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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 21, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

News

Staff Council to launch survey on holding a no confidence vote

Staff Council will be launching a survey after its Dec. 15 meeting asking staff whether or not they would like to move forward with a no confidence vote, according to an email acquired by The Ithacan.

Sean Reilley, chair of Staff Council, declined to comment on the survey.

“As a non-partisan representative of Staff Council, I am committed to making sure that all staff receive the information before any other parties,” Reilley said.

When asked why staff was the only constituency on campus to not hold a vote of no confidence, Reilley said Staff Council received a formal request for action mid-November that was subsequently discussed in a Nov. 19 meeting. This led to the creation of a workplace satisfaction survey which  sought to gauge which issues were most important to staff at the college and, “develop a plan on how to address those issues,” he said.

During an interview Dec. 8, he said the council did not have a plan at that time to conduct a no confidence vote regarding Tom Rochon.

The limited response from Staff Council thus far has prompted some staff members to look for alternate ways to show their dissatisfaction.

In recent weeks, the campus has seen a response from Faculty Council as well as the Student Government Association regarding on-campus protests, including a vote in which 71.75 percent of student respondents voted “no confidence” in President Tom Rochon. Staff Council, the representative body of staff members on the college’s campus, has not taken a formal position regarding the recent on-campus protests. Some staff members have expressed desires to come out with a formal position on the subject as well as other issues.

“I think it’s important that staff feel like they have a voice and that they’re not afraid to speak out,” said Anne Carlineo ’90, an administrative assistant in the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs. However, some staff members do not feel comfortable doing so in a public setting.

“I think everyone here ultimately, first and foremost, wants to serve students as effectively as possible, but there are people here who also have families and homes and things beyond Ithaca College to worry about, and that affects the degree to which they’re going to voice their opinions,” said Don Austin, assistant director of community service and leadership development in OSEMA.

Carlineo said she felt staff members should not be afraid to speak their beliefs in fear of losing their positions. She also said she was concerned about the various cuts in staff positions over the past few years that have created this fear of speaking out among staff members, as well as the apparent lack of transparency provided by the administration.

Austin said he felt it was important for staff as a group to address relevant issues on campus.

“Generally speaking, there are a number of staff who would like to see more leadership on the part of Staff Council in giving staff the opportunity to support the student justice movement and other things that are going on at Ithaca College,” Austin said.

The Staff Council workplace satisfaction survey was subject to scrutiny when it was temporarily taken down by the Institutional Review Board, as it had not been properly approved before Staff Council emailed it to staff.  However, the board voted to reinstate the survey last week, said Wade Pickren, director for the Center of Faculty Excellence and sponsored research.

While some staff members were comfortable filling out the survey after the IRB’s approval and assurance that each individual’s responses would be anonymous, others were still hesitant to do so, Austin said.

Austin said he believed the survey was a good step in gauging the opinions of staff members, but after the results are released, the concerns and issues mentioned in the survey need to be addressed beyond simply collecting the information.

Additionally, on Dec. 2, Staff Council held a meeting that was open to all staff in which “staff members could voice any and all concerns that they had, both with the issues on campus and … to make suggestions as to what next steps they would like to see,” Reilley said. He said the council was acting in what he called a “fairly expeditious manner” to address the problems that staff members discussed.

Although OSEMA is run by staff members, Carlineo said that the office itself does not have its own direct representation in Staff Council due to eligibility requirements for representation on the council.

Austin emphasized his statements did not necessarily reflect his personal views or the views of of every staff member on campus and he was not affiliated in any way with Staff Council, but his views were merely what he as a staff member had recently observed.

Carlineo held a small, unaffiliated meeting Dec. 8 for staff members to discuss ways in which they might encourage Staff Council to make a statement about these matters on campus.  Although only four staff members were in attendance, she said, the staff members who were present were in agreement that they wanted their voices to be heard.

“A lot of staff are very nervous because there’s nothing to stand behind them in terms of there’s not a contract, [and] they’re not tenured,” Carlineo said. “If more staff speaks out, I hope that other staff feel confident [to do so as well].”

Staff Writer Kyle Arnold contributed reporting to this article.

Jenna Mortenson can be reached at jmortenson@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @jennakmortenson