Update: Ithaca College administration released the following statement in response to the unionizing effort:
On Thursday, Provost and Vice President for Educational Affairs Ben Rifkin and Senior Vice President and General Counsel Nancy Pringle met with a group of Ithaca College non–tenure-track faculty members who had requested that such full-time contingent faculty be allowed join the bargaining unit formed last year by part-time and adjunct faculty. It is the college’s position that it is not appropriate for contingent faculty to be part of that bargaining unit.The college respects the right of these faculty to decide whether or not they wish to be represented by an external third party in all matters of their employment. However, the college also believes that direct communication is the best way to work together to find solutions to any issues presented by contingent faculty.Ithaca College remains committed to working in partnership with all of our faculty within a system of shared governance to best serve the educational needs of our students.
ITHACA, NY – In May 2015, part-time contingent (that is, non-tenured) faculty at Ithaca College fought to form a union. Now, full-time contingent faculty are looking to join that union — and facing similar roadblocks.
On Thursday, representatives of the full-time contingent faculty at IC met with the College’s administration to request that they be able to join their colleagues at the bargaining table.
According to a press release from SEIU Local 200United, an “overwhelming majority” of full-time contingent faculty have signed cards expressing support for joining the union. Most of these faculty are teaching on limited-term contracts that generally last a year.
The release says that full-time contingent faculty at Ithaca College teach on a limited-term basis without any assurance of reassignment and with no path for promotion. Like their part-time colleagues, they also lack a voice in shared governance and work without job security.
“We want more consistency for all on campus, and we’re looking for consistency for the students and what we can offer them… we’re looking to have more stability in our positions, in a lot of different ways,” said Rachel Gunderson, a professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Physical Education.
Gunderson said that the effort to organize a union for full-time contingent faculty has been in the works since October.
Despite the reported overwhelming support, the IC administration has chosen not to stay neutral. This means that the would-be union members need to apply to the National Labor Relations Board so that they can hold an official vote. The process can take several weeks.
This is essentially a repeat of what happened when the part-time faculty made the union push. The IC administration caught some flack for linking to a website that was perceived to have an anti-union bias.
“We were disappointed that our administration decided not to remain neutral nor recognize our democratic majority of support to form our union. It’s sad that they have initially chosen to divide our community on this issue and spend tuition dollars on legal fees in an effort to stop us from organizing,” said Shoshe Cole, Assistant Professor in Physics and Astronomy in the press release.
“They did the same thing with the part-timers and it was woefully unsuccessful. We are going to move forward to win by filing for a union election through the National Labor Relations Board. Still, we hope that they will reconsider their decision and instead uphold the values of Ithaca College by recognizing our democratic will to form a union.”
The full-timers also got some support from other Ithaca College constituencies, namely students and tenured faculty.
“When 40 percent of our faculty are limited-term, they have little job security, and no foreseeable options for professional development, students suffer,” said Student Government Association President Dominick Recckio in the statement. “Having faculty members feel accepted, challenged, and valued is key in creating the environment that we have partly lost over the past eight years under President Rochon. I expect the decision makers to reconsider their decision and do the right thing by recognizing the union. It’s very disappointing for students to see the decision makers divide our community even more than they already have over the last year.”
This move toward unionization seems to be a growing trend in the region. Recently, institutions including Wells College, The College of Saint Rose, Siena College, Burlington College, Champlain College and Boston University have seen similar movement succeed.
Ithaca College administrators were not available for comment at the time of publishing. Look for a followup soon.