Episode #33: A Once Great University with Martin Burke

Peter Wood

The City University of New York (CUNY) once had a reputation for providing high-quality education to the poor, working class, and immigrants of New York City. City College, in particular, has long been known as “the poor man’s Harvard.” But CUNY has fallen prey to political correctness, and its zeal to be accessible and affordable has led to a steep drop in academic standards.

This week I’m joined by Martin Burke, an associate professor of history at the CUNY Graduate Center and at Lehman College, chair of the University Faculty Senate, and ex-officio member of the CUNY Board of Trustees. Marty is an active member of NAS and its local chapters, the New York Association of Scholars and the CUNY Association of Scholars.

In this episode, we talk about CUNY’s history, and what it says about higher education at large.

Show Notes

0:00: Peter introduces Marty Burke, and Marty tells a little about his own history.

6:30: CUNY’s standards once matched Harvard’s--but the open admissions policy of the 1960s led to a steep decline.

13:08: CUNY started to institute higher standards in the late 1990s, but it still prides itself on “accessibility.” What does that mean for its academic quality?

19:18: Peter asks Marty about the state of higher education in the United States. Would open admissions be a good policy for the rest of the country?

23:42: Peter questions the value of college today, and Marty shares CUNY’s current perspective on the purpose of education.

28:58: Peter and Marty discuss changing demographics, and what’s in store for universities as the population ages.

31:10: Marty mentions CUNY’s move towards online education, and he and Peter discuss the advantages and disadvantages of education in a virtual classroom.

38:10: CUNY’s Pathways initiative created a new general education program--but it failed to give students common knowledge.

46:25: What is the purpose of general education? Pathways once included 4,200 options for general education courses. Is that really a common core?

56:29: How has CUNY handled Title IX, non-gendered pronouns, academic freedom? Marty shares a few anecdotes, including the story of Josh Blackman, a law professor shouted down.

1:06:03: Marty joined NAS because of its “vigilant commitment to academic freedom and free expression, wherever that leads.” He explains how and why he is involved with NAS, and why you should be too.


  • Share

Most Commented

October 25, 2022


NAS President Peter Wood Addresses the Pending Racial Preferences Cases

Read NAS president Peter Wood's remarks on the upcoming Supreme Court cases, which he presented at a meeting of "Oasis," an informal group of academics and intellectuals based in......

July 25, 2022


Against Transgenderism

The ideology of transgenderism strives to slam shut any door that offers opposition to its attempts to acquire power and control. This statement explains our opposition to such an ideology i......

October 20, 2022


NAS Statement on Nomination of Ben Sasse for University of Florida President

We believe that Senator Sasse would make an excellent president of the University of Florida, and we urge the Board of Trustees to follow the search committee’s recommendation....

Most Read

May 15, 2015


Where Did We Get the Idea That Only White People Can Be Racist?

A look at the double standard that has arisen regarding racism, illustrated recently by the reaction to a black professor's biased comments on Twitter....

October 12, 2010


Ask a Scholar: What is the True Definition of Latino?

What does it mean to be Latino? Are only Latin American people Latino, or does the term apply to anyone whose language derived from Latin?...

May 28, 2009


"O Cosmic Birther!" The Lord's Prayer Meets the American College Textbook

A philosophy professor finds an Internet legend subbing for the Gospel truth and looks in vain for "critical reasoning."...