Members of the Ithaca College part time–faculty union have expressed frustration after they walked out of negotiations with the administration Sept. 23, having received what they said was a disappointing counterproposal on compensation. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the part time–faculty union’s requests for higher compensation and more job security, said Rachel Kaufman, a lecturer in the Department of Writing.
In a previous counterproposal, the administration offered the part-time faculty a 1.75 percent pay raise per credit, which equates to about $70 per course. At the Sept. 23 meeting, the administration increased the offer to a 2 percent raise, which is about $84 per course — a $14 increase, and the reason the part-time faculty walked out.
Part-time professors can teach up to 12 credits a year, and they are paid about $1,400 for each credit, which translates to a potential $16,800 a year.
Tahlia Fischer, an organizer for SEIU Local 200United and a lecturer of women’s and gender studies, said part-time faculty who teach the maximum credit load initially proposed that they should be paid $24,000 a year, or $2,000 per credit. This would mean a 42.8 percent pay raise per credit, or $600 more. However, Fischer said in its most recent counterproposal, the part-time faculty came down between $250 and $275 in this per-credit increase for professors who have taught at the college between one and three years. Kaufman said the proposed 2 percent increase the administration gave them is “insulting” because she thinks it still does not give them a living wage.
Nancy Pringle, senior vice president for the Division of Human and Legal Resources and general counsel, said she disagrees. She said part-time professors at the college are among the highest-paid in the northern region — only behind Cornell University and Colgate University.
Fischer said she wants the administration to understand that even though it is technically paying part-time faculty a “competitive rate,” it still is not a fair one because they are not being paid proportionately to full-time contingent faculty.
Fischer said the part time–faculty union is asking for pay parity with contingent full-time faculty — but at half time. As of now, the annualized base salary for a full-time contingent professor is set at $33,600, and part-time professors make half that amount in a 12-credit load at $16,800. But she said they have found that no full-time contingent professor is paid under $48,000, so they want parity with this salary at half time, which would be $24,000.
However, Faculty Council Chairman Tom Swenson said full-time contingent faculty members often have an extra responsibility to participate in service, advising and scholarship depending on their department. He said part-time faculty members are not required to do any of that.
Sarah Grunberg, lecturer in the Department of Sociology, said in an email that while what Swenson said is true, many part-time faculty members also do extra work outside of teaching, including service, scholarship and advising, which justifies being paid equally to full-time contingent faculty but at half time.
“What we are saying to Ithaca College is, don’t be the trend follower. You set a new trend: You compensate your part-time contingent and full-time contingent faculty for what they deserve based on their training, expertise and their value they bring to the school,” Fischer said.
Fischer said the part time–faculty union has been looking for ways to pay for the compensation increase in the college’s budget and has identified the contingency fund as a source that it might be able to use. The contingency fund serves as an allotted amount of money built into the budget for enrollment shortfalls or damages, said Gerald Hector, former vice president for finance and administration, in a previous interview. It totals around $4.7 million, and the increase the part-time faculty is asking for would be about 11.9 percent of the fund, Fischer said.
“We’ve identified a source of funding that could be a potential for meeting our needs, which wouldn’t even remotely exhaust the contingency fund,” Fischer said.
Pringle said the contingency fund could not be used for salary increases because those expenses are used for the operating budget on an “ongoing basis.” She said if the college were to give the part-time faculty the compensation increase, it would have to be funded by raising tuition.
Negotiations have persisted between the administration and the part time–faculty union for nearly a year. Job security and compensation are the last two major issues to be negotiated, Kaufman said. Brody Burroughs, lecturer in the Department of Art, said the group has been waiting for adequate counterproposals from the administration since July 20.
“We’ve had dialogue about the issues,” Burroughs said. “They’re either stalling or not doing their work, and we’re not going to tolerate that.”
Grunberg said faculty members decided to walk out of the negotiations on Sept. 23 because they felt the administrators were not participating in a dialogue that they said they wanted to have.
“The administration has been trying to have dialogue with us for two months, to which we have poured our hearts out and told them all of the reasons why we’re asking for what we’re asking for,” Grunberg said. “We’ve talked about how we’re struggling. We’ve shared personal stories, and they continue to want this dialogue, but at this point, we want action.”
Pringle said that when the part time–faculty union walked out of the negotiations, she did not know what was happening. She said she had intended to keep negotiating for a few more hours.
“No one said, ‘Here’s why we’re leaving,’ and so I was surprised and disappointed,” Pringle said.
Fischer said despite the walkout, the part-time faculty intends to continue negotiations with the administration. She said a strike is a possibility for the group in the future, but for now, they have not reached an impasse.
“Striking is always a possibility, but it’s the last thing anybody wants to do, and particularly, it’s the last thing we would turn to,” Fischer said.
Pringle agreed that the groups are very far apart at this point in the negotiations, and she said the administration intends to bring in a federal mediator to facilitate negotiations moving forward.
A federal mediator is third-party government official operating under the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service agency that is brought in when negotiations are close to nearing an impasse or a strike, said Jerry Glass, labor relations expert and president of F&H Solutions Group, a labor relations firm. He said the mediator’s job is to ensure these conflicts are resolved and that bringing one in is not concerning.
“In a way, it’s a good sign,” Glass said. “It’s a sign that both sides are reaching out to see if they can get some third-party professional help to get them over the hump.”
Glass said first-time contract negotiations, such as with the part time–faculty union, are often much harder to complete because there is no original contract on which to base negotiations and there are no expected completion dates. He said it is not unusual to bring on a mediator in cases like these.
Assistant News Editor Kyle Arnold contributed reporting.
Correction: Rachel Kaufman is no longer an organizer for SEIU Local 200United.