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July 27, 2021
Ithaca, NY | 87°F

Opinion

Ithaca College AAUP petition regarding AAPIC recommendations, February 2021

Ithaca College AAUP

Response and Petition re: APPIC Recommendations

The Ithaca College chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) urges the College’s Senior Leadership Team and the Board of Trustees to reject the recommendations submitted by the Academic Program Prioritization Implementation Committee (APPIC).  It is our view that the proposed faculty reductions in these recommendations violate at least three crucial AAUP principles, and are harmful to the future of the institution, namely those of shared governance, of academic freedom, and those relating to the termination of faculty appointments.  Our explanation of each of these claims follows on the succeeding pages.

We call upon the Senior Leadership Team and the Board of Trustees to take the following actions:

1) Reject the APPIC recommendations

2) Return to the APP process with the following changes:

A) A reconstituted APPIC, which should include seats for tenured, TE, NTEN, and contingent faculty members

B) An extended timeline, to allow for more wide-ranging engagement during a time when the majority of faculty will be back on campus and to allow for faculty members in positions slated for discontinuation to retain their employment during the worst of the pandemic

C) Release to the IC community of a document detailing a full and comprehensible assessment of the College’s financial picture, including audited financial statements with breakdowns by department or planning unit, line-item details of projected revenues and expenses over the next five years including administrative salaries and new hires in administration, endowment performance, total liquid assets, and a clear justification of why the College must be reduced to an enrollment of 5000 

Rationale:

  1. Shared governance:

Shared governance entails meaningful participation in the processes of decision-making and implementation, not merely of information gathering.  While it is certainly the case that Ithaca College faculty were able to contribute feedback to the APPIC as it was in the process of composing its recommendations and after seeing the draft recommendations first circulated on Jan. 13, this does not in itself constitute shared governance, according to the AAUP.  Similarly, while faculty certainly contributed to the Strategic Plan, faculty were not consulted on the decision to reduce the undergraduate enrollment of the College, nor has it been explained to the campus community why it is necessary for the College to serve fewer students.  In “The Role of the Faculty in Budgetary and Salary Matters,” the AAUP has affirmed that “The faculty should participate both in the preparation of the total institutional budget and (within the framework of the total budget) in decisions relevant to the further apportioning of its specific fiscal divisions (salaries, academic programs, tuition, physical plant and grounds, and so on). The soundness of resulting decisions should be enhanced if an elected representa­tive committee of the faculty participates in deciding on the overall allocation of institutional resources and the proportion to be devoted directly to the academic program.”  No faculty members were appointed or elected to APPIC, and therefore the faculty have not fully participated in the process of decision-making or implementation.

  1. Academic freedom:

The notion of academic freedom does not extend simply to research agendas by individual faculty members.  Pedagogy is also an important element of academic freedom, which the College acknowledges in the ICPM 4.4.1 (2), citing the AAUP’s treatment of academic freedom in the 1990 Policy Documents & Reports, as is curricular design, which the College acknowledges implicitly in the following section by linking curricular design with instruction and locating both explicitly within the faculty’s purview:  “the faculty have primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum and instruction” (4.4.1.1).  While it is true that vacant TE and tenured lines revert to the Provost’s Office, the general purpose of this reversion is reallocation rather than elimination.  As such, current practice does not in our view serve as an apposite model for the reductions proposed in the APPIC recommendations.  Instead, these recommendations infringe upon the faculty’s academic freedom by effectively mandating curricular changes through the reduction of the faculty by between one fifth and one quarter, thereby guaranteeing that curricula cannot be delivered as they presently exist. Departments and programs will be forced to change their curricula in response to the recommendations because present curricula cannot be staffed at such dramatically reduced levels.

  1. Terminations of appointments:

The primary rationale provided by the APPIC for the recommended reductions is financial.  In section 4c of “Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure,” the AAUP asserts that faculty appointments may be discontinued as a result of financial exigency only after all other avenues have been explored:

there should be an elected faculty governance body, or a body designated by a collective bargaining agreement, that participates in the deci­sion that a condition of financial exigency exists or is imminent and that all feasible alternatives to termination of appointments have been pursued, including expenditure of one-time money or reserves as bridge funding, furloughs, pay cuts, deferred-compensation plans, early-retirement packages, deferral of nonessential capital expenditures, and cuts to noneducational programs and services, including expenses for administration.

And further:

Judgments determining where within the overall academic program termination of appointments may occur involve con­siderations of educational policy, including affirmative action, as well as of faculty status, and should therefore be the pri­mary responsibility of the faculty or of an appropriate faculty body. The faculty or an appropriate faculty body should also exer­cise primary responsibility in determining the criteria for identifying the individuals whose appointments are to be terminated. These criteria may appropriately include considerations of length of service.

The responsibility for identifying individuals whose appointments are to be terminated should be committed to a person or group designated or approved by the faculty.

Yet the College community has been told repeatedly that we are not presently in a condition of financial exigency; certainly, no faculty-elected or faculty-appointed body has participated in a determination of financial exigency.  In addition, the campus community has not been informed of any specific alternative proposals or possibilities that may have been considered, nor have faculty participated in the identification of criteria for the elimination of positions.  AAUP does not presently take a position on the question of whether these reductions are permitted by the terms of the Ithaca College Policy Manual, primarily because it is our view that this question is beside the point.  That the institution may have the authority to perform a certain action does not therefore mean that they have an obligation to perform that action.