TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY (WSKG) – About 60 students and faculty gathered at the entrance of Ithaca College on Saturday afternoon to protest the administration’s plans to eliminate 140 faculty jobs this coming March.
School administrators have said the cuts are necessary because of financial losses from the pandemic.
Those at the rally don’t believe that cutting 140 faculty jobs is the only solution. They want the college’s financial records opened for examination.
Student organizer Julia Machlin is a junior and one of the rally organizers.
“Many schools, especially small, liberal arts schools are going through financial deficits right now because of the coronavirus pandemic but there have been other solutions and other options at play instead of cutting such a large amount of faculty.”
Many were especially concerned about how the cuts will affect contingent or adjunct faculty. They are full- or part-time faculty who work on a short term contract, sometimes only for a semester or academic year.
James Miranda is a contingent faculty member at Ithaca College. He is also a union representative. He said the contingent faculty at Ithaca College are in a different situation than most.
“Their contingent faculty oftentimes have served here on an average of seven years. So, they’re not really temporary employees though they are paid like they are,” he said. “And oftentimes their job security is in question because they have to wait every semester, every year to know if they are going to be renewed in their contracts.”
He said that this semester there are 143 contingent faculty teaching. Miranda said that’s not normal. By comparison he said, in 2017 there were over 300 temporary faculty.
It isn’t only the contingent faculty who could have their careers derailed by the proposed cuts.
Professor Peyi Soyinka-Airewele was the first Black woman to earn tenure at Ithaca College. That was in 2005. She said it is only in recent years that Ithaca College has made an effort to diversify it’s faculty and the planned cuts would affect faculty careers as well as students’ education.
“Those faculty of color took a chance coming to an institution that did not have a great pedigree in terms of diversity,” Soyinka-Airewele said.
Soyinka-Airewele said the process of earning tenure takes years. The application process to get a faculty position can take a year or more for an academic. So, she said, every time a scholar has to change jobs, the process starts all over.
Tenured positions are even more difficulty to find. She said in the current academic market, losing a position may end a scholar’s career.
The Ithaca College administration has said that cuts will include tenured faculty and also the elimination of some departments and programs of study.
Miranda and others who spoke at the rally said they want the administration to include them in the decision-making around how to cut costs and that should begin by making the college’s financial records open to examination.
Over 100 other college employees have already lost their jobs at the college because of pandemic-related cuts.
Ithaca College kept all classes online and did not have students return to campus this semester.