop critical thinkers that contribute to the New York City community regardless of modality.

Surprisingly, COVID-19 is not the first instance of higher education being shut down due to public health or national disaster. Numerous historical events such as the Spanish flu, WW II, hurricane Sandy, and 9-11 have all shut down campuses and entire cities in the past. Academic institutions and community members have been able to persevere in order to educate the next generation of learners and academic scholars. The Post World War II era created the GI-BILL which has paid for the education of millions of student veterans. We currently have an opportunity to create new innovative policies that ensure educational equity for all. Below are a few additional questions to keep in mind for the upcoming Fall 2021 campus re-openings:

• Are students entitled to tuition reductions for online learning?
• Should institutions begin thinking of merging with similar liberal arts colleges or research institutions?
• Will vaccinations be mandated to access the campuses?
• Should admission moratoriums be implemented due to the job market?