ITHACA, N.Y.—Ithaca College President Shirley Collado released a letter on Monday, Dec. 14 in response to a demonstration held on IC’s campus over the weekend aimed at the school’s proposed plans to reduce spending, partially by cutting staff and faculty positions.
Over the weekend, supporters of the #OpenTheBooks movement, which claims to include students, faculty, staff and alumni of Ithaca College, calls for more transparency from the school surrounding its budget and the announced cuts of about 130 faculty positions. The protest largely consisted of attaching signs to the entrance of the campus’ Peggy Ryan Williams Center, as well as drawing in chalk and Sharpie on the building’s doorway, messages like “Fuck Austerity,” which Collado took particular exception to, and further calls to open the school’s books.
Collado, who’s been in power since 2017, didn’t specifically address any of the student group’s concerns in her letter, but she did lambast the students who committed the vandalism, calling the action “unacceptable” and “disrespectful and profane.” She said it disrupted a celebration of students who were graduating in December.
“While some of the vandalism involved the posting of signs and messages written in chalk on and around the buildings, the PRW Center was also defaced with profanity written with permanent markers,” Collado wrote. “Some of the messages included direct and disrespectful words aimed at me, personally.”
IC has announced the cuts over the last few months, most recently in October. Opposition to the plan has been simmering for some time, including an Open the Books rally held last month at the entrance to the school. But the school administration has largely remained silent in response to the group until now.
“I am saddened and disappointed by the need for me to state to this community what should be obvious to all—that neither vandalism nor vulgarity have a place in working through and resolving difficult issues here at Ithaca College,” she concluded. “I understand how hard, emotional, and uncertain this time at this college is for all of us, but we are better than this. Let’s elevate our discourse and our behavior. Because what happened yesterday advances neither a productive dialogue about the college’s future, nor the values of our shared humanity.”
On Instagram, the Open the Books Coalition responded back with a fiery retort of their own, challenging Collado and the school administration’s priorities and noting that their questions have not yet been answered. They did, though, apologize for creating more work for the facilities staff of the school, additionally welcoming them into the movement should they want to join.
“This afternoon, we, along with the rest of the school, received an email from President Collado that accused the art piece of not ‘advancing our shared humanity,’” the group wrote. “We wonder how the administration can claim that laying off 130 faculty and subjecting 260+ staff to position elimination, furloughs and reductions in hours ‘advances our shared humanity.’”
Beyond that, they issued a clarification and a challenge to the school as it heads into the holiday break.
“We want to be clear: we don’t hate the administration,” their message read. “We just want them to do better. President Collado, we agree, ‘Let’s elevate our discourse and our behavior.’ Let’s do it by including the whole campus community in deliberations about our shared future. Let’s do it by being financially transparent. Let’s do it by stopping the layoffs. Let’s do it by opening the books.”