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Outrageous Demand for Professor Pecorino’s Immediate Termination from CUNY

STUDENT GROUP CHARGES ANTI-PATHWAYS LEADER WITH DISCRIMINATION FOR EMAIL MAKING FUN OF ILLITERACY

From: Professor, A
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2012 6:04 PM
To: _Faculty (Including CLT's); _Adjuncts
Subject: Outrageous Demand for Professor Pecorino’s Immediate Termination from CUNY

Dear Colleagues:

There is a demand that Dr. Philip Pecorino be terminated from CUNY immediately. It comes from a group, the CUNY LGBT TASK FORCE, which has several times testified in favor of Pathways before the BOT. They filed a complaint that is now being processed claiming that Professor Pecorino, when he distributed an email at QCC to Faculty, CLTs and adjuncts on September 25th, 2012, allegedly discriminated against students as a racist and also allegedly discriminated against students with disabilities. They sent their demand to the secretary of the CUNY BOT, Vice Chancellor Alexandra Logue, Interim President Diane Call, Provost Karen Steele and others and threatened to bring it to the press and the NAACP.

The email at issue is presented below along with the demand for his termination which was sent on October 5, 2012. Before and after September 25, Dr. Pecorino had been communicating to colleagues here at QCC aware that he is under the observation of those in the Chancellery and knowing that he has these charges lodged against him. Some think the accusations and demands for his termination may be an act of retribution or intimidation for all his criticisms of Pathways. It does not appear to be working to silence him.

What exactly did Professor Pecorino do to bring charges that he discriminates against people of color and those with disabilities? He forwarded a news article that appeared in the NY Daily News that covered the struggle at QCC and LaGuardia concerning the removal of the fourth hour of instruction in English Composition Classes. He had been forwarding coverage of the situation at QCC for several days. With the Daily News article though, he noted evidence to support his position that students need more time with faculty to work on their English skills and not less. He then made a satirical comment using the language of his youth to criticize administrators supporting Pathways.

Professor Pecorino does not need to defend himself against charges made against him by people who know little or nothing of him or his record of service to students and faculty of this college and the University itself for the past 40 years. And apparently they do not care to learn anything about him before bringing charges. Furthermore, there appears to have been no consideration of the context in which Professor Pecorino’s email was sent on the part of his accusers.

For the record it is also more than a little ironic that Dr. Pecorino should be speciously charged with discrimination against people with disabilities: when Chair of the Senate Steering Committee he called for the annual survey of the campus for access and ADA compliance and the equipping of smart rooms with assistive technologies. At the university level he has been working to see that the ADA is fully respected in the evaluation of new technologies. He also proposed that starting in the Spring of 2013 all QCC Blackboard course sites come with contact information about assistance for those with special needs.

It is more than a little ironic that Dr. Pecorino should be charged with racism as he has been a champion of diversity and affirmative action at both the College and the University level. He has brought up matters of diversity at meetings of committees of the BOT and has been named by the Chancellery to serve on the University Committee for Affirmative Action and Diversity. In addition, as QCC Grievance Counselor, he has also represented cases of faculty with claims of discrimination based on race and disability.

Professor Pecorino was one of the first to address possible ramifications of Pathways for people of color and minorities in his “CUNY Pathways Project’s Implications for Class and Race: the soft bigotry of lowered expectations." 

The newspaper article that Dr. Pecorino asks the reader of his email to “check out” for poor grammar and sentence structure is one that appeared in the Daily News. “Check out this story and the poor use of English in the quote from the student and the error in sentence construction in the story itself” is what Professor Pecorino encouraged his colleagues to do.

In the context of the discussion about the need for more time in English Composition courses at the College he was pointing out something in the article itself that supported the need. He wanted his audience to take note of errors in the use of English such as in the student quotation: “We have extra help tutoring.” For which a better phrasing might be “We have extra help through tutoring” that makes it clear who is giving and who is receiving the tutoring.  This is something that English Composition courses would offer support to students in improving on the clarity of their communication. In addition Dr. Pecorino called attention to the Daily News author/editor’s sentence: ”Queensborough sophomore Elizabeth Reeger, 18, of Flushing, said she students shouldn’t have to travel to other schools to take the composition classes if the faculty doesn’t agree to the shortened classes.” Now, this sentence might be better phrased in proper English form in a number of ways but in its current form it is a confusion of quotation and description.  Removing the word “she” would clarify and correct.  This poor use was one exhibited not by a student but the news reporter.

Dr. Pecorino then added a few sentences to more powerfully drive home his lament about the decrease in instruction time for English Composition, shared by several thousand of his CUNY colleagues, over the Pathways program that we hold will severely short-change CUNY students.  While Dr. Pecorino’s accuser takes these sentences to be spoken by a student, clearly they are a projection of what future administrators would speak like with continued diminution of support for English Language instruction:

“Sure we can give dem Les time and no prublem in wat we get on news stories frum graduates students frum colleges. Dey don't need no stinkin mor time wit der English! We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control.”

No student - not a Black student, nor a gay student nor a differently abled student - wrote those lines, nor do they parody any writings of any real individual (see Ronkin, Maggie; Karn, Helen E. (1999), "Mock Ebonics: Linguistic racism in parodies of Ebonics on the Internet", Journal of Sociolinguistics 3 (3): 360–380). The statement was intended as a warning of things to come.  Indeed, it is very curious that Mr. Robinson perceived discrimination in Dr. Pecorino’s portend; interpreting the latter’s derision of future, ill-prepared college administrators as a comment on current students. At the very least, Mr. Robinson’s misrepresentation of Dr. Pecorino’s e-mail, if not deliberate, underscores Dr. Pecorino’s very point:  the need for adequate English preparation. It is a poorly based accusation that mistakes these words as being placed into the mouths of students when they appear rather clearly to be expressing the attitudes of administrators against whom Dr. Pecorino argues for more time in class with students for English language instruction at QCC.

Dr. Pecorino’s accuser claims racial discrimination by asserting a use of "Mock Ebonics" in Dr. Pecorino’s  use of the dialect of his youth 60 years ago in Queens and Brooklyn, when it was termed “Brooklynese”, as an illustration of poor English. Mr. Robinson cites a paper (Ronkin and Kam, 1999) chastising websites that mock Ebonics.  However, the authors of this paper list four criteria of “Mock Ebonics”. Of these four, only one is present in Dr. Pecorino’s characterization: “asystematic graphemic representations of phonetic segments[1] (Ronkin and Kam, 1999, p. 3-5)”. Dr. Pecorino does not “hyper-use” (the word) “be” (it doesn’t even appear once!); nor is there “semantic and pragmatic derogation, (or) the use of vulgar expressions (p. 3).” If erroneous “graphemic representations” is sufficient to signal discrimination, then every texting individual[2], must likewise stand charged.

To think that all appearances of asystematic graphemic representations of phonetic segments are examples of Ebonics is to mistake what Ebonics is. While all occasions of Ebonics may involve asystematic graphemic representations of phonetic segments that does not at all mean that all appearances of asystematic graphemic representations of phonetic segments are occasions of Ebonics.

Operative here appears a mistake in reasoning: All occasions of Ebonics involve asystematic graphemic representations of phonetic segments. Dr. Pecorino’s text involves asystematic graphemic representations of phonetic segments. Therefore Dr. Pecorino’s text is an occasion of Ebonics. The mistake? It is the fallacy of a non-distributed middle term, as in: If All apples are fruit and All oranges are fruit. Therefore, all apples are oranges.

While Academic Freedom does permit the use of strong and even provocative language for pedagogic example or emphasis, the language employed by Dr. Pecorino was not even an example of strong and even provocative language and particularly not on the basis asserted by Mr. Robinson even on his own terms.  As to the “Colleges code of conduct”, claimed by the accuser, just as students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they walk in the school door neither do their teachers (see Finkin and Post [2009]: For the Common Good: Principles of American Academic Freedom).

Dr. Pecorino should not need to defend himself against groundless charges. Indeed, Mr. Robinson’s complaint when considered against Dr. Pecorino’s long record of effort to preserve a quality education and support for students in the classroom is, at best, curious. Instead of demanding Professor Pecorino’s immediate termination from the university, his accusers might think of a more appropriate response to his 40 years of service and support for students in need and his efforts against acts of bullying and unjust discrimination against anyone in our College.

________________________________
[1] writing words as they sound e.g. “wuz” for “was”;  “cuz” for “(be)cause” ; “tho” for “though”; “luv” for “love”.
[2] Fortunately, there are several “texting” dictionaries to assist the non-fluent user.

 

**********THE EMAIL that LAUNCHED the CALL for TERMINATION************

 

From: Pecorino, Philip
Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 8:49 AM
To: _Faculty (Including CLT's); _Adjuncts
Subject: Fwd: The Daily News story - Queens community colleges fight CUNY changes

The Daily News story - Queens community colleges fight CUNY changes

Check out this story and the poor use of English in the quote from the student and the error in sentence construction in the story itself.
Sure we can give dem
Les time and no prublem in wat we get on news stories frum graduates students frum colleges.

Dey don't need no stinkin mor time wit der English!
We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control.

Right?

Remember to vote as you are told.

Happy Pathways!!
Phil Pecorino

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/queens-community-colleges-fight-cuny-article-1.1167179?localLinksEnabled
Queens community colleges fight CUNY changes
CLARE TRAPASSO
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
The English departments at two Queens community colleges are fighting CUNY’s efforts to reduce their four-hour introductory writing classes to three hours.
The English Department at LaGuardia Community College, in Long Island City, passed a resolution on Wednesday rejecting CUNY’s plan to cut the hours of the school’s composition classes.
The resolution also supported the embattled English Department at Queensborough Community College, in Bayside, which voted a week earlier to reject the City University of New York plan, part of an initiative known as Pathways.

In a Sept. 13 email, a day after the Queensborough Community College vote, Karen Steele, a vice president at Queensborough, threatened to axe the composition classes altogether. And in a move that faculty saw as intimidation, Steele also threatened to get rid of all of the English Department’s adjunct professors and possibly some full-time professors.
Queensborough officials later called the email “a worst case scenario.”
“The school is working with the faculty ... so the classes will be offered at three hours and three credits with possible additional time for students who need it,” Queensborough spokesman Alex Burnett said.
But Queensborough English professors said cutting class time would hurt struggling students chances of being competitive at four-year schools.
“It’s unfair to our students,” said English professor Joel Kuszai. “Our students need extra attention, more support.”
CUNY is attempting to streamline its curriculum, making it easier for students to transfer between the 24 schools in its system. The changes wouldn’t go into effect until the fall of 2013.
But shorter classes could mean full-time professors may have to take on additional classes and part-time faculty would get a pay cut.
CUNY spokesman Michael Arena said Pathways will help students.
“Students will now know which courses transfer before they sign up,” Arena said.
Queensborough sophomore Elizabeth Reeger, 18, of Flushing, said she students shouldn’t have to travel to other schools to take the composition classes if the faculty doesn’t agree to the shortened classes.
“They should just make it three hours,” said Reeger, who stressed four-hour classes were too long. “We have extra help tutoring.”
But a Queensborough English professor, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, predicted a long fight ahead.
“We’re willing to negotiate but we want what’s best for our students,” the professor said.
ctrapasso@nydailynews.com

 

***********EMAIL CALLING FOR IMMEDIATE TERMINATION***********

 

From: James Robinson [mailto:james.p.robinson@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, October 05, 2012 4:33 PM
To: Steele, Karen B.; Call, Diane B.; Reesman, Linda; Jay.Hershenson@mail.cuny.edu; alexandra.logue; Chris Rosa; Charmaine Worthy; LGBT-TASKFORCE; Liliete Lopez
Subject: [Possible spam] Professor Attacks Student with Racist Undertones

Dear Dr. Diane B. Call et al,

Allow me to introduce myself, My name is James. I represent the Universities student LGBTQ community, however many of our members are adjuncts, faculty, and staff.
As I am sure you are aware there are major points of intersection between race, gender, learning disabilities, and orientation.

On Tuesday September 25th<x-apple-data-detectors://17> in a widely distributed email to what appears the entire QCC community, Philip  Pecorino mocked a student and in my view engaged in hate speech.

I will quote some of this deplorable language below, which in our view is against the Colleges code of conduct:

"Check out this story and the poor use of English in the quote from the student and the error in sentence construction in the story itself.
Sure we can give dem
Les time and no prublem in wat we get on news stories frum graduates students frum colleges.
Dey don't need no stinkin mor time wit der English!
We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control"

I would like to remind you that The City University of New York is home to many students who suffer from learning disabilities, who do quite well with the support of Student Affairs and Special Services, in fact the Central Office of Student Affairs held a special event today for students who are on the autism spectrum. Messages like this reinforce negative stereotypes, destroy already fragile self esteem, and have no place in our academy.

Moreover, the injection of race as  Dr. Ronkin asserts in "Mock Ebonics" is a new form of racism in the electronic milieu. A type of code talk that must be called out for what it is, a disdain directed at people who are not white.   (Ronkin, Maggie; Karn, Helen E. (1999), "Mock Ebonics: Linguistic racism in parodies of Ebonics on the Internet", Journal of Sociolinguistics 3 (3): 360–380)

In closing this behavior is unacceptable, and depending on the actions of you and the University, we might be writing our own story for the Daily News.  As such I have copied the Senior Vice-Chancellor for University Relations on this communication, as well as The Executive Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

I have begone the process of alerting various Black Student Unions throughout the University and am currently awaiting feedback from the NAACP.

The Task Force would like to meet with you and discuss this serious matter, before we escalate this issue to a full petition drive calling for the immediate termination of the offending party.

I look forward to your prompt reply in this serious matter.

Most Respectfully,
--

James P. Robinson

Chairperson, University Student Senate LGBT Task Force, ( CUNY LGBT TASK FORCE)
Chairperson Academic Senate, Policy Board on Administration (Queens College)
Special Adviser, Straight and Gay Alliance, (City College of New York)

Cell          (917) 578-3384 
Blackberry Messenger PIN 328B72A2

The CUNY Wide LGBT Task Force is the only inter CUNY organization which consists of LGBTQetc leaders as representatives from all 23 respective City University of New York Campuses. We exist to ensure that every CUNY campus has a safe space for LGBTQetc students and employees, protecting and enforcing LGBTQetc rights for CUNY students and employees, making recommendations to the University Student Senate and Board of Trustees, Collaborating with LGBTQetc organizations at individual CUNY campuses on projects, campaigns, and events that increase awareness about LGBTQetc issues.