Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 22, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY


Letter to the Editor: Administration misses the point

As we reflect on, discuss and attempt to learn from last semester’s mobilizing among student, faculty and staff groups to address racism and governance problems on campus, we recognize that now is the time for us all to take the movement forward.

The discriminations and inequities in decision-making power highlighted by Ithaca College students and their peers nationwide are real, and they affect many of us deeply. They will continue to exist until we confront (and not replicate) existing power relations and institutional hegemonies within our own campus communities.

The many calls from our community members to confront structural issues at IC have been met, however, with responses in the forms of hostility, co-option or simply inaction.

We saw appropriation and self-contradiction when the administration claimed it “allowed” students to protest because the administration “embraces free speech and student engagement around real-world problems after years of dismissing such engagement.

We heard hostility and dismissiveness when the Board of Trustees broadly mischaracterized student and faculty calls for justice as “actions aimed at hurting the well-being of the college.” We find troubling the Board of Trustees’ claim, in the same statement released on Intercom during winter break, that it “cannot engage” with community members about whose concerns the Board has yet to demonstrate any real understanding.

And now we are being called upon to embrace “inclusion and diversity” through a scattered list of top-down imposed “initiatives,” most of which arrived hastily and with little to no understanding or buy-in from the communities and groups they purport to affect.

Governance is decision making, not merely the ability to provide “input.” The necessary transition to an equitable, sustainable governance system at Ithaca College can occur only when there is a decisive shift in power and responsibility toward the 7,000+ people who live, work and study here—and when all decisions made by that community are informed with an ethical, inclusive and respectful perspective in which fiscal and environmental sustainability are immutable goals.

Examining our system, who is part of it and how much and what type of representation we have among diverse groups of faculty, staff and students is very important at this moment. This is the time to unsettle what exists and engage in critical self-reflexion without necessarily conforming to pre-established or administratively dictated processes.

As two African American scholars from the University of Kansas, Jennifer Hamer and Clarence Lang, wrote in a 2015 article in the journal Critical Sociology about transforming universities, “To be effective, we should harness equity and access to the work of fostering ‘insubordinate spaces’ … Inhabiting the work of racial, economic, and social justice involves challenging the political economy of academic austerity that shrinks full-time faculty and raises tuition while growing administrative bureaucracy, or that trades decently paid classroom instructors for highly salaried university executives.” (p. 908)

A process of collaborative analysis and action is possible, and needed.

IC Onward is a collaboration of faculty and staff working to transform the system of governance at Ithaca College from the ground up, inviting all community members to join the conversation. For now, upper-level administrators are asked to respect our need to work without their participation.