Ithaca College’s All-College Gathering is a time for the administration to update the college community on changes for the upcoming semester. However, the Sept. 22 meeting was filled with generalized statements and little new information. This lack of specificity from the administration is concerning considering that most students are slated to be back on campus in just four months.
At the meeting, President Shirley M. Collado said that this semester there are “nearly 5,000 undergraduate students, including full– and part-time students.” It is no secret that the college has been facing enrollment issues over the last few years. Why not share the specific enrollment numbers at the meeting when members of the campus community are gathered together?
On the agenda sent prior to the meeting, Collado said that she was going to discuss the college’s financial health. At the meeting, she mentioned Ithaca Forever, the college’s strategic plan. The most detail that was shared was about recalibrating the college’s size — downsizing and then growing its strong areas — but again, this is something the college community was already aware of when the plan came out last year. There was no indication as to what programs will be impacted moving forward. Instead, members of the campus community are left with the impending fear that their programs may be cut.
With the fall semester being remote, Bill Guerrero, vice president for finance and administration, said that the college is experiencing an $8 million deficit, according to sources at an all-faculty-and-staff gathering in August. If Spring 2021 is online, the college will face between a $30 million and $50 million deficit. This is information that was never shared publicly with students. At past All-College Gatherings, Guerrero presented detailed reports on the state of finances for the year. “If you’re really interested in detailed information on our financial health that goes further than what I just shared, I highly encourage you to attend the InFinity presentations,” Collado said at the gathering. The problem? The link to attend the InFinity Presentation is only sent to faculty and staff. Students are left in the dark time and time again.
During the question–and–answer session of the gathering, a question was raised about more furloughs occurring during the semester. “For students listening in who may not have been privy to some of the conversations that happened with faculty and staff this summer, it’s important for you to know that due to the reality that we were remote, … we’ve had, on the staff side, a number of furloughs that have already taken place for individuals that were not able to really have work to do around our business needs,” Collado said. How would students be privy to these conversations if the information was not shared with them? It is understandable that furloughs have occurred. They are an unfortunate outcome of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this is information that students should have received over the summer when it happened, not months after the fact.
Even if some of this information is being discussed in faculty and staff meetings, it is insulting to students that they are not aware of this information. After all, the college administration says that one of its top priorities for this year is the student body. Student engagement means more than just workshops and care packages. It means that students are made aware of what is happening at the college, whether it be good or bad.