As I walk across campus this winter, I can’t help but notice how somber it feels. It’s not just the snowy clouds above or the missing students filling the paths to buildings, but the prospect of permanently losing part of our campus community. We will lose some of our valued mentors, and we may not even be able to say goodbye in person.
I’m the president of a campus organization, and our advisor, Jennifer Herzog, a lecturer in the theatre arts department, is one of the faculty at risk of losing her position. She continues to play an integral part in ensuring that our organization is strong by providing us educational materials, attending meetings and giving us her own insight whenever we ask.
Even after news of the faculty cuts came out, she continued to charge forward with the same passion she had when she first started. Knowing that highly respected, involved faculty may have to leave, particularly after years of dedicating their service to the body of our campus, is tough. We’re essentially being told that going above and beyond isn’t enough. We’ve lost a lot, and they’re taking even more away from us. Rather than expecting a sense of hope that it’ll all go back to some semblance of what Ithaca College was like prior to the pandemic, I feel a sense of dread and worry that it will never return to what it was like — the full potential of IC that I only got to experience for a semester and a half.
I’m a sophomore here, and I’ve seen the way the pandemic has impacted student morale and student engagement. We don’t want to engage. Perhaps we don’t know how to engage. Seeing each other virtually just isn’t the same as seeing each other in person and having to decide whether to attend school virtually or in person was stressful enough. Adding the Academic Program Prioritization recommendations makes everything feel colder, like the long winter is going to last forever, and spring won’t ever arrive.
My time as the president of a student organization has taught me that professors do much more than educate. They contribute to campus culture, they are involved in student life and they motivate their students to be leaders in our community. As Ithaca College takes our professors away from us, they’re taking away our guides. They’re taking away the people who inspire us. Above all, what’s clear to us students is that few, if any, professors deserve their position to be terminated.
I know that the college is in a tight financial situation, and I know that it has been exacerbated by the pandemic. However, the pandemic will eventually end, and some of these changes will not be able to be undone. There will be lasting effects: Students will lose mentors, the campus culture will be forever changed and future students may not feel the magnetic pull that I felt to go to IC.
I would still consider myself lucky. My department isn’t being cut. My program is doing okay. My major is safe. For the most part, I can still envision my future beyond Ithaca College. But what I am at risk to lose matters just as much: what my future at Ithaca College looks like.
Now that the college has decided to implement the proposed Academic Program Prioritization, I’m afraid our community will lose what makes Ithaca feel like Ithaca. When all of this is over, I hope the leadership of Ithaca College does not look back and regret the long-term effects that its decisions will bring. When all the snow melts, I hope spring will come and students will still feel inspired.