By Josh Brokaw
Ithaca College faculty members rallied at the South Hill’s campus Free Speech Rock on Wednesday, Oct. 19 to demand that the college’s trustees, who were having dinner inside the Emerson Suites, give them a fair contract.
Ithaca College’s part-time faculty, who re-up their contracts semester to semester, voted to join SEIU Local 200 Faculty Forward in May 2015; the full-time contingent, who re-up every year, joined them in April 2016. The two groups are bargaining as one, and walked out of negotiations on September 23 calling the IC administration “completely unprepared to bargain” about compensation, job security, or appointment terms. A Facebook photo campaign run by an IC student group with faculty writing their grievances on a blackboard has garnered some press in the last couple days – here’s those.
The IC administration has countered with a “public message for context and clarification,” signed by senior VP Nancy Pringle, provost Linda Petrosino, and Professor Gwen Seaquist, arguing that non-tenured faculty are making more than a living wage per hour at $4,200 per class, and that first contracts are always difficult to negotiate, to simplify greatly. We’ll talk numbers another day: for now, here’s some pictures!
‘Twas a beautiful night for a protest, or any other excuse to be outside. I’d estimate about 300 people attended, if you’re into really rough crowd counting. Truly one of the lost reporter’s arts. [Definitely enough people so that the ridiculous number of shiny cameras carried about by Park School students didn’t seem too absurd; sometimes events of note that are IC-related take on the feel of a photography club meeting.]
IC tai chi instructor John Burger, above, led a number of chants throughout the evening, from warm-up to close of the 40 minute program.
“I need a full-time union. for this part-time faculty man,” Burger sang, “for contingent faculty women and men.” Another was “Turn the page on the middle ages and join the good fight for living wages.”
He was also the first to make the argument that contingent faculty represent one percent of the College’s budget: “1/100th of the pie is like an eyelash in the sky.”
I missed a shot of the student warm-up man, but I believe it was Taylor Ford, who wrote this op-ed in The Ithacan about supporting the union a couple weeks back.
“You can’t tell the difference between a professor who’s part-time and a professor who’s full-time, when they give you a grade, can you?” student Peter Zibinski asked the crowd. He elicited some boos and a jeer of “Nerds!” with talk about the trustees drinking champagne inside, and the claim that IC spends about twice as much on catering as comparable institutions.
There’s probably a rule against drinking on campus, but with the amount of talk in the run-up about the trustees having their fancy cocktail hour, there was a missed opportunity for breaking out some bottles of Andre [$6/bottle sparkling wine] as an ironic commentary on the consumer power of the two groups.
Brody Burroughs, above, an lecturer in art, began his remarks by saying that he works in “one of the crappiest classrooms in one of the crappiest buildings on this campus, and I love it!”
“They encourage dialogue, and then defend the status quo,” Burroughs said of the administration. “No more dialogue. We want action … They point to other schools as a defense. It’s an illustration of gutless leadership … They say we’re being unrealistic and will bring a net loss to our membership for a contract vote. That’s why we walked away.”
“They see us an interchangeable cogs in a huge education machine,” said Megan Graham, “and they don’t think they have to treat us with respect.” Graham said that 40 percent of IC’s faculty are contingent.
“I’ve got a bachelor’s degree from IC,” Graham said, “but I have a master’s degree in dealing with administration.”
Music professor Tom Schneller told the crowd that IC president Tom Rochon’s salary could pay for the income of “at least 27 part-time professors.”
“The hallowed halls of higher education are being turned into Wal-Mart,” Schneller said. “Ithaca College is happy to take your tuition dollars, but not willing to invest in those who teach you.”
“I was thinking to myself I’ll accept this shitty position and make my way up, sociology professor Sarah Grundberg said her mindset was when she started teaching. “I wasn’t realizing how the system is built. It’s not built to help us succeed.”
Cornell history professor Russell Rickford accused many tenured faculty of being dedicated to spreading knowledge and exposing myths within the classroom, but turning to a middle management mentality in labor disputes, good technocrats who reproduce the status quo.
“Whose work is socially necessary – the banker, the CEO?” Rickford asked, rhetorically. “Or is it the work of those who combat the curtain of ignorance steadily descending over this land?”
After the rally concluded, a substantial number of people went to the doors of the Emerson Suites, which were closed for the trustees’ dinner. After a few chants, the concluding callout was “We’ll be back!”
There are more stories to write in and about Ithaca, but this reporter has got to eat. Feed me tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consider clicking on this sentence and donating some cash money to my reporting via PayPal. Follow TruthSayers on Facebook and/or Twitter for more stories.
Scroll down for just a few more photographs … (For the curious, shooting a Pentax K10D with a 70-210 for most of these photos, a Canon S95 for the wider and/or less well-lit ones.)