Local News: Cornell Faculty Issues Letter Opposing MOU

- Cornell Faculty Issues An Open Letter Opposing Proposed MOU with Ithaca -

Over 200 Cornell faculty members have signed a letter opposing the proposed payment agreement between their employer and the city of Ithaca. In the letter shared with WRFI on Wednesday, the faculty call Cornell’s current contributions to Ithaca, “miserly” and says “Cornell’s privileged legal status is a prime reason why Ithaca has accumulated a large public debt, why Ithaca faces a budget deficit this year, and why Ithaca faces a sustainability crisis in the long term.”

"I think as faculty, learning about our employer’s exemption from property taxes and the minimal offer that was made, evoked a sense of surprise and disappointment," said Natasha Raheja an assistant professor at Cornell.  "As faculty who are some of the most privileged, highest salary, highest status workers of a university and of our employer, it's our duty to hold our employer accountable and be in solidarity with the communities in which we are embedded."

The letter calls for Cornell to “face up to its responsibility and contribute its fair share.” The faculty signers say that means paying Ithaca more than the current offer of $4 million a year for the next 21 years with increases for inflation and certain restrictions. They say Cornell should make unrestricted investments in other local municipalities, too.

Cornell’s leaders point to contributions to local nonprofits and the county’s public bus system as examples of how it does give more than what’s outlined in the MOU. The current payment payment agreement has been in place since the 1990s. 

Ithaca Mayor Laura Lewis will present a draft 2024 budget at the Common Council meeting Wednesday night. It will not include any contribution from Cornell. The Council is scheduled to vote on the $4 million MOU next week.

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