We at the Tompkins County Workers’ Center support the effort of part-time faculty at Ithaca College to gain a meaningful voice at work. The growing corporatization of academia in America is making education more and more into a commodity and imposing an employment model on faculty that is more akin to big business than a university.
One effect of this corporate model is that the number of part-time faculty positions has grown astronomically while working conditions – including inadequate pay, non-existent benefits, no job security, a fear of dismissal diminishing academic freedom, and a lack of meaningful input into key decisions – impose heavy burdens on the part-timers.
These undesirable working conditions affect part-time faculty at Ithaca College as elsewhere. Having a part-time faculty union at Ithaca College would be an important step in democratizing the College and improving working conditions. It would also show part-time faculty at other colleges, and even full-time faculty, that meaningful change is possible.
We were shocked recently to learn from a University of California study that because they are not paid a living wage as many as one-quarter of all part-time faculty nationally depend on some form of public assistance. Other studies indicate that despite ever-rising tuition, nearly a third of part-time faculty earn less than a living wage.
Collective action is the way forward and TCWC applauds IC part-time faculty for moving in this direction. Collective action and unionization have enabled faculty in New York and across the country to bargain collectively for better pay, benefits, job security, fairer treatment, and many other improvements to their working conditions.
Unionization also moves the College away from the big-business model where corporate boards and their administrators — many of whom have never set foot in a classroom — determine how to spend precious tuition revenue. This has come at the expense of educational quality, as more money goes towards administrative costs, new facilities and advertising and less on core instruction.
The election for Ithaca College Adjuncts to win a union is fast approaching: ballots will be mailed out May 11 and votes will be counted on May 27. We stand with you, the IC Adjunct Professors, as you seek to improve both your working conditions and the learning conditions of your students through forming a union.