The man behind the ending of remediation in the City University of
New York’s (CUNY) four-year colleges is not New York Mayor Rudolph
Giuliani — although the Republican mayor certainly set the political
tone earlier this year by calling for the end of remediation.
The man behind CUNY’s controversial move is a Democrat who ran for
mayor almost thirty years ago and who today serves as an educational
advisor to the mayor. He opposed open admissions then, and it appears
he has finally found a way to enforce that policy.
Herman Badillo, vice chairman of CUNY’s board of trustees and
founder of Hostos Community College, the first bilingual college in the
state of New York, authored CUNY’s resolution ending remediation.
“Those who are saying it’s an anti-Black arid anti-Latino move don’t know what they’re talking about,” he says.
The resolution, adopted by a 96 vote late last month against the
opposition of the system’s presidents, says that students at the eleven
four-year colleges in the CUNY system will be allowed only one summer’s
worth of remedial classes prior to entering as fully matriculated
students. If after the summer class they are still unable to pass three
exams — in math, reading, and writing — they will have to continue
remedial work at one of the six community colleges in the system before
returning to a four-year college.
According to figures prepared by City University, this could reduce
enrollment at the four-year institutions by as little as one-third or
as much as two-thirds, depending on the institution (see accompanying
chart). And the drops, according to CUNY, could be most dramatic for
African American and Latino students.
Badillo brushed aside those estimates.
“That’s the worst-case scenario,” he said.
That assessment is shared by Hunter College president Dr. David A.
Caputo, who said, “it would be surprising if we lost a third of our
students, provided we are creative about finding solutions.”
Besides, Badillo says, those people who say that the plan has been
put in place to make more room for White students just don’t understand
that CUNY “is primarily a Black and Latino institution.”
Badillo’s resolution is part of his overall push for higher
standards — not only in the city’s higher education system, but also
in its K-12 system.
“I have my sights on the whole system beginning in kindergarten.”
By that, he means that in the next three years — as the new
admissions standards are phased in — CUNY’s senior colleges are
supposed to start working with high schools in the city to ensure that
students are better prepared for college work. For example, one plan is
to administer the entrance exams to all juniors in high school to
demonstrate what will be expected of them.
Dr. Erich Jarvis, a graduate of Hunter College of the City
University of New York, says that would have helped him. Now a research
scientist at Rockefeller University and about to take a tenure track
assistant professorship at Duke University, he needed remediation when
he entered Hunter in the mid-1980s.
“I criticize my high school for not preparing me,” he said.
However, Jarvis says, had he not been able to complete the
remediation in the summer, he probably would not have gone to a
community college for further remediation.
“If I had had to go to community college, I don’t know if I would
have had the resources or the time or the will power to do that,” he
For that reason he is angry about the new admissions policy.
“I find it very insulting that remediation is said to bring down the quality of the school,” Jarvis said.
That is one of the concerns expressed by Dr. Raymond A. Bowen,
president of La Guardia Community College, one of CUNY’s six community
“I want to be judged by the outcomes, not the input,” he said. “How
do the students look when they graduate? To me, that’s standards.”
Although Bowen opposed the new remedial policy, he said, “It’s policy, and naturally we’re going to follow it.”
But, he warned that if the new policy causes an influx of students
into the community colleges from the four-year colleges, “We don’t have
He is also concerned that the community colleges might be thought of as “remedial mills.”
“Transfer is just part of our mission,” Bowen said. “There are
other things that community colleges do, such as career education and
However, the new policy could force CUNY to develop stronger
articulation agreements between the community and senior colleges so
that students will be able to transfer credits from one institution to
another, he acknowledged, adding, “It’s very, very loose, to be quite
candid. There has to be serious talking now.”
Hunter college president Caputo says that part of what Hunter will
do to respond to the new policy is to strengthen relationships with the
public school system.
“One of the strategies is how we can get earlier contact with our prospective students,” Caputo said.
Hunter had already adopted a “one semester rule” — whereby
entering students had one semester, either in the summer or fall, to
complete remediation — which, Caputo said, “has been very successful.”
His office reports that 85 percent complete the remediation in the
summer but that some students, because of work or family obligations,
are unable to take the summer remediation class.
Although Caputo thinks that “senior colleges have a role to play in
remediation” and thus opposes the new policy, he agrees with Badillo
that this new policy will help “ratchet up the standards” for New York
City’s public schools.
“That’s clearly one of the objectives here,” he said. “It sends a very clear message to students and the public schools.”
Although Badillo criticizes CUNY for having lost a reputation for
excellence, he saves his harshest criticism for the public schools.
“In New York City, we have a worthless school system.” In Puerto
Rico, he adds, “if you do your work, you pass. If you don’t, you flunk
and no one says it is racist because we’re all Puerto Ricans. In New
York, if you do the work, you pass; and if you don’t, you pass.”
Badillo came to New York from Puerto Rico when he was twelve years
old and by the time he was twenty-five, he was a graduate of City
University with a law degree and a CPA. Because CUNY was so well
regarded then, he said, “even though I had a heavy accent, could get a
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© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com