Playwrights Tony Kushner (Angels in America), Wendy Wasserstein (The Heidi Chronicles) and David Henry Hwang (Golden Child) spoke at a public hearing of the City University of New York's board of trustees May 18, in an appeal to preserve the future of remedial students at the institution. The trustees are considering a proposal which would bar students from admission to CUNY's senior colleges if the applicants required remedial work.
Wasserstein has a history with CUNY, having earned her Masters degree at City College. "Many of us remedial readers were apparently also creative children," she said, pointing out that she had a reading problem as a child. "In my case, I'd remember conversations -- what anybody said -- and eventually through plays took that skill to writing."
Arthur Miller, speaking through a note read by Kushner, also confessed he was a slow learner. Hwang told of his father, who, speaking little English, attended college as a remedial student. Hwang said his father's schooling in China "had not prepared him for the requirements of his new education system." When the writers were finished speaking, dozens of people stood up and cheered.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Gov. George Pataki are supporting the remedial ban, arguing that the 'coddling' of students ill-prepared for college is a waste of faculty and financial resources. Herman Badillo, chair of the trustees board, and co-sponsor of the proposal, said he was not swayed by the playwrights' plea. "The position is much more complicated then they saw," he told Playbill On-Line. "One of the playwrights talked about the issue of a student needing help in one area. That can be resolved after the student takes the admission tests, which are usually held in May. If they require remediation in a small area, that can be fixed by the student taking classes in the summer."
The trustees are due to vote on the motion Tuesday, May 26. Since the board -- CUNY's policy-making body -- consists of 17 members, with 10 appointed by the governor and five by the mayor, the prospect of preserving the remedial programs look unlikely.