The Ithaca College Staff Council released a statement March 15 in response to the recent dialogue surrounding the Academic Program Prioritization (APP) process.
The Staff Council is the representative body for all non-faculty staff at the college. The council expressed confidence in the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and the APP process in the statement. In the statement, the council empathizes with the pain expressed by faculty colleagues who have been cut as part of the APP process. The council states that over the past year, staff members have been primarily impacted by cuts at the college, which are expected to continue this year. At least 264 staff members have been furloughed or laid off since March 2020.
“We understand that views on the APP vary widely, but Staff Council believes in the ability of our community, including Senior Leadership, to navigate this moment in time,” the statement said. “We believe that clear communication, transparent decision making and compassion are critical elements for remaining strong as an institution and we hope that innovative ways will be identified to preserve faculty and staff positions whenever possible, but we understand that in some cases it will not be possible. We urge the administration to share and build with us their vision and hope for the future. We need tangible signs of optimism.”
The Staff Council wrote that the college had expected financial challenges and said the 1975–1997 administration of President James J. Whalen projected in 1994 that there would be enrollment challenges over the next 20 years. Staff Council said that the college was already on a path of change and that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need for change.
Clint McCartney, chair of the Staff Council and supervisor of Facilities Services, did not respond to requests for comment.
The Faculty Council conducted a survey in February on whether faculty members were in support of or opposed the “Shape of the College” draft document. Of the 319 faculty members who participated, 71 supported the recommendations and 248 opposed. During a Faculty Council meeting March 17, some messages from members of the campus community expressed that faculty members were being insensitive to staff cuts in their conversations about the APP, including the discussion of a vote of no confidence. The Faculty Council decided against holding a vote of no confidence.
Randi Millman-Brown, former visual resources curator in the Department of Art History, said she appreciated the Staff Council showing empathy but found some parts of the statement surprising. She specifically pointed out a section in which the council says it believes in the abilities of the college community and the SLT.
“This was not what I had expected them to say,” Millman-Brown said. “It is essentially saying they have faith in the SLT, which of course, is ridiculous.”
She said the SLT did not discuss anything with her prior to her receiving a phone call May 1, 2020, informing her about her upcoming retirement after working at the college for 27 years. Millman-Brown said she was forced into retirement in June 2020. She said the SLT also did not discuss her retirement with her department chair or any of the faculty in her department.
Millman-Brown said she has been in contact with several council members who said they wanted to change some of the language in the statement to be less conciliatory.
College librarian Lisabeth Chabot said that all of the library staff are represented on the Staff Council and that Stephanie Salcedo, business coordinator in the library, is the elected library staff representative on the Staff Council.
“Stephanie shared the information that staff across the college were encouraged to provide feedback related to the APP and provided an online link to do so,” Chabot said. “I believe that all feedback was reviewed as the Staff Council drafted their statement.”
Salcedo deferred requests for comment about whether the college’s staff feedback was considered when drafting the statement, if the library staff plan to discuss the statement and if she would like to comment on the statement to the Staff Council Executive Committee.
Chabot said that the library staff as a body have not discussed the statement and that there is not a departmental response to the statement.