ITHACA, N.Y. –– The future is uncertain for many in the Ithaca College community as leadership announced staff reductions and adjustments to academic programming for the summer and beyond in an online meeting held Tuesday.

“The college must reduce the size of its workforce in order to address organizational needs, both as a result of the current coronavirus pandemic and to align with a recalibration of the college’s size as outlined in our strategic plan,” Dave Maley, Ithaca College director of public relations said in a statement. “The difficult steps necessary to achieve that goal are taking place right now.”

IC targets 15% staff reduction

According to Maley, layoffs began last week and are ongoing –– 167 people at the college being laid off to date. This includes staff who are currently unable to perform their responsibilities remotely — such as buildings and grounds, or food service staff. Once on-campus activities resume, the college said they intend to bring back many of those employees.

The college is also offering opportunities for voluntary workforce reductions, including a one-time retirement incentive, phased retirement, hour reductions and salary reductions. Staff has until May 4 to decide if they want to take part in one of those options.

“But the number of staff and faculty who take those voluntary reductions will not necessarily impact the overall number of involuntary reductions, most of which are based on changes in business need. Both are necessary in order to preserve the college’s long-term future,” Maley said.

As of Tuesday, 76 faculty and staff members have expressed interest in the retirement incentive, 15 for the phased retirement, 17 for hour reductions, and 19 for salary reductions.

IC said they anticipate a total reduction in the workforce of about 15% –– “though of course, that figure could change as conditions change,” according to Maley.

“The college values the contributions that all of our staff and faculty make to the student experience, and has tried to be thorough and thoughtful to ensure that all other available options are exhausted before impacting an individual’s employment,” he went on to say.

Employees who choose to retire prior to July 1, 2020, will receive a one-time payment equivalent to six months of their salary, in addition to accrued and unused vacation, if they are at least 60 years of age and have a minimum of 10 years of benefits-eligible service as of June 30, 2020 or are at least 55 years of age and have a minimum of 20 years of benefits-eligible service as of June 30, 2020. More information can be found on the Human Resources website.

Student life and August commencement

Students are also facing uncertainty, as colleges and universities across the country look ahead to their fall semesters and have already begun adjusting their course of action for the immediate future.

At IC, study abroad programs have been suspended for one year and all in-person classes during June and July have been canceled. It is unclear whether those classes could be offered remotely.

In March, the college made the move to online instruction –– extending spring break another week and barring students from returning to campus afterward. Many have not yet retrieved their belongings from on-campus housing.

“We are currently looking at the beginning of June as a possible time for that to happen. The timing is, of course, dependent on the status of Governor Cuomo’s “un-pause” orders. Plans are being developed to ensure safety, social distancing, etc., for families/students as well as for our staff who would be involved,” Maley said.

In addition, the college continues to move forward with plans for an in-person Commencement weekend in August –– plans that could also change. IC says they will finalize their decision no later than the end of June.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com