After the scandal surrounding a CUNY administrator’s threat to dismantle the Queensborough Community College English department broke wide in the academic media yesterday, that administrator — a QCC vice president — sent a letter of apology to the department’s chair. That apology, and an accompanying letter to the college’s faculty, went further than a Sunday letter from the QCC president to disavow her initial threat, and to pledge greater respect for faculty involvement in governance in the future.

In her letter to faculty, QCC vice president Karen Steele expressed “deep regret” for last week’s missive, saying it was “over-dramatized” and “sent in haste.” There are, she said, “no plans to enact” the “hypothetical” cuts to the department she threatened, and she pledged to “work mightily … to ensure all our classes are available for students” and to ensure “continue[d] … support” for the “innovative work” of the QCC English department.

Aside from one sentence nodding to the college’s “responsibility to comply with the Board’s responsibility to comply with the Board’s policy and the guidelines issued under it,” there was no hint of the combativeness that had characterized her previous communications with the department, both in print and in her appearance at last week’s faculty meeting.

This isn’t a complete capitulation, since no final resolution to QCC’s Pathways dispute has yet been reached. But it’s a big step in that direction.

The full text of the Monday letter follows.

From: Steele, Karen B.
Sent: Monday, September 17, 2012 5:20 PM
To: _Faculty (Including CLT’s); _Adjuncts; _HEOs
Cc: _Cabinet Members; _Deans
Subject: Regarding my memo


Yesterday I wrote to the English Department chair, Dr. Linda Reesman, apologizing for the email I sent her last Thursday regarding English Composition courses.  I deeply regret having sent the original email, primarily because it was needlessly hurtful to members of the English Department and to other faculty as well.  It was an email sent in haste, out of an over-dramatized fear of the possible impact on the department.

I would like to make clear that the items listed in the email were hypothetical, and there are no plans to enact them, and to echo the President’s letter:  we will “work mightily” to ensure all of our classes are available for students, that faculty members in our English Department have plenty of classes to teach, and that they continue to have support for their innovative work.

At the same time, as a member of CUNY, we have the responsibility to comply with the Board’s policy and the guidelines issued under it.

It is the tradition at Queensborough for all groups at the college to work together to solve problems.  My memo was not aligned with that tradition, and going forward I recommit to Queensborough’s outstanding tradition of the administration and the faculty striving together towards common goals.

As most of you know, the College community has been actively involved in work on restructuring our curricula to align with the CUNY Pathways Common Core, as approved by the Board, and with the Pathways majors.  The first principle that we have all followed has been to preserve the standards of our existing programs, and faculty in all departments have expended tremendous effort preparing.  It is my hope and expectation that we can continue to work together to accomplish this task that is so important for our students.