CUNY embraces mediocrity in the name of justice

Justice, to paraphrase Kris Kristofferson, is just another word for fooling around. Take the City University of New York.

CUNY, once America’s premier urban public university, almost disappeared into the stock abyss four decades ago; it was rescued after a tremendous struggle and restored to a good measure of its former integrity.

Now it’s going downhill again at an accelerating pace – ostensibly in the name of equality of results – and nobody seems to even notice, let alone care.

The university’s most recent capitulation to mediocrity came in mid-January, when Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez swaggeredly announced that it would no longer be necessary to complete college-level academic work in order to graduate from CUNY’s seven community colleges.

How long it will be before this policy propagates to the institution’s 11 senior colleges is unclear; Entropy is what it is, but it will happen soon enough – if it hasn’t already.

Here is a summary of the sad facts.

CUNY’s student body is predominantly drawn from the New York City public school system. Back when city schools were more or less functional, CUNY freshmen came more or less prepared for college classes.

CUNY’s seven community colleges no longer require college-level academic work to earn a degree.
Christopher Sadowski

That began to change as Gotham’s public schools fell victim to cultural change, a tight-fisted teachers’ union, and pervasive political neglect.

Social nurturing became the norm, and CUNY classrooms began to fill with grossly unprepared students. Back then, almost anyone could walk through the door and be seated, regardless of skill level.

The results were predictable: highly racialized political unrest and a sharp decline in the university’s already deteriorating academic standards — and reputation.

Then, in the late ’90s, Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, the late Herman Badillo, former CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, and a bold group of others worked on reforms designed to ensure freshmen complete college-level work before earning a received degree.

The doors were still open, but the unqualified were directed into mandatory non-credit remedial classes in preparation for the main event. And the colleges went about their business of educating real college students.

Charter schools aside, this was perhaps the single most significant victory for quality public education in New York in decades.

Charter High School of the Math, Engineering and Science Academy
CUNY’s student body is drawn from the New York City public school system.
Stephen Yang

And it was this restoration that Rodriguez shamelessly “reformed” last month.

“Replacing the outdated remedial approach with a more effective, equitable and evidence-based system is an important advance in our ongoing mission to provide educational opportunities for our students,” he stated.

“A large majority of the students assigned to remedial courses were low-income black people,” he continued, “who were prevented from taking eligible courses and graduating.”

Students were excluded from creditable courses because of their skin color? This is utter nonsense.

They couldn’t get the job done, and — individual effort aside — the structural blame lies with the $31 billion-a-year wreck now masquerading as the New York City public school system.

Manhattan Charter School
Unqualified students were placed in mandatory non-credit remedial classes to prepare for the main event.
JC Reis

(Today, kids don’t even need to attend school to graduate, let alone pass exams, and far too many don’t do either.)

The race plays its usual role here – as a haven for villains. Rodriguez has to explain how awarding college credit for study skills that should have been mastered in ninth grade helps everyone — especially “students of color.”

But that would expose his scam for what it is, so don’t hold your breath.

Nonetheless, one day his children will enter the workplace – largely unprepared – and while the “equity” scam makes dubious progress there too, most of them will be in for a nasty shock.

Yes, the chancellor is playing a shamefully cynical game here, but there’s probably more to it than race baiting: Recruiting more fringe children means more tuition and scholarship income for a financially strapped institution suffering from a 9% drop in enrollment in the wake of the pandemic. Follow the money as they say.

Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez
dr Felix V. Matos Rodriguez became Chancellor of the City University of New York in 2019.
Paul Martinka

While Rodriguez’s guilt is real, he is just the latest in a long line of “educators” who are undermining the integrity of what was once a top-notch K-16 collaboration in public education.

In the late 1990s, then-State Education Commissioner Richard Mills began to devalue New York’s gold standard accountability system for Regents exams. Today, Albany is ready to give it up altogether: the decline was real, sustained — and perhaps permanent.

And at every step along the way, this slow-motion dissolution has been justified, at least conclusively, as necessary for “students of color” to fit in.

That means if you can’t teach them, blame them.

It’s a pathetic, patronizing approach to public education — and yet Rodriguez seems proud of what he’s done.

To shame.

Email: CUNY embraces mediocrity in the name of justice


DUSTIN JONES is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. DUSTIN JONES joined USTimeToday in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with DUSTIN JONES by emailing

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