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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 17, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Open Letter: Modern languages professors support faculty unions

December 13, 2016

Open Letter to the Ithaca College Community:

We, the undersigned continuing full-time faculty in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, are writing to express our support for our part-time and contingent colleagues in Modern Languages and Literatures and across campus in their collective union efforts to forge a mutually beneficial contract with Ithaca College. If, as stated among the IC guiding principles, “we commit to the responsible and sustainable management of natural, human, and financial resources,” we need to ensure that such responsible management of resources includes fair and equitable compensation for all instructors.

Currently compensation for part-time faculty members at IC does not meet that criteria. Part-time faculty are paid $4,200 per 3-credit-hour class. When they teach the maximum number of classes (two per semester, which defines their part-time status and makes them ineligible for benefits), they earn $16,800 a year. The union is asking for part-time pay to match that of the lowest-paid full-time contingent faculty members on campus, who earn $48,000 per year, or $2,000 per credit, for teaching four classes per semester (unless they trade one or two classes for service and/or advising duties). Matching pay for part-time instructors, who are teaching the very same regular courses, would be an equitable $24,000 a year.

Given the precariousness of their positions and their inadequate compensation for a commitment to teaching that is largely comparable to that of full-time faculty, in order to make ends meet most part-time faculty are forced to teach simultaneously at different institutions, spending a considerable amount of time and income traveling between campuses. And while the responsibility of contingent faculty on one-year positions should be limited exclusively to teaching, when hiring restrictions cause them to be in charge of entire programs, they are inevitably required to take on administrative and advising duties, as well.

Of the eight languages offered by the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, four (Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew and Latin) are taught exclusively by part-time faculty. The major language sections (French, German, Italian and Spanish) have regularly had to depend on part-time and full-time contingent faculty to teach courses at all levels. Time and time again, requests for more continuing full-time lines have been denied. In particular, the French section, which used to have three tenure-track lines, for the past two years has consisted exclusively of contingent faculty, who have carried the heavy load of program building and course planning without the relative security of a continuing contract. While the request for one tenure-track line in French has recently been approved, until more full-time continuing lines are secured, the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and Ithaca College at large will need to depend on contingent faculty to meet permanent instructional needs. Given this dependency on highly qualified part-time and contingent faculty who are our colleagues, and given the significant disparity between their part-time wages and our full-time salaries, benefits, and job security, we believe it is in the best interest of all (including students, full-time continuing faculty, and administrators) for IC to negotiate with SEIU Local 200United in good faith until an agreement that satisfies all parties is reached.

We strongly encourage the entire campus community to join us in supporting the efforts of part-time and contingent faculty to improve their wages and working conditions at the college in a way commensurate to that of their peers. And we remain hopeful that a mutually beneficial agreement can be reached without any disruption to our students’ education.

However, in the event that such agreement is not reached and that part-time and contingent faculty decide to resort to a legal strike, in support of our colleagues and in light of the fact that their contribution to our Department and to the College as a whole is not disposable, we will respect their decision and not take measures to replace their essential presence.

Respectfully,

Julia Cozzarelli, Associate Professor
Maria DiFrancesco, Associate Professor
Marella Feltrin-Morris, Associate Professor
Enrique González-Conty, Assistant Professor
Annette Levine, Associate Professor
Sergio Pedro, Assistant Professor
Michael Richardson, Professor
Gladys Varona-Lacey, Professor