The Ithaca College Faculty Council discussed the dean searches and the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all college employees at its Oct. 5 meeting.
Interim Provost Melanie Stein gave an update on the dean searches for the Roy. H Park School of Communications, the School of Music and the School of Business.
At the State of the College Gathering on Oct. 5, Stein also provided an update to the campus community regarding the multiple dean searches. She said the search committee chairs have all been appointed.
At the Faculty Council meeting, Stein said the timeline for the fall semester starts with the Faculty Council launching the committees for the dean searches. She said the committee will then spend the semester working through all of the pre-search details. Stein said she wanted to acknowledge any confusion behind the timeline of the searches, given that the college is still in the process of the presidential search.
“We’re not exactly sure when will be the right moment to go forward and do the search,” Stein said. “For the sake of the schools, it would be great if we could do that in the spring, but if that doesn’t work, we will go ahead and do it later.”
Stein said the dean search for the School of Music would be more complex because the new dean would need to have both music and theatre experience, as the Department of Theatre Arts will be relocated into the School of Music. She said as a part of the process, a transition committee was created to begin working ahead of time, before the new committee is launched.
The Faculty Council also discussed the Student Governance Council’s (SGC) recommendation to encourage employees at the college to get the COVID-19 vaccination, which would include both faculty and staff. Chris McNamara, clinical associate professor and clinic director in the Department of Physical Therapy and chair of the Faculty Council, said that the SGC is looking for the Faculty Council to endorse the recommendation.
The Faculty Council voted in support of the recommendation.
Some Faculty Council members expressed concern at the impacts the possible vaccine mandate would have on the college. Susan Salahshor, assistant professor and program director of the Physician Assistant Program, said it has been a challenge for companies to encourage workers to get vaccinated because it could lead to staff leaving.
According to a Forbes article from August 2021, a study from Qualtrics found that 44% of workers in the United States said they would consider leaving their jobs if they were forced to get vaccinated, while 38% of workers said they would consider leaving their current employer if the organization did not mandate the vaccine.
Salahshor said as a healthcare provider, she would love for everyone to be vaccinated but had concerns about retaining staff members.
The college has already seen a decrease in staff. According to the Office of Analytics and Institutional Research, in Fall 2019, the college had a total of 1,096 staff — 819 full-time and 277 part-time. The college had a total of 827 staff in Fall 2020 — 637 full-time and 190 part-time.
“I agree from a professional standpoint that everyone should be vaccinated,” Salahshor said. “But the second layer, I guess, is that, as someone who works in the college, I need my staff to help me provide education.”
Rebecca Lesses, associate professor and Jewish studies coordinator in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, said she had also heard the discussion that a vaccine mandate could potentially cause staff members to leave the college.
“In general, it might make it harder for us to attract employees,” Lesses said. “I mean, I do agree that it would be the best thing that all people who are able to get vaccinated, get vaccinated, but I can also understand that argument.”
The Faculty Council also went into an executive session to discuss the presidential search process.