The near unanimous vote of 45-2 was made against the grant//Henry Fowler

The near unanimous vote of 45-2 was made against the grant//Henry Fowler

The near unanimous vote of 45-2 was made against the grant//Henry Fowler

By Gabe Wanissian, Editor in Chief

The Bergen Community College Faculty Association (BCCFA) has voted to disapprove the First In the World math grant, citing, “The administration applied for the grant without notifying the involved faculty,” for the justification.
The $2.6 million grant awarded by the federal government is to be utilized via a collaborative study between both Bergen and Union community colleges to research different approaches for remedial math. 750 students at Bergen and 400 students at Union were in the original proposal.
“When administration start applying for grants and not even notifying the involved faculty of the decision of the content of the grant, what administration is trying to do as far as I can see it, is take control of the curriculum,” said Chairperson of Faculty Senate, Dr. Alan Kaufman at November’s Senate meeting.
The comments stemmed after faculty brought light that the following statement written in the grant: “It also has the backing of our exceptional faculty,” was false.
“I assumed that they would be in support of this because it supported their efforts in remedial education, their efforts to create programming that would benefit students, in this office we have always tried to do that very thing,” said Director of the Grants office, William Yakowicz.

After the grant was given the green light by President B. Kaye Walter in early June, the Grants Office, in collaboration with VP of Academic Affairs Dr. William Mullaney had two and a half weeks to complete the grant proposal.

“[President Walter] ordered to get this grant done in two and half weeks. We got the assignment, we collaborated with Union and we went ahead,” said Yakowicz.

“The industry standard is a minimum of three months to properly pull together a proposal with thorough research and writing, but we had much less time than that,” said Grant Writer Drorit Beckman. It is estimated that over 100 hours of work were put in over the two weeks, and that an effort to reach out to other academic deans was made during the short time. Ultimately, there would be no faculty input, yet their approval was still included in the proposal.

The math faculty further criticized the grant proposal after it cited “current teaching approaches have limited success with our students.”

The Math Faculty responded by saying that since 2011, remedial math success rates have steadily climbed with the help of the Title V grant that the college received back in 2010.

“Before the math portion of the Title V grant was sent, they were piloted with a small test group of students. It was tested so we could work out bugs and problems. It had six to eight months of work, much more than [First In the World],” said Math Professor Robert Fusco. In 2010, the Remedial Math passing rate with 1-2-3 Connect students was 60 percent. That Jumped to 68 percent in 2013.

“We agreed that a lot of mistakes were made in the way the grant was submitted, but we can take a big step back and proceed very very slowly and essentially do it right,” said Dr. Mullaney. Since the Faculty senate meeting, dialogue between administration and the math faculty has occurred to rework the grant within the federal guidelines.

“An outside grant evaluator has been brought in to ensure it can work,” said Dr. Mullaney.
“We have been told by administration that we have a lot of latitude in how we want to redirect this. We met with the grant evaluator and as long as we meet the overall objective of the grant, the matter in which we get there can be quite different,” said Mathematics Chair Dr. Randy Forsstrom.
The original plan involved having the 750 students who placed into remedial math evenly split into three cohort groups, each with a different stipulation. One group would be placed into college level math, while being encouraged to go to tutoring, the second would be required to take a two week corequisite aid course, along with the use of ALEKS (Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces) online tutoring program, and the final group going into the standard remedial course. The students would have the choice to be a part of the study.
Critics expressed concern regarding the large number of affected students, and lack of consolation for students who may fail or barely pass the college level courses; aspects of the grant, the Math faculty and administration are now actively trying to mitigate.

“We shouldn’t define success sheerly on passing. If you squeak by with C’s because you don’t have a foundation that remedial can provide, how will you get your scholarships or get into your chosen schools? It would have affected long term [studies],” said Developmental Math Chair Melanie Walker. “We are not against experimentation, but there [was] an awful lot of concerns that needed to be addressed.”