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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 19, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

News

Community rallies in support of contingent faculty union

Security stood outside Emerson Suites as contingent faculty members attempted to go inside, where the Ithaca College Board of Trustees was having dinner with tenured faculty the evening of Oct. 19.

The contingent faculty had just come from a rally organized by IC Students for Labor Action at Free Speech Rock outside the Campus Center, where they criticized the administration for not providing enough support for part-time and full-time contingent faculty.

“Some of our faculty are on food stamps while the board of trustees are having cocktails right in front of them,” senior Taylor Ford, president of IC Students for Labor Action, said at the rally.

As a crowd of approximately 300 faculty and staff members and students gathered, many held signs which read “Invest in our teachers” and “Faculty forward” while a student drumming group intensified the atmosphere. Attendees were focused, listening intently as leaders began to chant “Hey ho, the status quo has got to go” as well as “No more dialogue: We want action” — reminiscent of the protests that POC at IC led last fall about racial tensions on campus.

Since October 2015, the part time–faculty union has been negotiating a first-time contract with the college after it had expressed grievances with the way part-time faculty members were being treated.

Ithaca College community members rally in support of contingent faculty Oct. 19 at the Free Speech Rock SAM FULLER/THE ITHACAN Ithaca College community members rally in support of contingent faculty Oct. 19 at the Free Speech Rock SAM FULLER/THE ITHACAN Students hold signs at a rally for contingent faculty organized by IC Students for Labor Action on Oct. 19 at the Free Speech Rock. SAM FULLER/THE ITHACAN Campus community members, including some tenured faculty members, attend a demonstration to pressure the administration to address the demands of contingent faculty members at Ithaca College. JADE CARDICHON/THE ITHACAN Ithaca College community members rally in support of contingent faculty Oct. 19 at the Free Speech Rock SAM FULLER/THE ITHACAN Ithaca College community members rally in support of contingent faculty Oct. 19 at the Free Speech Rock SAM FULLER/THE ITHACAN Ithaca College community members rally in support of contingent faculty Oct. 19 at the Free Speech Rock JADE CARDICHON/THE ITHACAN Ithaca College community members rally in support of contingent faculty Oct. 19 at the Free Speech Rock JADE CARDICHON/THE ITHACAN
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Campus community members, including some tenured faculty members, attend a demonstration to pressure the administration to address the demands of contingent faculty members at Ithaca College. JADE CARDICHON/THE ITHACAN

Union members walked out of a meeting Sept. 23 in which the administration presented part-time faculty with a compensation proposal of a 2 percent pay increase per credit, up from an initially proposed 1.75 percent pay increase. Union representatives initially asked for a 42.8 percent pay increase per credit but came down between $250 and $275 — about a third — in this per-credit increase for professors who have taught at the college between one and three years.

Part timefaculty union members then announced they would stop negotiating but have since scheduled a bargaining session for Oct. 24, said Sarah Grunberg, instructor in the Department of Sociology.

Ford said the protest was strategically scheduled to bring these issues to the attention of the board of trustees, which is visiting the college between Oct. 19 and Oct. 21.

Many part-time faculty members said they thought the proposed pay raise, and the entire attitude of the administration toward the negotiations, has been insulting. Grunberg said she hopes the rally will help inform the community about the issues the faculty is trying to address.

“What we’re hoping to accomplish is to show that there’s a lot of community support and college support — faculty, staff, students — who believe and understand the importance of providing good working conditions for their faculty,” Grunberg said.

Grunberg said the union has been told by the administration that it will be given a “legitimate” proposal at their next bargaining session, so they will continue to negotiate.

On Oct. 18, Nancy Pringle, senior vice president for the Division of Human and Legal Resources and general counsel; Linda Petrosino, provost and vice president for educational affairs; and Gwen Seaquist, professor in the Department of Legal Studies — representatives of the Ithaca College Collective Bargaining Committee — posted a message on Intercom and launched a “Part Time Faculty Union” webpage to share information with the campus community on what has been done in negotiations so far and share more information on how contingent faculty are compensated and hired.

On Oct. 18, the Ithaca College Collective Bargaining Committee posted a message on Intercom about its “Part TimeFaculty Union” website, which has information on what has been done in negotiations so far and on how contingent faculty members are compensated and hired.

The administration has expressed that it still plans to bargain in “good faith” with the part time–faculty union and has negotiation dates set, according to a document posted on the Office of Human Resources website.

“We were surprised and disappointed when the union representatives abruptly walked out of our September 23 session without any warning, and we were equally disappointed to read in the media that the union may have chosen to cease negotiating,” the document stated.

To provide a comparison on how much part-time faculty are paid at the college compared to other institutions, the college asked for pay-rate information from regional colleges and universities to present to the union. Of the 23 that have responded, the college said the document showed that only two reported a higher part time–faculty pay rate than the college’s rate of $4,200 for a three-credit course.

Tom Grape ’80, chair of the board of trustees, said the board is aware of the challenges in the contract negotiations.

“We remain optimistic that future bargaining sessions will be productive, and that the college and the union will arrive together at a fair and equitable agreement that supports the needs of our students, faculty and the institution as a whole,” he said in a statement.

David Maley, senior associate director of media and community relations at the college, said in a statement after the protest that the college respects the right of the college community to engage in public discourse.

Senior Taylor Alves said she did not know about any of the issues contingent faculty faced at the college until the rally, and she said she hopes positive change will come out of the rally.

“I think this is exactly what needed to happen,” Alves said. “Hopefully, the administration responds to what everyone here had to say.”

Jennifer Spitzer, assistant professor in the Department of English, said she supports contingent faculty and thinks students should know about the issues many of their professors are facing. She said she thinks students were energized by the protest.

Kurt Lichtman, lecturer in the Department of Health Promotion and Physical Education, said he feels comfortable with his pay rate in comparison to those at other institutions and to other contracts that the SEIU has negotiated. However, he said there are some part-time faculty whose compensation situations should be looked into.

Ford said he hopes the rally was able to resonate with the board of trustees and also bring awareness to the rest of the campus community about the issues contingent faculty members face.

“We want to demonstrate to the board of trustees that these are members of our community,” he said. “These are our friends and teachers, people that we love and care about, and we are not going to stop until they are treated fairly, until they are given a living wage.”

Correction: The article previously said Kurt Lichtman, lecturer in the Department of Health Promotion and Physical Education, said he did not support the protest and that some contingent faculty members who have been working at the college for many years should receive a pay raise, but not all. It was corrected to state the following: Kurt Lichtmann, lecturer in the Department of Health Promotion and Physical Education, said he feels comfortable with his pay rate in comparison to those at other institutions and to other contracts that the SEIU has negotiated. However, he said there are some part-time faculty whose compensation situations should be looked into.

Grace Elletson can be reached at gelletson@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @graceelletson