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July 25, 2021
Ithaca, NY | 71°F

News

The Faces of Austerity March 18

Megan Graham, assistant professor in the Department of Writing. Connor Lange/The Ithacan

Hired and Fired in Short Order

Megan Graham, assistant professor in the Department of Writing, is 39 and has been at Ithaca College for nine years, rising from part-time to full-time contingent faculty status and finally, just this year, becoming a non-tenure eligible (NTEN) faculty member.

 Identifying as queer and disabled, Graham has focused on working with students who share those self-descriptions, as well as with international students. She works with the Office of International Programs and the Department of Writing to create courses that support non-native speakers as they transition to American English college writing.

She was also an organizer with the Ithaca College Contingent Faculty Union until she became full-time, frequently negotiating with management. 

“Because I worked with the union for so many years, I’ve seen the hypocrisy and the absolute lack of compassion that the upper administration holds,” she said.

Graham is a non-U.S. citizen herself and will lose her H1B visa along with her job, resulting in likely deportation to Canada. This is after she has lived and worked in Ithaca for fifteen years.

Graham is originally from rural Manitoba, where she taught English to immigrants from around the world for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. She came to Ithaca as a graduate student in English literature at Cornell University and fell in love with the Ithaca Farmers Market, the local farms, restaurants and the community. She lives with her partner, an American citizen.

“I had planned to make this my home forever,” she said. “I was in the process of applying for a green card. I loved my job, I loved working with my students, and I loved this town. My friends and my partner are here.”

Graham said her recent hire as an NTEN made the timing of her termination even more troubling. 

“It’s cynical and unkind to put people through the application process when they’re planning to ‘rightsize’ the college and fire everyone in a year anyway,” she said.

 

Regina Carpenter, lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies. Courtesy of Regina Carpenter

The Gentle Art of Storytelling

Regina, or “Regi,” Carpenter, 63, lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies, has taught at Ithaca College for ten years. She is also an alum of the college with degrees in music and art history and has lived in Ithaca since her undergraduate days.

She has taught two sections of “Storytelling” each semester. They always fill up with both communication studies majors and non-majors. She has brought her students downtown to perform in story slams at Buffalo Street Books and Autumn Leaves Used Books.

“This is not a theoretical class,” Carpenter said. “What the students learn is a skill, and they learn by doing it. Through it, they become acquainted with the world literature of folk and fairy tales.”

Outside of the college, Carpenter defines herself as a “touring professional storyteller,” performing at storytelling festivals around the country and the world.

“Storytelling is a spoken word art where people reinterpret traditional folk and fairy tales and also write personal stories that they then perform,” she said.

She has won a number of awards and has held discussions about storytelling at TEDx Talks. She specializes in performances and workshops for grieving children and shares narratives about mental illness and recovery.

One of the personal stories that she regularly performs is called “One Man’s Trash,” which depicts her dad’s knack for improvising family fun in a poor upstate town. He would drive her and her siblings to the local dump on Sundays to go “shopping,” bringing home objects like discarded television sets — a picture could be coaxed out of some in their home collection, while on others the sound worked.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the touring stopped, and the only income she had was from her teaching. Due to her termination, that will be gone as well.

“I’m a single, senior woman with kids who are grown and on their own,” she said. “I don’t have another source to pull on right now. … This is where students come to learn the art of public speaking and contribute to global and community conversations. … I was so proud to be a teacher here.”

 

This series aims to put human faces on the faculty members who have been notified of their termination as a result of the Academic Program Prioritization process. Faculty members interested in sharing their stories can reach out to Harriet Malinowitz, lecturer in the Department of Writing, at hmalinowitz@ithaca.edu.