SUNY Corning Faculty Says President’s “Divisive Tone” Underlies Vote Of No Confidence

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BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — The majority of full-time faculty union members at Corning Community College have said they have “no confidence” in college president Bill Mullaney.

The faculty union at CCC, or SUNY Corning, represents 87 percent of the college’s full-time faculty. Of those in the union, 82 percent voted that they do not have confidence in Mullaney’s leadership.

SUNY Corning President Bill Mullaney. (Provided by SUNY Corning)

Union President Ryan Hersha said last week’s vote was the culmination of workplace issues dating back to the start of Mullaney’s tenure two years ago.

Hersha said the president’s rhetoric, especially related to pandemic losses, is driving divisions between staff and faculty.

The school cut three staff positions and furloughed others. On the faculty side, two positions were dropped.

“Staff has made these great sacrifices and suffered, and it’s true, but really using that as a wedge,” Hersha said.

Hersha said SUNY Corning could have used the nearly $7 million in aid it received in the American Rescue Plan to prevent those cuts. That was in addition to close to $6 million allocated between the first and second coronavirus relief packages.

But Mullaney said that money came with restrictions, and he opted to take measures that would keep a balanced budget in the long-term.

“If we had used the money for a position, that would’ve been a one-year savings, and we really needed to focus on a longer-term strategy,” Mullaney said in an interview last week.

Mullaney said the cuts primarily affected programs with little-to-no enrollment. One of the professors laid-off taught foreign language courses, while another taught developmental math.

The college is in the process of adding four new faculty members to bolster STEM programs, which Mullaney said better reflect the job market.

Those offerings include programs in mechatronics, nursing and optical technology.

“We want to make sure that the programs we’re offering either allow students to transfer or jump into the workforce with a good-paying job,” Mullaney added.

After multiple attempts to provide the administration with cost-saving solutions outside of terminations, Hersha said the vote of no confidence was the only option left for faculty.

“We’re simply at a point where we understand that this administration, this president, is just not interested in actually finding solutions with faculty,” Hersha said.

Mullaney said he tried to compromise with the union, but their proposals, which included early retirement incentives and voluntary reduced course loads, were not promising enough.

“We needed to make sure that we had a balanced budget moving forward, so we couldn’t rely on a voluntary process to make sure we were making our budget,” Mullaney said.

In terms of divisions on campus, Mullaney said several people have suggested creating a committee to heal and address any issues that exist between the faculty and staff.

Hersha said that narrative is one used to portray faculty as “not carrying their weight, which is deeply hurtful and unfair.”

“That campaign of division and resentment is really toxic to just the everyday functioning of the campus,” Hersha continued.

The college also cut five full-time faculty positions last year, although Mullaney said plans for those cuts came under his predecessor, Kate Douglas.

The faculty union also had conflict with Douglas. There were disputes about losses in full-time faculty at that time, too, but Hersha said the union never considered a vote of no confidence.

“We had our differences of opinion and we even felt compelled sometimes to communicate with the board, sometimes, about the nature of our disputes,” Hersha said. “But at no point was the relationship so dysfunctional as it has been with Bill Mullaney.”

The vote’s results aren’t legally binding, but Hersha said he hopes the college’s Regional Board of Trustees will take action.