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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

January 19, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Open Letter: Faculty object to top-down administrative hires

To the Editor

We, the undersigned, commend Ithaca College students — and [email protected] in particular — on giving voice to their concerns. We strongly and unequivocally support their work on campus.

In contrast, we strongly oppose the recent decision by President Tom Rochon to create a “Chief Diversity Officer” position at Ithaca College. We want to be very clear that our objection is to the authoritarian top-down process used to create the position and is not in any way directed at the choice of Dr. Roger Richardson, who is a highly regarded colleague and collaborator of both students and faculty at the college. Last year, the Student Government Association requested just such an appointment, and the President passed it over. While opportunistically embracing the idea now, the President has designed the position so as to ensure that its occupant is accountable to no one but the President. Given the means by which this decision has been made, we have little faith that this action will result in the change we need. We also reject all new upper administrative hires on our campus at this time.

Our students, faculty, and staff have done far more to raise awareness of racial inequality in our community than the current administration. President Rochon should acknowledge his indebtedness to our community rather than pretend he has been at “the forefront of this priority,” as he stated in the announcement of this new position. Another unnecessary upper-administrative position only adds to the bloat that fuels rising tuition and the elimination of essential staff positions at Ithaca College.

This top-down decision to hire a “Chief Diversity Officer” evidences a continued failure by President Rochon to understand that discontent on campus is rooted in a persistent, autocratic mode of problem solving. It demonstrates a fundamental failure to enact real shared governance.

We do not need more administrators. We need foundational change that can only happen cooperatively — not through administrative decree. An administration that refuses to draw on the expertise and resources of its faculty bespeaks an utter lack of humility and a damaging lack of respect for the very people who deliver the education that Ithaca College offers. It also evidences viewing the campus as a corporation — rather than as a dynamic and responsive intellectual community.

We insist that future plans for addressing racism, sexism, and other discriminations on campus be drafted and initiated in collaborative consultation. Decision-making must be participatory, engaging a broad set of constituents, including students, faculty, staff, and alumni groups. A number of other groups are already working on campus for “diversity and inclusion.” These constituencies should seize their own power to enact change. And they should be heard. Rather than adding high-level administrative positions or hiring outside consultants, the solutions to our current challenges should draw on the expertise and experiences of students and faculty on our campus.

Over the last two years, Ithaca College has eliminated a significant number of administrative assistants and other staff posts. This workforce reduction has resulted in more work and less support for many departments. It has also forced staff to be constantly fearful about whether or not their own jobs are secure.

The funds now earmarked for new upper administrative hires should be rerouted to reinstate staff who have been recently fired. These funds should also be redirected to offer increased pay and benefits to our part-time faculty. And finally, these funds should be redirected to hiring more pre-doctoral or post-doctoral lines to support additional faculty who can contribute to shifting the racialized structures on campus by offering courses and perspectives our institution needs.

These unnecessary upper administration hires impact our students, whose tuition dollars end up subsidizing the explosive back-end administrative costs to higher education.

Answers to Ithaca College’s diversity and racial sensitivity challenges should be pursued in the classroom and through intellectual, constructive interactions between students, faculty, and administrators.

Decisions should be made with our students and their education at the core of our deliberations.

As faculty, we envision Ithaca College as a space for intellectual, collaborative community-building.

Autocratic pronouncements have no place in our academic community. They undermine our shared responsibility to our students and to a larger intellectual conversation that moves beyond our campus and into the world.

Sincerely,

Rachel Wagner, Associate Professor, Philosophy and Religion; Asma Barlas, Professor, Politics; Patricia Rodriguez, Associate Professor, Politics; Matt Klemm, Associate Professor, History; Mary Beth O’Connor, Assistant Professor, Writing; Jim Stafford, Assistant Professor, Writing; Maura Stephens, Associate Director, Park Center for Independent Media; Raj Subramaniam, Professor, Health Promotion and Physical Education; Rebecca Lesses, Associate Professor, Jewish Studies; Nick Kowalczyk, Associate Professor, Writing; Cory Brown, Associate Professor, Writing; Elisabeth Nonas, Associate Professor, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; Matthew Holtmeier, Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; Jennifer Jolly, Associate Professor, Art History; Carlos Figueroa, Assistant Professor, Politics; Nicholas Muellner, Associate Professor, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; Thomas Shevory, Professor, Politics; James Pfrehm, Assistant Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures; Kelly Dietz, Assistant Professor, Politics; Marlena Grzaslewicz, Assistant Professor, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; Stephen D. Mosher, Professor, Sport Management and Media; Carla Golden, Professor, Psychology; Jeff Claus, Emeritus Professor, Education; Mary Bentley, Associate Professor, Health Promotion and Physical Education; Carole Dennis, Professor, Occupational Therapy; Stewart Auyash, Chair/Associate Professor, Health Promotion and Physical Education; Patricia Zimmermann, Professor, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; Hongwei Guan, Associate Professor, Health Promotion and Physical Education; Barbara Adams, Associate Professor, Writing; Zillah Eisenstein, Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Politics, Emeritus; Rebecca Plante, Associate Professor, Sociology; Janice Levy, Professor, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; David Turkon, Associate Professor and Chair, Anthropology; Vivian Bruce Conger, Associate Professor, History; Alicia Swords, Associate Professor, Sociology; Claire Gleitman, Professor, English; Chip Gagnon, Professor, Politics; Jason Freitag, Associate Professor, History; Bhavani Arabandi, Assistant Professor, Sociology; Karin Breuer, Associate Professor, History; Annette Levine, Associate Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures; Cathy Lee Crane, Associate Professor, Cinema; Steven Skopik, Professor, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; Michael A. Malpass, Professor, Anthropology and Charles A. Dana Professor in the Social Sciences; Mona Pohen, German Instructor, Modern Languages and Literatures; Arturo Sinclair, Assistant Professor, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; James A. Rada, Associate Professor, Journalism; Rachel Paparone, Assistant Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures; Robert Ziomkowski, Lecturer, Modern Languages and Literatures; Peter Martin, Associate Professor, Education; Stephen Tropiano, Associate Professor, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; L. Leann Kanda, Associate Professor, Biology; Norm Johnson, Associate Professor, Theatre Arts; Todd Schack, Associate Professor, Journalism; Katalin Lustyik, Associate Professor, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; Peyi Soyinka-Airewele, Professor, Politics; Linda Hanrahan, Associate Professor, Education; Gladys M. Varona-Lacey, Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures; Paula Twomey, Lecturer, Modern Languages and Literatures; Matthew C. Sullivan, Associate Professor, Physics and Astronomy; Marella Feltrin-Morris, Associate Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures; Saviana Condeescu, Assistant Professor, Theatre Arts; Jack Rossen, Professor, Anthropology; Wendy Dann, Associate Professor, Theatre Arts; Kyle M. Woody, Acting Chair and Instructor; Marlene Barken, Associate Professor, Marketing and Law; Jennifer Germann, Assistant Professor, Art History; Michael Twomey, Dana Professor, English; Eleanor Henderson, Associate Professor, Writing; Hayley Marama Cavino, Dissertation Diversity Fellow, Womens and Gender Studies; Denise Nuttall, Associate Professor, Anthropology; Jorge Grossmann, Associate Professor, Music Theory, History, and Composition; Jonathan Ablard, Associate Professor, History; Sarah Grunberg, Lecturer, Sociology; Deborah A. Wuest, Professor, Health Promotion and Physical Education; Brody Burroughs, Lecturer, Art; Tom Schneller, Lecturer, Music; Tahlia Fischer, Lecturer, Women’s Studies; Rachel Kaufman, Lecturer, Writing; Katherine Cohen-Filipic, Assistant Professor, Sociology; Paula Murray Cole, Associate Professor, Theatre Arts; Bruce Henderson, Professor, Communication Studies; Donald Lifton, Associate Professor, Management; Cyndy Scheibe, Professor, Psychology; Shaianne Osterreich, Associate Professor, Economics; Teresa Michel, Instructor, Education; Steve TenEyck, Associate Professor, Theatre Arts; Greg Robbins, Associate Professor, Theatre Arts; Naeem Inayatullah, Professor, Politics; Jonathan Laskowitz, Associate Professor, Sociology; Julie Blumberg, Assistant Professor, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; Linda Godfrey, Assistant Professor, Writing; Joslyn Brenton, Assistant Professor, Sociology; Susan Rosenthal, Associate Professor, Management; Robyn Wishna, Lecturer, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; Pamela Drix, Lecturer, Art; Paul R. Geisler, Associate Professor, Exercise & Sport Sciences, Director-Athletic Training Education; Gordon Rowland, Professor, Strategic Communication; Lynn Gitlow, Associate Professor, Occupational Therapy; Nancy Ramage, Professor Emerita, Art History; Diane Long, Associate Professor, Occupational Therapy; Julia Lapp, Associate Professor, Health Promotion and Physical Education; Anne Stork, Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies; Sandra L. Herndon, Professor Emerita, Corporate Communication; Sue-Je Gage, Associate Professor, Anthropology; Chris Holmes, Assistant Professor, English; Derek Adams, Assistant Professor, English; Susan Monagan, Audience Services Supervisor, Theatre Arts; Catherine Taylor, Associate Professor, Writing; John Barr, Associate Professor, Computer Science; Steve Gordon, Associate Professor, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; Wayne Blann, Professor, Sport Management and Media; Amy Frith, Associate Professor, Health Promotion and Physical Education; Melinda Cozzolino, Associate Professor, Occupational Therapy; Akiko Fillinger, Associate Professor, Chemistry; Colin Stewart, Associate Professor, Theatre Arts; Maki Inada, Assistant Professor, Biology; Sergio Pedro, Assistant Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures; Mara Alper, Associate Professor, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; Brooke Hansen, Associate Professor, Anthropology; Cristina Gomez, Assistant Professor, Mathematics; Ruth Barber, Instructor, Theatre Arts; Jennifer Muller, Assistant Professor, Anthropology; Rebecca Brady, Assistant Professor, Biology; Mark A. Radice, Professor, Music Theory, History, and Composition; Maria DiFrancesco, Associate Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures; Chelsea Wessels, Lecturer, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; Craig Cummings, Professor, Music Theory; Judith Pena-Shaff, Associate Professor, Psychology; Sara Haefeli, Assistant Professor, Music Theory, History, and Composition; Paige Morgan, Professor, Music Performance; Derek Adams, Assistant Professor, English; Richard Faria, Professor, Music; Jessica Portillo, Assistant Professor, Music Theory; Elizabeth Simkin, Associate Professor, Cello/Music Performance; Don Tindall, Associate Professor, Theatre Arts