Some Ithaca College alumni are voicing their opposition to the implementation of the Academic Program Prioritization (APP) process and the resulting faculty and program cuts.
IC Alumni Against Austerity, a group of alumni that are speaking out against the implementation of the APP, has asked alumni to submit testimonials about their experiences with faculty members who are at risk of being cut. The “Shape of the College” draft recommends 116 full-time equivalent faculty positions be cut. Some faculty members who have been notified their positions were recommended for termination have added their names to a list that is circulating on social media.
The testimonials are published unedited, as they were submitted to IC Alumni Against Austerity.
Christopher Zivalich ’12
At IC, I majored in Journalism. The Park School is seeing a 25% reduction in FTE positions, thereby making it harder for communication students to connect with mentors in the same way I was able to as a undergraduate student.
I was a member of Model U.N. for four years; it is one of the programs at IC I attribute to my public speaking skills. Seeing Juan, along with Alex Moon of the same department (a collective 41 years at IC), being fired is absolutely appalling and tragic to me.
Further, I minored in Gender and Women’s Studies at IC (women’s studies at the time), and went on to get my master’s in Gender Studies. Ithaca College’s interdisciplinary faculty in the gender studies and honors programs provided me foundational and fundamental tools necessary for understanding and confronting the complex power dynamics interwoven into our gendered society. This has been something that has helped my career, as I now work in HIV advocacy, which requires a thoughtful, intersectional lens.
In short, IC provided me a liberal arts education that, to quote a humanities professor from back in the day, “teaches you how to think and how to be a better person.” IC cutting these programs en masse significantly curbs and shapes that very trajectory toward critical thinking.
Chloe Brosnan ’20
Professor Hafer was one of the best educators I have ever have. Without her I think I wouldn’t have made it through my Education program. She was someone who sat with me and my mentor teacher to make sure I was comfortable in my placement. She advocated for me like no teacher ever has or probably will. By IC getting rid of her, students in the future will have a huge loss. I can’t imagine the education department without her & know that this is a disservice to all students in the program.
Alexander Perry ’20
There are so many faculty members who have had such a profound impact on me, especially in the Sociology and Spanish Departments. I can’t count the number of times I had meaningful conversations in a professors office talking schoolwork, job stuff, or life in general. While I am not shocked by the need to make faculty cuts or naive enough to believe the college is in a position to delay cuts until “post-covid,” I am upset and angered by the lack of transparency throughout the process, as well as the timeline (it is extremely difficult for most profs to find work for the next year at this stage of the winter) and lack of community input.
Jenna Mortenson ’19
Several names on this list – specifically ed studies (Dr. Christine Havens-Hafer and Dr. Sutherland) and modern languages (Sergio Pedro) – contributed heavily to my positive experience at IC. I am proud to be a graduate of Ithaca because I was able to study something “practical” (PR/communications), while pursuing my passions in education, languages, etc. That is why I recommend Ithaca College to others. I cannot in good conscience recommend a college that cuts its liberal arts core to fit a mold that was created with the close consultation of current students, faculty, staff, and others.
Truly, the education studies minor is where I found most of the value and lasting impact from my degree. I am truly disheartened to see three of my favorite Ithaca professors be listed as cuts.
I’m also aware, through word of mouth from fellow alumni and friends at IC, of the pressure placed on staff for early retirement. It is clear to me as a recent graduate that the impact of staff was just as important as those I learned from in the classroom. The Ithaca College that has resolved to make these cuts is the not the college I fell in love with and spent years supporting as an active member of student government, orientation, student admissions staff, etc.
Maggie Butler ’17
The proposed changes would remove the department of anthropology, my first academic home and a group of faculty members that mean so much to me personally and professionally. These are hardworking individuals who produce important research and scholarship, as well as teach large swaths of the student body through ICC courses. It has a sizable major and minor population, and is a discipline that is applicable to so many paths and professions post-college.
This is a short sighted cut that is based on temporary faculty shortages and will hurt the college and its current and future student bodies. Austerity is a myth. I urge the administrators and Board of Trustees members to look at all of the other places where financial cuts could be made. This proposed plan as it stands does not represent the supposed values of this institution and will be very detrimental to the longevity of Ithaca College.
Maddison Murnane ’18
Juan Arroyo was my Model UN advisor and is vital to the politics department. I am sad not only to see Juan potentially lose his job but also at the idea of downsizing the politics department.
Kaela Bamberger ’14
I graduated Ithaca College in 2014, and am one of its students who would go on to be a Fulbright Scholar, and won our cohort’s award for best dissertation and highest mark. I’ve launched my career in communications in DC and I hold the relationships with my mentors and my experience across departments in my interdisciplinary Planned Studies degree as a big reason for my success, relying on a collaboration between faculty in theater, politics, writing, and economics for my degree. A true liberal arts student, I took classes in film, environment, business, language, economics, theater, anthropology, English, and writing.
I have been so ashamed to read about the mass layoffs planned to take place at IC. How will IC survive this bloodbath? It will lose the respect and trust of its faculty, which are the central vital force of the college. What will it be without the good graces of the people that constitute the only reason students would plan to attend. I feel bad for the students who are recent grads or will graduate in the next few years, as the new “shape of the college” brings it to its knees. Shame on this administration for cutting down at the faculty level without transparency, without showing your staff and also the enormous alumni community that you’ve considered all options.
Kendra Arbaiza-Sundal ’09
Both as a Politics major and as a Model UN delegate, I studied with Juan Arroyo and Alexander Moon. I also studied with Silvia Abbiati in the Modern Languages department. All three had a lasting impact on my life and my career in diplomacy. I am appalled by the decision to cut any and all positions, particularly in the midst of this pandemic. I have been disappointed in recent years to see Ithaca College spend money on new, expensive building projects that did not appear to have a direct impact on the actual quality of education. I’d like to understand the financial decision-making that led to the current financial situation. I’d like to know how the college is attempting to justify these cuts and understand what other alternatives have been considered. Cutting faculty positions should be a last resort when no other options remain. Investing in the best teaching faculty should be the priority of any high-quality institution of learning. To cut faculty is a grave error – and to do so during a pandemic is unconscionable.
Sara-Maria Sorentino ’08
I graduated from Ithaca College in 2008 with a degree in Politics. The professors in this department, including Alex Moon and Juan Arroyo, showed me what it is to think and live with sensitivity, nuance, and critical engagement. I am now a tenure-track professor myself and carry, or so I thought, the spirit of my time at Ithaca College with me in every classroom I enter. It is profoundly disorienting to see those that mentored me cast out without care or contribution, an eerie signal of what our collective future might be if we do not fight, and fight with gusto and discernment, for an alternative. It is, more to the point, shameful that the school that gave me a sense of the promise of higher education has so profoundly betrayed its animating vision, gutting itself of its most valuable resources (liberal arts department and faculty), abrogating responsibility, and actively discouraging critical thought and productive dissension among its student activists. It should be fully within the right of students to be constituents in the quality and character of their education, not consumers forced to bow down at the fictive altar of supply and demand. Instead, it seems IC administration is content to destroy the college from within, playing into a broader fantasy of the planned obsolescence of higher education, instead of creatively safeguarding its community and shepherding a new vision of what a distinctively liberal arts education on a hill can be.
Natasha Brodsky ’17
As an alum (class of 2017), Aging Studies minor, Co-President of Project Generations, and 4 year volunteer at Longview CCRC, right across the street from campus, I will be devastated if the Gerontology Institute and related programs are discontinued. The overall experiences I had within the Gerontology department shaped my passion for geriatric social work; I am now a Licensed Social Worker in the state of NJ and use the education and skills that I learned at IC everyday with my patients.
Alyssa Figueroa ’12
Alex Moon, who is being cut, was my professor for 2 politics classes. He is brilliant.
Meg Tippett ’20
Visiting Professors are imperative to a diverse education for Ithaca College Students. I took several classes with Visiting Professors who, along with their knowledge and capability for the course, brought their specified interests and vast understanding of a special topic. These kinds of classes allowed students to delve deeper into a topic of interest with an expert in the field. Losing these Visiting Professors will be a detriment in many student’s education paths because they will not have the chance to immerse themselves in a topic that is not usually offered at Ithaca College.
Joy Langley ’04
Most of the H&S faculty in philosophy and political science were my brilliant and talented professors – I consider many friends years after graduating
Jacob Shipley ’17
The lack of full time teachers in the Dept. of Theatre Arts was already overwhelming the curriculum and our ability as students to get a comprehensive education. Specifically, I took class with Elizabeth Livesay and I know that there is no other teacher who could handle her course load and cover those classes. Classes that are absolutely imperative for performance majors. It is disheartening to see teachers being fired and positions being eliminated when it is unclear that any higher ups at IC are making any personal sacrifices.
Bryant Francis ’12
I don’t have any immediately relevant experience, I just find the decision to cut costs at the professor level agonizing and ill-informed. If an academic institution treats the workers who provide the academic knowledge the worst, the core will rot and the rest will follow.
It’s doubly angering that the humanities are the most targeted division in these cuts, while the physical therapy and communications programs suffer less on account of the revenue they bring into the school. Ithaca College has spent years insisting that its programs are strong because students in its high-revenue divisions cross-study in the humanities or other divisions to better inform their education and give context for the practical professional training.
Then when winter comes, it cuts off those departments.
If it comes to pass that any position that has been eliminated is less than what would be a modest cut to administrative or other high-level salaries, the moral mission of Ithaca College has no weight. The college already underpays adjunct professors and frequently begs poverty at addressing basic student needs, while traversing the globe to seek funds to build and upgrade its facilities.
Rachel “Radel” Huley ’17
Harriet Malinowitz is an incredible educator. Not only has she always been ardent in her care for the work that her student’s put out in class, but she gives an actual damn about students themselves. Harriet invites her students to her home at the end of every semester to do a student/professor workshop. She opens her heart, her history, and her home to her students. As do most of the terminated faculty members who have openly put their names on the list for Open Books. There is no reason that a Dean needs to make 4 – 5x what a student’s mentor, makes. How much did IC get when they sold the president’s property? Reduce from the top– the people who serve as mouthpieces, not mentors.
Audrey Lang ’16
Judy Levitt was my professor for Acting II in my junior year at IC. She was the first acting teacher I had who I felt really took the time to hear and understand who I was an actor and a human, and what I was interested in. I had spent years feeling less-than in my identity as a performer, and she always had confidence in my abilities as an actor, more confidence than I did. She encouraged me to think deeply about characters and emotions, and what I learned in her class was invaluable to my acting training and to my emotional life as a person outside of acting and performance. It is unconscionable to me that she is among those being laid off in this time, after she has been a source of positive mentorship and love to not just me, but so many others at IC, for so many years.
I never took a class with Rose Howard, but I was shocked to see her name on this list as well. Though she was never my professor, she mentored me often because I was a stage manager and she taught various areas in the theatre production field. She was always willing to talk through a problem, and I often felt as though she understood the issues we were having, be they production-related or just life-related, better than many other professors. It is also shocking to me that so many valued professors who are also ALUMNI of Ithaca College, Rose among them, are being laid off.
Lastly, I was extremely disappointed to see Elizabeth Livesay’s name on this list. She, too, has been teaching at IC for YEARS, and she, too, was a person who dramatically increased my confidence in her subject area. I’ve always loved tap dance, but it was in her class that I gained more skills and more importantly, more confidence. I took Tap I and Tap II with her, and she believed in me even when I was dancing alongside senior musical theatre majors, as a freshman non-performance theatre major. Her contribution matters.
The contribution of every faculty member on this layoff list matters, and I wish I knew more of them and could provide more anecdotes about each of them. But I hope that the personal stories I can give about Judy, Rose, and Liz speak not only to each of them, but also to the fact that so many students and alumni have stories like I do about all of these professors. What they do matters, and to see it taken so lightly and taken for granted makes me furious.
Kristina Keenan ’18
The proposed changes affect many areas of liberal arts that are extremely important to forming a well-rounded education at Ithaca. Downsizing on these will prevent students from obtaining different perspectives and skills, that can provide helpful in career world. The truth is that not every student will go on to work in the field they majored in. Having these liberal arts skills will
help them succeed in the future. This plan is short-sighted. I’m especially impacted by cuts to the computer science program, which is vital to the emerging media program. Knowing computer science concepts can help anyone at IC add value to their degree, especially in today’s ever-digital society. I can’t fathom reducing the services offered by our department, especially as they aren’t taught comprehensively in other departments.
Brooke Shilling ’17
Jennifer Herzog, of the Department of Theatre Arts, is an incredible teacher and mentor. When I lost my mother during the summer before my senior year, Jennifer invited me to her home for a meal and some therapeutic water colouring. She opened up to me about her experience losing her parents, being Jewish in upstate NY, being an artist and a teacher, and much more. The work she offers the Jewish community at IC is also commendable, as she is the founder and organizer of numerous groups and clubs that benefit, not only Jewish students, but the entire IC community. A teacher, mentor, activist and friend like Jennifer should not lose her position at IC due to no fault of her own.
Kaitlyn Gough ’18
As an Anthropology Major, dual Politics + WGST minor, every department I was part of is negatively impacted. I was also a four-year member of the IC non-music major choir, and took my ICC core curriculum courses mostly in Communications, Linguistics, Modern Languages (Spanish 102 with Sergio Pedro!), ENVS, and Writing. Current professors on The List of self-reported layoffs that I took courses with (34 as of this writing) include Sergio Pedro, Juan Arroyo, Harriet Malinowitz, but of course the departments being impacted or cut entirely are all departments I was enrolled in. My entire college experience is now deemed “non-essential” to the functioning of Ithaca College.
The decision to cut the anthropology department hurts me deeply. The IC Anthropology community is already grieving the loss of my mentor and major advisor, Sue-Je Gage, who passed at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. To take a close-knit community that is still healing from such a loss, put the professors through the agony of MONTHS of job insecurity and uncertainty, only to tell them at the end that the department is being dissolved because it offers no value to the college, is cruel.
I came to IC because of its robust Exploratory program, solid writing department, accepting queer community, and dedication to building an ethical and engaging thought community. I found myself through the connections I formed with others in the basement of Gannett, in the classrooms in Williams, in the LGBT Resource Room, in the practice rooms of Whalen, in the SAC, on the quads between classes. If the communities I was part of are destroyed and uprooted like unruly weeds, then Ithaca College will cease to be a place that feels like home. It will become just some place where I happened to meet people I care deeply about, people who are no longer there.
Aside from the emotional impact, please consider this decision practically. Alumni like myself whose connection to the college is destroyed will no longer have any desire to donate to the college. Alumni and current students whose programs are in teach-out will find their degrees devalued. Current and prospective students will find their liberal arts experience lacking, no longer exposed to the diverse array of disciplines the college is cutting. A “streamlined” college cannot also be liberal arts. As someone who works in accreditation, the fact that the college is considering making such substantive changes and putting a large number of programs into teach-out status makes me VERY concerned about the financial stability of the college and the competence of its leadership. I am also concerned about the lack of adequate communication to staff and students, and the failure of the institution to publish its Form 990s in a timely manner. Staff and faculty who found out in the fall that the school was cutting a quarter of all teaching positions, but did not find out whether theirs was among those cut until this January, already feel alienated from the college that dangled the threat of unemployment over their heads for several months. Many have already left or are considering leaving. As one of my respected professors and mentors has said:
“I do not want to work for an institution that’s going to treat my colleagues, and eventually ME, this way.”
Ithaca College has already broken the trust of the community by refusing transparency in this process, and by demonstrating with both words and actions that it views valued members of its community as disposable. You focus on keeping the BUSINESS of the college alive. What about its SOUL?
Taryn Rosner BS ’08, MS ’09
I was saddened and concerned to hear of the elimination of staff and resources in the gerontology department. In particular, I was upset to hear of the dismissal of Jessica Valdez Taves, a vital member of the OT faculty for 14 years. Ithaca College has a strong reputation for clinical profressions including OT, PT, and SLP in the healthcare community. As a former OT student and former teacher in the department, I believe that IC’s access to rich, diverse, clinical experiences throughout the degree program is vital to the success of our students. Jessica Valdez Taves was responsible for my education in the Adult Clinic and introduced many of us to geriatric healthcare through our partnerships at Longview. When I recommend that students apply to or attend Ithaca for OT education, I make that recommendation largely because of these hands-on experiences. Eliminating clinically relevant programming is shortsighted. It robs our students of valuable hands-on experience, and I believe it will hurt both IC’s ability to attract new students and the reputation of those students as they enter fieldwork. I want to speak specifically about Jessica Valdez Taves. Jes is energetic, efficient, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable. She is everything you would want in a teacher. Eliminating one of the only faculty members who still actively practices OT in the community is detrimental to the whole program. Healthcare norms change quickly. It is vital for clinical programs to have teachers who are still “in the trenches”, hearing about new technologies and new treatment methods, encountering real-time effects of healthcare legislation, and experiencing the trickle down impact of new standards. Jes, like the rest of us, understands the importance of having this clinical connection in OT education, and chose to stay in the clinical instructor role despite over a decade on the OT faculty. She was one of the mentors in my OT student career that consistently made OT alive and connected to the world. When we got bogged down in the academics, Jes reminded us why they mattered. When we were lost in the “why do I need to learn this theory” woods, Jes was the one who helped us see the human person that theory would support. I don’t know the ins and outs of the budget plan, but I know that if Jes is on the chopping block, you have gotten something vitally wrong.
Liz Alexander ’18
When I was an Ithaca College student, I was surrounded by professors willing to commit to me. When I would speak with friends who were studying at other colleges and universities, I would hear that this commitment wasn’t something to take for granted. When I went on to grad school, I discovered my friends were right.
This commitment came from people like Sergio Pedro, who met with me and a handful of other students for six consecutive weeks—during his lunch hour—to prepare us for our new jobs as Teaching Assistants. And Harriet Malinowitz, who went out on a limb and said yes to advising a student organization I wanted to start, while we were barely off the ground. Someone like Alex Moon, who wrote a letter of recommendation for me even though I requested it at the very last minute, for a grad program that I was eventually accepted into. Or Juan Arroyo, who I met for the first time on a Saturday morning in Campus Center, representing the department we both cared so much about to prospective students. These are educators who have proven their commitment to their students and to their college. Why isn’t Ithaca College proving its commitment to them?
On my most generous days, it is tempting to answer this question along the lines of sometimes, bad things just have to happen. That no one likes firing people, which is why the people doing the firing are getting paid the big bucks. They are there to make the difficult decisions that no one wants to make. Causalities performed in the name of necessity and the greater good.
But I don’t think that laying off long-serving members of the Ithaca College community is a difficult decision. It is a cruel decision and it is sloppy, and in my opinion self-destructive, but as far as strategic planning goes, it doesn’t strike me as particularly difficult. We have located the future of Ithaca College in the market; the market procured a goal of a 12:1 student to faculty ratio; and it was decided that the best way to reach and sustain that goal would be to fire as many people as possible, some of whom have been teaching at the college for over twenty years.
A truly difficult decision would look something like deciding to take on a different kind of risk by committing to an alternative plan. It might mean deciding to pursue a different goal entirely. And surely (a homophone), it would mean imagining a future for IC shaped by something other than a market ratio. These are the more difficult decisions that we have to make.
Otto Bonk ’18
In general my experiences with the Politics and English Departments would not have been the same without the professors and the community the built for us within those departments. Cutting any of them would have a significant impact on that community an the lives of the students, but with the numbers of staff that have already been or are expected to e laid off, the impact will be far greater, and far more detrimental to students, and the school as a whole. Not to mention the lives and livelihoods of the professors and other staff being laid off.
To Summarize, this seems wrong.
Bonnie Sultan ’01
Learning of these employment losses and the great impact they pose to the Ithaca community, both on and off campus, is nothing short of shocking. When discussing this matter, we do not only see jobs and careers lost, but the collateral consequences to families and neighbors. As a collective, we can all agree that the cuts are poised more to hurt the community rather than save it. Hearing administration talk about these cuts as negatively impacting the school only further emphasizes the need to develop smarter solutions rather than mass layoffs. These are monumental times that require us to come together in unity. Ithaca College is home to brilliant economics and business professors who can take on these challenges. Our alumni span all sectors, we can partner with these experts to develop new and better plans that save dollars and save jobs. Cutting staff and faculty will not solve your problems; it will only cause larger ones.
Meaghan McElroy ’20
Fae Dremock was the first professor in the ENVS department that I had after starting the environmental studies major. I can honestly say that she changed my entire life — she set me down the path of science communication, constantly challenged my ways of thinking, pushed me out of my comfort zone, and encouraged me to seek out opportunities I wouldn’t have sought out otherwise. I was an editor for her journal, Alluvian, for a little over two years, and she was my internship supervisor my senior year. I am furious that she is being cut from the college. Her focus on environmental justice, intersectionality, and the importance of the humanities is invaluable to a robust ENVS education. Knowing that such an important mentor is no longer at IC makes me question my ties to the institution as a whole.
Additionally, I worked for The Ithacan during the contingent faculty strikes during the 2016/17 academic year. I wrote a number of pieces profiling faculty members, such as Megan Graham and other NTENS. Knowing how hard they fought to have their positions respected, only to be cut a few years later, is insulting at best. It’s just heartbreaking.
Sadie Schlabach ’15
I had Alex Moon as my first politics professor at IC. This first course spurred me to pursue a minor in politics. Throughout my four years I took four different classes with Moon, each one being incredibly impactful. During my senior year I pursued a thesis project which Alex helped me write and directed me in my research. He spent hours and hours out of his own time to talk through sources and give suggestions on my work. I have re-read many of those comments for insight even after graduating. While I have not pursued politics after graduation, this background I learned from Alex’s courses (specifically constitutional law and the politics of toleration) have shaped my world view and impacted the work I do in ways I could not imagine. I am so grateful to his mentorship and am incredibly disheartened to think he could be dismissed. Students and other faculty will have a great loss if this dismissal moves forward.
Hannah Steinfeld ’15
Sergio Pedro inspires the work I do with my kindergarteners in the classroom everyday ( 6 years later). I will never forget him saying “language is arbitrary until we put meaning to it.” It is something I carry with me and think about during all interactions. Kathryn Caldwell was the greater Psych teacher. I will always remember my research paper that required me to interview 100 subjects. Not only did this semester long project force me out of my comfort zone but more importantly pushed me to become a more self aware and critical thinker. These proposed changes and lay offs are devastating. IC will not be the same institution without the incredibly intelligent and genuine professors that push us to be better humans in all sectors of life. They have invested so much time and effort in us students. It is only right that we have the opportunity to pay it forward as they are truly the foundation to not only our occupations but who we are as people.
Alexander Lima ’10
As both an alumnus of IC and someone involved in political organizations directly impacted by some of the professors who are being targeted with these cuts, I find the proposed budget austerity measures harsh, ill-timed, and ultimately counter productive to IC’s vision.
While a student, I participated in multiple extra curricular conferences and was guided personally by professors in the politics school. Without their work and dedication on my behalf, I’m confident in saying my present development would not have been possible. To target these hard-working professors at a time when community solidarity is of such utmost importance, is a dereliction of basic human solidarity and a slap in the face of the philosophical moors underpinning my alma mater. I implore the decision makers of Ithaca College to open the books and provide transparency to the community of teachers, students, alumni, and families who have provided and continue to provide such generous time and financial resources to an institution they believe in. The current process of opaque and threatening austerity reflects an organization I fail to recognize.
Lauren Campasano ’12
I am an alumni with a B.A. in Aging Studies. The faculty of the Gerontology Institute are excellent and prepared me to go into an important field. To do away with the Aging Studies major is a step in the wrong direction as programs like this are increasing around the nation, and the need for professionals specializing in gerontology is growing.
Edward Hickson ’15
Classes with some of the professors being fired enriched my experience, learn new things, and shaped my goals for the future. Some of these courses were taught by Juan Arroyo and Scott Thomson who are outstanding professors who took their jobs seriously that taught my classmates and I with honor, integrity, and an unwavering commitment to helping us learn the subject matter. I constantly think about the subjects and theories I learned in classes with these two afore- mentioned professors to this day, and to me this is effective teaching as I am applying knowledge I learned in class to my current real life experiences. I also see that these two professors have been teaching at the school for over 20 years. It is shameful that the college would treat these and other long serving staff members like this and I feel embarrassed to be an alumni of a university who would dispatch of these staff members to align with “vision” for the future. I urge the college to reconsider this plan and continue to employ these professors at the school.
Evan Popp ’18
I haven’t personally had many interactions with those faculty who have disclosed their firings. However, I know many alumni who have and for whom these faculty members have been extremely important.
For me, I know that my experience at Ithaca College would have been nowhere near as impactful without the brilliant faculty members across the college. Specifically, discovering the Park Center for Independent Media and the internship opportunities available through PCIM transformed my career path within journalism and made me feel like there was a place for me in that profession. Another impactful area of the college for me was the Politics Department, where I took classes that opened my mind to concepts and ideas I had never considered or explored before and where I did the writing and thinking that was most important to my academic growth during my four years at IC.
This is why the plan to fire faculty members and eliminate whole departments is so devestating and misguided. Without the faculty members who have profoundly shaped the direction of my life, Ithaca College would have been just another college, just a diploma that I got on my way to something else. Instead, it was a crucial four years in my life and in my growth as a person.
That’s what students come to college for. And by firing faculty members, Ithaca College administrators are ensuring that there is a far greater chance current and future students will leave the college without the transformative learning exeriences so many IC alumni have had there.
Abby Paulson ’12
When I first came to Ithaca College, I enrolled as a Journalism major. But the Politics classes, particularly the introductory class from Juan Arroyo, changed the course of my life. I switched majors. Zillah Eisenstein and Peyi Soyinka-Airewele provided me a framework for looking at the world today with both compassion and critique. They merged theory and the real world. The Politics Department made my world expand. Today, you see the consequences of majors and industry siloed from the humanities and liberal arts. How can you look at the events of January 6 and cut Politics faculty? How can you see the impact of Brexit and dismiss the professor with expertise on the European Union? My job now is advocating on behalf of the social sciences and humanities on Capitol Hill. It breaks my heart to champion the discipline as my alma mater dismantles and mistreats the department and faculty that made me who I am today.
Kevin Kukkonen ’19
My experience at Ithaca college was nothing short of life changing. I feel I can speak volumes on how IC staff in the recreation and leisure studies school helped me in becoming a member of society again. My prior experience in life as a US service member who was wounded in combat multiple times, it was hard for me to adjust into regular life again. My instructors Matt Vosler, and Pat Lewis as well as head of the department and others not mentions where paramount in that transition. They really took such a vetted interest in wanting myself and others to succeed, they were very accommodating and supportive through out my whole time at IC. The core academia that they taught was of the highest caliber and it reflected greatly when it came to our programs
ISP Immersion semester program. That program is the only of its kind in the US college realm that takes students into the backcountry learning atmospheres for as long as they do. They provide the best instructors who have years and some decades of educational value to offer students. I am beyond sad and upset to see the colleges knee jerk reaction in trying to save face of the school due to bad budget planning. Shame on the board and elected officials of the college for taking away an opportunity for future leaders in outdoor adventure leadership.
Kate Sustick ’20
(Most of this was taken from a letter I wrote earlier in the summer, when the English department was seeking out student testimonials about professors and faculty whose jobs were at stake. I added some more after the recent layoffs, so apologies for this absolute novel.)
Dyani Taff is a wonderful educator and person. I have had the pleasure of working with her in two very different contexts; once as her student, taking the aforementioned senior seminar with her, and also as a teaching assistant when she volunteered to teach a section of Exploring the Options (ETO), a 1-credit Exploratory course for freshmen. In ETO, Dyani would make the classroom feel like a place where these new students could air grievances, reflect on their weeks, and seek comradery in other Exploratory students, as well as in her as a professor. I remember one particular moment when she made a passing remark about how she had cried more than usual in one week—and this honesty and openness with her own life allowed for students to feel so comfortable that everyone started opening up about what had made them cry, feel upset or stressed about that week, and made a 40-minute period feel more close-knit than I’ve experienced in some semester-long courses. It’s also worth mentioning that ETO, a deeply important part of the Exploratory program, is a course that barely any professor ever wants to take on. Dyani not only volunteered to teach these courses willingly for years, but did so with grace and genuine interest in her students.
Dyani brings such a refreshing bout of humanity to all that she does, and this is something that can be so hard to find in a realm of academia. When I took my senior seminar with her, the first day of class—which is normally reserved for droning on about a syllabus—Dyani invited us to talk about ourselves. As a class of soon-to-be-graduated seniors, she offered the floor for us to open up about anxieties entering our final semester of college. During this conversation, she also opened up to us, and invited us into her life, just as she took an immediate interest in ours. She continued to open up each class session asking how our days, weeks, semesters had been going. She cared about us as more than just her students and I believe that this made all the difference.
Even when COVID-19 hit, Dyani kept this sense of humanity. I would argue that she was the best professor I had during such a stressful time, particularly because she continued to be honest. She kept us informed of what was going on in her own life, and the tragedy that this time has brought her, all while making our weekly Zoom meetings a safe place for us to discuss our own personal tragedies and stressors of the moment. Even as she went through so much in her personal life during the latter months of the semester, she never stopped caring about her students; the day her mother passed away, she emailed me to make sure that I was still on track to finish my final project in time. It was in moments like these where she exhibited unbelievable strength, trust and care in her students, which showed just how lucky we were as students to have her as a professor.
Upon the creation of IC Open the Books, I was increasingly impressed by Dyani’s continued dedication to her students, so much so that she put her own job on the line. It is VERY hard not to draw the line from this specific layoff to the work that Dyani was doing to aid in creating this platform for student voices. As an institution that prides itself on student activism, it is both disheartening and fills me with just outright rage and disgust that this is how a member of the “IC family” was treated after trying to selflessly help students have a voice in Ithaca College’s decision about THEIR education.
Beyond losing someone with Dyani’s extremely interesting knowledge of the more niche corners of gender and politics in medieval and renaissance literature (that made me, someone who HATED renaissance literature, not only bear reading John Milton, but has since made me a fanatic) the college is losing an educator who was in her field for all of the right reasons. The English department, and the entire college, will be truly lacking without her, and all I can hope for is for her to find a place to teach that will provide more support and appreciation for her efforts than IC ever did.
Emma Kast ’14
Ithaca was a second home to be during my time as a student there from 2010-2014. My faith and trust in Ithaca as an institution have always been strong, and my relationships with faculty, students, administration and other staff have been positive in all respects. During my time at IC, the entire community was exceptionally supportive, caring and encouraging, and I never once doubted that anyone I encountered had anything other than my best interests as a student in mind. My relationships with IC faculty and alumni continue to grow and thrive to this day.
When I meet ambitious, high school-aged students, I encourage them to apply to IC by sharing my wonderful experience there. But in the face of the outrageous changes proposed by the APPIC, I am now questioning the administration’s judgement, and my trust in IC as an institution. I do not believe this decision is being made with the best interests of faculty or students in mind.
The rigorous and student-centered IC Politics Department prepared me well for my current doctoral study in International Politics. Professor Alexander Moon, one of the many faculty who was informed he may not have a job next year, is one of the Politics professors who helped me get to where I am now. He takes teaching extremely seriously, has high expectations of his students, and cares deeply for their well being. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the department. While I did not have the opportunity to take a class with Politics Professor Juan Arroyo, I can only imagine how many students feel similarly about him, and their other mentors who are being cut from their life lines. Please reconsider your mass dismissal of faculty.
Jason Lipeles ’18
I learned to be an artist, writer, and photographer in the Image Text MFA at Ithaca College and learned to make work which combined my multiple identities: Jewish, queer, white. I couldn’t imagine the world without the program.
With the guidance of the MFA Directors Nicholas Muellner and Catherine Taylor, I recently published my first book with Pilot Press, finished my second book, and I am at work on a third. I published poems and essays in important online publications and I applied this year to PhD programs in Creative Writing. I wouldn’t have been able to conceive of these steps without the feedback and encouragement from the directors. They are so full of vibrance and insight, and they deserve all of the praise in the world.
The Image Text MFA program is not just a program, but a community of people who care about each other. Nicholas and Catherine have a way of bringing the best professors and the most open, engaging students together. It is a space that is full of love, learning, and possibility.
Although I am sure you’ve heard this before, it bears repeating: There is no program like the Image Text MFA. Please ensure the longevity of the Image Text MFA at Ithaca College and contribute to its incredible potential to change the artistic and literary landscape for years to come.
Jacob Ross ’19
If not for Jennifer Herzog i would not have felt as safe on campus as a jewish student as I did. Her door was always open and she was willing to stop everything she was doing to speak to me about my concerns around IC and in Ithaca at large in response to antisemitism. There is not a faculty member on campus who does more for this cause than Jennifer.
Kristen Harrison ’20
I was a student in the documentary studies program, a small but mighty department. The professors seemed stretched thin and wanted to give us all the best learning opportunities and resources possible, but it seemed like it was becoming difficult. After listening to testimonials from fired professors of similarly small departments, the layoffs directly affect the students and the professors who will have to assume their workload. This is in addition to the fact that professors are people who not only add a tremendous amount to academia and to student growth and thinking models, but they also have families, homes, and a passion for teaching. Many of the fired professors have been at IC for years and have contributed to clubs, research, etc. Their absence will be real and it will be felt, especially in the smaller departments. IC has struggled with enrollment recently, and this will further hurt the academic integrity of the school. I love Ithaca College, but the administration need to reprioritize and take another look at why students come to IC- for the professors.
Dylan Lee Lowry ’13
Faculty members in the CSRCE, politics, H&S, Park, and Honors program were life changing. The core of my education was the interactions with incredible teachers. I want the voices of others to be amplified here and other options to be deliberated before these cuts take place.