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From Senior Vice President Nancy Pringle, Provost Linda Petrosino, and Professor Gwen Seaquist, representatives of the Ithaca College bargaining committee.

On Thursday, December 8, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) bargaining team representing part-time, per-course faculty communicated to the press that they are prepared to hold a strike vote early in the spring semester if their demands are not met. As the college’s bargaining team, we are disheartened and frustrated at the adversarial tone, misleading allegations, and willingness to disrupt the learning environment for our students.

First, let us correct a few inaccurate assertions in the union communications. The union’s recent claim that part-time faculty comprise 41 percent of faculty is misleading about their overall role at the college. Part-time, per-course faculty teach 14.6 percent of sections and 15.1 percent of credit hours taught at the college. These courses cover a wide range of instruction, from three-credit courses to half-credit classes. Information about the distribution of types of faculty and the proportion of courses taught can be found in the facts & figures presented on the Part-Time Faculty Union page on the college’s human resources site.

As a reminder, current pay for part-time faculty is $4,200 for a three-credit course. This rate is among the highest for part-time faculty in our region. Each of the college’s salary proposals during negotiations has offered an increase over this figure. The claim that the proposals we presented on December 2 were regressive on this matter is simply untrue. We value our part-time faculty, and we are bargaining in good faith toward a contract that will increase their compensation and address a number of other important issues.

On December 2 we came to the table in good faith with the hope of making progress, and we made a comprehensive proposal on seven remaining articles under negotiation. In our proposal at the start of the session, the college presented a new model with an increase in compensation that would move us closer to the demands of the part-time faculty. This proposal was immediately rejected. In response, we offered a second salary proposal during the same session. This current proposal, which remains on the table for consideration, represents an increase across the board for all part-time faculty and an increase from our prior offer. We fully expect to receive a counter to this proposal and continue negotiations.

An additional disheartening moment during the December 2 negotiations was the union members’ threat that if progress made during the session felt insufficient to them, they would be willing to air their complaints about the labor negotiations in class time during the final week of classes. In a written communication this week, they indicated that they are preparing to “take whatever action is necessary,” including threatening to strike early in the spring semester, if their demands are not met. We do not believe that disrupting the learning environment should be more appealing to our part-time faculty than remaining at the bargaining table to work through these final proposals of our negotiations.

A far more reasonable and productive option is to enlist a federal mediator. The union has previously rejected the idea of using a federal mediator to explore ways to bridge the gap in our positions.  We believe that it is irresponsible to suggest a strike vote before enlisting the help of a neutral mediator provided for under the labor law.  We remain committed to our request to take this step.

Next Steps

Our next bargaining session is scheduled for December 12. If we are not successful in reaching agreement on the remaining outstanding proposals during that session, we will propose additional bargaining sessions to take place prior to the start of the spring semester classes.

We want to assure our students, faculty, staff, and families that the college is committed first and foremost to our students’ education. In the event of a strike, the college will implement a plan to continue the delivery of courses.

We strongly believe that disruption of the academic learning environment is not an appropriate response to the challenges that the bargaining teams are experiencing in the negotiations. We believe that we must remain at the bargaining table. In spite of how difficult or contentious the process can be at times, the college bargaining team is committed to bargaining in good faith, and we expect the SEIU bargaining team to maintain that same level of commitment.

Statement Regarding Part-Time Faculty Union Negotiations | 3 Comments |
The following comments are the opinions of the individuals who posted them. They do not necessarily represent the position of Intercom or Ithaca College, and the editors reserve the right to monitor and delete comments that violate College policies.
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Statement Regarding Part-Time Faculty Union Negotiations Comment from cjohengen on 12/08/16
From the letter: "As the college’s bargaining team, we
are disheartened and frustrated at the adversarial tone,
misleading allegations, and willingness to disrupt the
learning environment for our students."

Just how disheartened and frustrated do you think we
part-time faculty are, being treated as we are by the
college administration? We don't have the luxury of a
very-well-paid tenured position from which to bargain. Of
course we will use "whatever means necessary". And when
it comes to "adversarial tone", might I say "pot calling
the kettle black"? Your letter is nothing but
adversarial.
More obfuscation by our administration... Comment from tschneller on 12/08/16
No, it is not misleading for the union to state that 41% of the faculty at Ithaca
College is contingent. It is a simple fact, according to the administration’s own
numbers. Out of 776 total faculty, 318 are either part-time faculty or full-time
contingent faculty on one-year contracts.

It is not misleading for the union to state that the administration engaged in
regressive bargaining. At our last bargaining session, the administration offered
us a compensation proposal that actually reduced the total pay to contingent
faculty (so much for bargaining in “good faith”). To distract from this ploy, they
restructured their previous offer in such a way that part-time faculty with
terminal degrees would be paid slightly more, while those without terminal
degrees would be paid slightly less. In other words, the administration would
like to rob Peter to pay Paul, probably in hopes of sowing division within our
union. Needless to say, that didn't fly with us.

What is misleading is the administration's claim that they are paying their part-
time faculty a generous salary, because other unnamed "regional" institutions
are paying the same or even less. What, one wonders, are these peer
institutions that Ithaca College is being compared to? According to a list that we
obtained from the administration, they include schools such as Onondaga
Community College (which has an annual tuition of $4,570). If IC prides itself on
paying its part-time professors at a rate comparable to Onondaga Community
College, why do they charge our students almost $40,000 more in tuition?

Even if the administration's basis for comparison were less mendacious, we
reject their demeaning model of "market-rate" comparison shopping, which
allows them to hide behind the moral decrepitude of other institutions to justify
the exploitation of their own contingent faculty. We are considering this
situation within the context of our own institution, and the fact is that our
demand for fair pay would represent a tiny sliver of the total budget of IC. Why
is it that our top administrators find it in their hearts to give themselves juicy
annual pay raises, while they somehow cannot bring themselves to pay their
hardworking part-time faculty a decent wage? How can they justify their
insultingly low salary proposals while sinking untold thousands of dollars into an
expensive union-busting law firm that needlessly drags out the negotiations
process?

Perhaps most risible is the claim that it is the administration, rather than the
faculty, that “is committed first and foremost to our students’ education.” If that
were true, the administration would not try to balance the budget on the backs
of professors who actually provide this education. Our top administrators are
not part of the intellectual community of teachers and students – they merely
profit from it. So while it is understandable that Nancy Pringle et al. would very
much like us to continue hiding the ugly reality of contingent labor at IC from
our students, there is no reason to do so – our students are entitled to know
that those who reap the rewards of the hefty price tag of an IC education are
not their professors.

We are done being taken advantage of. We will not back down.
Statement Regarding Part-Time Faculty Union Negotiations Comment from bburroughs on 12/09/16
Of course the administration would prefer to work through a mediator - it's
the way decisions are made at IC: bring someone else to campus to tell us
what to do. We believe our leaders should know to work toward a better IC
and should be accountable for the positions they defend and the decisions
they make.