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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

March 24, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Open Letter: Writing department supports contingent faculty strike

Open Letter to the Ithaca College Community:

We, the undersigned continuing full-time faculty in the Department of Writing, are writing to voice our support for our part-time and contingent colleagues in Writing and across campus in their collective union efforts to forge a mutually beneficial contract with Ithaca College. If we are to realize fully IC’s vision of a “student-centered learning community,” we must ensure that all instructors are compensated equitably, for there is no question that teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.

Currently, conditions for part-time faculty members at the college are not equitable. They are paid $4,200 per 3-credit-hour class and are limited to two classes 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 $2000 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.

As has been clear in academia for decades, most “part-timers” take such appointments not because they are seeking part-time employment, but because colleges and universities have chosen to replace full-time positions with cheaper part-time options, thus eliminating full-time opportunities for many, if not most, applicants. Indeed, the majority of so-called “part-time” faculty are dedicated full-time college professors who teach core academic courses “part-time” at two or three different institutions, traveling between them constantly, to earn a bare minimum living.

Historically, IC administration has asked the Department of Writing — with 46 members, one of the largest departments on campus — to staff many courses essential to IC students’ education, including Academic Writing and widely required 200-level courses such as Argument and Personal Essay, with part-time and contingent faculty. Currently, for example, 22 part-time and/or contingent faculty are teaching 55 sections, 51 percent of our core courses. Over the years, we have often been disappointed when our requests for more continuing full-time lines have been denied.

Short of securing a sufficient number of full-time continuing lines, both the Department of Writing and Ithaca College will continue for the foreseeable future to depend on contingent faculty to meet permanent instructional needs. Given this dependency on highly qualified adjunct faculty, with whom of course we work side by side, and given the significant disparity between their part-time wages and our full-time salaries, benefits, and job security, we believe it clearly in the best interests of all — 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 therefore strongly encourage the entire campus community to join with us in supporting the efforts of part-time instructors to improve their wages and working conditions at the college, to achieve a reasonable level of parity with their peers. And we remain hopeful that a mutually beneficial agreement can be reached without any disruption to our students’ education.

We must be clear, however, that in the event that adjuncts hold a legal strike, our shared sense of moral obligation would require that we respect their decision and not move, in any way, to replace our irreplaceable colleagues.

Respectfully,

Katharyn Howd Machan, Professor
Jerry Mirskin, Professor
Barbara Adams, Associate Professor
Cory Brown, Associate Professor
Susan Adams Delaney, Associate Professor
Ron Denson, Assistant Professor
Anthony DiRenzo, Associate Professor
David Flanagan, Assistant Professor
Linda Godfrey, Assistant Professor
Eleanor Henderson, Associate Professor
Tom Kerr, Associate Professor
Nick Kowalczyk, Associate Professor
Joan Marcus, Assistant Professor
Jim Stafford, Assistant Professor
Catherine Taylor, Associate Professor
Jack Wang, Associate Professor