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The IC administration has demanded that the Contingent Faculty Union post to intercom a public retraction of a previous intercom message directed at faculty colleagues, which was interpreted by the administration as a call for a strike and a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. While the union did not at any point intend to call for a strike or otherwise interfere with the essential teaching duties of any faculty at IC during this time of turmoil, we are happy to comply with the administration’s demand and take the opportunity to clarify our previous message.

On May 6, the IC Contingent Faculty Union issued a statement on intercom in which we called for our tenure-line and NTEN colleagues to stand in solidarity with contingent faculty during the COVID-19 crisis. On May 20, several of our tenure-line and NTEN colleagues answered our call. As we said in our statement, we made our call for solidarity because contingent professors were “writing to us with harrowing anxiety about being able to pay rent, heat their apartments, and feed their kids come fall when they are unemployed and potentially ineligible for unemployment insurance.” The aim of our message was to foster collaboration, empathy and community, and to encourage mutual aid among faculty. 

We were surprised and saddened that the administration interpreted our request for solidarity and compassion as an instigation to sabotage the educational mission of this institution, accused us of violating the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), issued a letter of warning to the union member who posted our message to intercom, and threatened us with further disciplinary measures unless we retract our message.

In particular, the administration objected to the following passage:

To our Tenured/TT Colleagues and our NTEN Colleagues with the means to do so: Consider refusing summer overload credits. Pressure your department to privilege the most vulnerable faculty for these overages so that those who find themselves jobless in the fall might have a final few paychecks before being laid off in August.

The administration’s interpretation of this passage was that we “called, instigated, encouraged, and endorsed other faculty members to refuse to fulfill their duties as educators” and thereby violated article 12A of the CBA (the “No Strike/No Lockout” clause). Here is the complete article in question:

The Union agrees that it will not call, instigate, engage or participate in, encourage, approve or endorse, nor will it permit any Faculty member in the bargaining unit to call, instigate, or participate in, any strike; sympathy strike; sit-down; slow-down; demonstration that interferes with or disrupts the fulfillment of their duties as educators as a result of the Union or bargaining unit Faculty members' action; withholding or delaying any grades, academic evaluations, or other required documents as a form of concerted activity (as defined by the National Labor Relations Act); or any interference with or stoppage of work by bargaining unit Faculty members. Any bargaining unit Faculty member engaging in any conduct prohibited by this Article may be subject to immediate disciplinary action, including discharge.

We do not believe that we violated Article 12A, and contend that the administration’s interpretation of the article is incorrect for the following reasons:

1)    Our suggestion that individual continuing faculty colleagues consider a voluntary reassignment of their summer overload credits to contingent faculty would in no way interfere with either the educational duties of any faculty member or the smooth operation of the college. If our suggestion were followed, the same classes, taught by qualified IC instructors, would be offered without adverse impact on the student experience. Instead of calling for a strike or work stoppage, we were asking for more work, not less.

2)    Tenure-line and NTEN faculty at IC are not members of the bargaining unit. Therefore, article 12A does not apply to them. (“The union agrees that it will not call,...nor will it permit any Faculty member in the bargaining unit to call;... [any] demonstration that interferes with or disrupts the fulfillment of their duties as educators as a result of the Union or bargaining unit Faculty members' action...or any interference with or stoppage of work by bargaining unit Faculty members). By appealing to tenured/tenure track and NTEN colleagues to consider passing along summer overload credits to contingent faculty, we are not interfering with or disrupting the educational duties of the only faculty group to which article 12A applies – namely, bargaining unit members.

3)    By asking tenure-line and NTEN faculty to refuse overload credits we are not interfering with the fulfillment of their duties as educators either. Tenure-line and NTEN faculty at IC have a contractually required 18 to 24-credit workload. As specified in the Faculty Handbook, overload credits are voluntary (“Under no circumstances is a faculty member to be assigned more than the equivalent of 24 credit hours of teaching per academic year...without consent of the faculty member”). In asserting that the appeal of the union interfered with faculty “teaching duties,” the administration seems to suggest that teaching overload credits is a mandatory requirement for continuing faculty, rather than a free choice to engage in additional teaching activity beyond the requirements of their contract. This redefinition of the workload expected of continuing faculty contradicts section 4.6.1 of the Faculty Handbook. All we asked for in our intercom appeal was that this summer, our tenure-line/NTEN colleagues consider exercising the free choice guaranteed in the Faculty Handbook when it comes to overload credits by passing on this surplus, voluntary teaching activity to contingent faculty.

To interpret our appeal of solidarity to our faculty colleagues as an instigation for faculty to “refuse their duties as educators,” and therefore as a violation of the contract, represents a misreading both of our May 6 message and of the CBA. To reiterate, it was never our intent to call for a strike or for any disruption of our students’ educational experience. The administration’s censure of the union seems to indicate not only a troubling disregard for the rights and freedoms of all faculty at Ithaca College, but also a lack of compassion for vulnerable employees at a time of crisis. 

We are honestly shocked that the administration would jump to discipline and threats of termination without having a conversation with us first, and without taking into account the context that vulnerable faculty find themselves in. We do not see the harm in our message and wonder at the thinking behind a decision to punish faculty for trying to organize mutual aid. We believe that this does not have to be a contentious issue and reach out to the administration in hopes that we can work together in a spirit of amity at a time when IC needs all members of the community to collaborate in creating real solutions.

In Peace and Solidarity,

The Ithaca College Contingent Faculty Union Committee

Union Compliance With IC Administration Demand | 1 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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Union Compliance With IC Administration Demand Comment from sadamsdelaney on 06/12/20
First, thanks to all at IC for your continuing efforts to
do the best for our community. To the representatives of
this union, thank you for your statement. I for one did
not take the union\'s call for solidarity as an
inappropriate demand. In fact, I made the decision to
keep my summer teaching assignment, but sought out other
ways to support part-time faculty facing financial
uncertainty in the wake of the pandemic. While I
appreciate that IC\'s legal representatives must be
cautious, I would also recommend that we as a community
find more effective means of communicating with each
other. It may be that Intercom itself as a forum lends
itself to misreadings and miscommunications.