Update: Ithaca College has released a statement in response to the rally and ongoing labor negotiations, including a link to a detailed report on the college’s negotiation with the part-time faculty union.
[su_note]Ithaca College is bargaining in good faith with the union representing part-time, per course faculty, and intends to work toward a collective bargaining agreement that is in the best interests of our students and employees, and consistent with the college’s mission and values. The next bargaining session is scheduled for October 24.
We acknowledge and respect the right of members of the college community to engage in public discourse regarding issues of interest to the campus community.
The college currently provides competitive wages to part-time faculty which exceed those offered to part-time faculty at other institutions in our region and under other collective bargaining agreements negotiated by the SEIU. We have also offered enhancements at the bargaining table to the current wages and appointment provisions.
You can view more information about the college’s efforts to reach an agreement that is fair, responsible, and financially sustainable for our part-time faculty, our students, and the college—both now and over the long term—at www.ithaca.edu/union.[/su_note]
ITHACA, NY – Chants rang out from outside Ithaca College’s Campus Center Wednesday evening as students and faculty rallied to protest against poor working conditions faced by part-time and contingent faculty.
Cries of “No more dialogue, we want action!” and “The status quo has got to go!” could be heard emanating from the hundreds of students, faculty and other supporters who attended the rally. The rally was planned to call attention to the problems faced by part-time faculty at IC and other colleges across the country. These problems include lack of job stability, lack of fair pay, and lack of respect, according to part-time faculty members speaking at the rally.
Part-time and contingent faculty make up about 40 percent of the faculty at Ithaca College, yet are just as present in the classrooms as full-time employees, according to the protesting faculty members. Several shared stories of how they relied on public assistance like food stamps and Medicaid to get by. One IC alumni-turned-faculty complained that she couldn’t pay off her student IC student loans on her IC salary.
The recently-formed part-time faculty union had been in talks with the college in an attempt to address some of these concerns, but negotiations fell apart earlier this month.
While the rally was going on, the IC Board of Trustees were attending a cocktail hour dinner inside the campus center — of course, the expensive catering was another target of criticism. The rally was organized at a time when the Board members were sure to see how many people had gathered and hear their chants.
While wages and stability were among the primary complaints, several professors also spoke about the state of the relationship between administrators, faculty and students.
“Cogs in an education machine”
“The administration here does not see the students at IC. They do not see the professors at IC,” said Megan Graham, a part-time professor in the writing department. “When they talk about students in our bargaining meeting, do they talk about your experience, your educational value?”
“No, no they don’t. I’ll tell you how they refer to you. They use two words: enrollment numbers. When they look at faculty, they see disposable people. They see us as interchangeable cogs in a huge education machine and they do not have to treat us with respect,” she continued.
Music theory professor Tom Schneller delivered an impassioned speech driving home a similar idea:
“The heart of Ithaca College does not beat in the Peggy Ryan Williams Center,” Scheller said, referring to the college’s main administration building. “The heart of Ithaca College beats in the classroom. It beats in the learning process… in the dynamic and mutually enriching relationship between students and teachers.”
Speakers at the protest encouraged the crowd to chant and cheer loudly, to make sure that they could have their voices heard by the administrators at the college. The crowd, which was primarily made up of students, several speakers led the group in a call-and-response, asking “Whose college?” with a resounding shout of “Our college!,” cheers and applause answering back.
Michael Smith contributed reporting.
Disclosure: Sarah Grunberg, an IC Professor involved in the labor dispute, is on the Ithaca Voice’s board of directors. We do not believe this has influenced out coverage. Contact us with concerns at email@example.com.