The Ithaca College Senior Leadership Team (SLT) said it will not be delaying the Academic Program Prioritization (APP) process — which includes cuts to approximately 130 full-time equivalent faculty members — despite the Faculty Council Executive Committee’s (FCEC) criticism of the timeline.
According to an email sent Oct. 25 from the FCEC to Faculty Council members, the FCEC met with President Shirley M. Collado and La Jerne Cornish, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, Oct. 21. The meeting was held to discuss the concerns and questions posed in the FCEC letter sent to the SLT on Oct. 18. In the letter, the FCEC requested that the administration delay some of its impending faculty cuts until after the COVID-19 pandemic, citing the need for “greater transparency, more informed decision-making and far more confidence and trust on the part of the Ithaca College community.”
In the email to faculty, the FCEC wrote that Collado and Cornish said that delaying the APP process will not happen because it is not financially feasible for the college.
“As explanation, the provost cited significant budget constraints currently and more predicted in the future; continuing expenses related to COVID-19; and other considerations, which the SLT will outline in future meetings, that factored into the decision to cut 131 [full-time equivalent positions],” the FCEC wrote to the council.
In an Oct. 20 interview, Cornish said that the resizing process was supposed to take place over four years but that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the college’s need to eliminate positions.
“In an ideal world, we would have reached our sustainable size goals by 2024,” she said in the interview. “COVID acted as an accelerant to the plan. The budget challenges associated with COVID necessitated that we act much more quickly. … It is painful. No one wants to do this.”
The college is currently facing an $8 million budget deficit, and it will likely increase when the college reopens because of startup costs and COVID-19 testing, Cornish said. The Ithaca College Board of Trustees approved the revised 2020–21 fiscal budget Oct. 26, with a gross budget of $287 million and a projected $13 million deficit.
The FCEC also requested that the administration provide a clearer rationale as to how it determined the proper size for the student body to be 5,000 and how it settled on an appropriate student-to-faculty ratio of 12-to-1. According to the FCEC, Cornish said in the meeting that Laurie Koehler, vice president for marketing and enrollment strategy, will provide an explanation at the All-Faculty Gathering on Nov. 11. The FCEC wrote that it requested that this presentation be made available to the faculty sooner.
Chris McNamara, clinical associate professor and clinic director in the Department of Physical Therapy and chair of the Faculty Council, said she had no further comments to add to the update sent to council members.
“FCEC is disappointed that we were unable to persuade the SLT to reconsider its timeline,” FCEC wrote in the email to the council. “Nevertheless, we appreciate the provost and president’s candor and their willingness to respond promptly to the faculty’s desire for a clearer explanation of the projected student body size and student/faculty ratio.”