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  New York Regents Endorse CUNY's Remediation Plan

  By SARA HEBEL



  The City University of New York's contentious remediation plan
  cleared its last hurdle on Monday, as the state Board of
  Regents voted narrowly to endorse the policy after delaying by
  a year the timetable under which it will be put in place at
  two four-year colleges.

  The 16-member board voted, 9 to 6, in favor of the policy,
  which calls for eliminating most remedial classes at CUNY's 11
  four-year colleges by 2001. One regent, Geraldine Chapey,
  abstained since she is an active faculty member at the
  university. At least nine votes were needed to put the plan
  into effect.

  Monday's vote gave CUNY the final go-ahead to begin in January
  to eliminate remedial courses from baccalaureate-degree
  programs at four colleges: Baruch, Brooklyn, Queens, and
  Hunter. CUNY had proposed to put the policy in place at five
  more colleges next September, but the regents agreed to delay
  until September 2001 the time frame for instituting the policy
  at two of those: Lehman and City Colleges. Two other colleges
  are also scheduled to begin eliminating remediation in
  September 2001.

  The plan the regents approved also lays out ways to monitor
  the impact of the remediation policy. CUNY will be required,
  by the end of 2001, to analyze for the regents the policy's
  effect on student access to the university, including the
  impact on minority students, and its effect on such things as
  the overall quality of academic programs at senior and
  community colleges. The regents plan to audit independently
  the data CUNY submits.

  In addition, the regents will assemble their own team of
  consultants to visit CUNY campuses and evaluate those and
  other issues during the 2001-02 academic year.

  Since CUNY's Board of Trustees first approved the remediation
  policy, in May 1998, the plan has been the subject of heated
  debate in New York. Advocates -- including Mayor Rudolph W.
  Giuliani of New York City and Gov. George E. Pataki of New
  York, both Republicans -- argue that the plan will increase
  the quality and reputation of CUNY. Critics have charged that
  the policy would unfairly close the doors of college to many
  of New York's low-income people, with a disproportionate
  impact on minority students.

  Herman Badillo, chairman of CUNY's Board of Trustees, on
  Monday called the regents' action "a vote for access with
  standards."

  "The regents have recognized the validity of the Board of
  Trustees' resolution to bring remedial instruction to an end
  at senior colleges," Mr. Badillo said. "This is an historic
  accomplishment."

  However, Bernie Sohmer, chairman of the University Faculty
  Senate and a mathematics professor at City College, called the
  vote "upsetting" because it broke down largely along ethnic
  lines. None of the panel's four minority members voted for the
  CUNY policy, he said. All regents who voted for the policy are
  white. Of those who voted against the plan, three are black,
  two are white, and one is Latino.

  The policy itself remains "draconian," Mr. Sohmer added. Even
  though it will be almost two years before the plan takes
  effect at places like Lehman and City Colleges, students who
  think they need remedial help are likely to begin almost
  immediately to "self-select" themselves out of the admissions
  process because they will perceive the policy to be in effect
  now, he argued.

  "Unfortunately, the P.R. is probably more important than the
  facts," Mr. Sohmer said.


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Copyright 1999 by The Chronicle of Higher Education