Ithaca College President Tom Rochon has announced plans to step down from his position in July 2017 after calls for his resignation were made last year.
Protestors at the school said Rochon must resign because not enough had been done by administration on the campus to handle the issues of racism. Ithaca alumni joined the cause in December.
A vote in November by Ithaca’s Student Government Association found close to 72% of the 3,756 students who participated had “no confidence” in Rochon. Faculty members held a similar vote a few weeks later, writes Mollie Reilly for The Huffington Post.
“I am proud of the progress and accomplishments achieved by the college over what will be a nine-year tenure as president,” Rochon wrote in a statement. “I look forward to working with the college community over the next 18 months in a constructive and collaborative way, making progress on issues of diversity and inclusion, shared governance, and decision making.”
Rochon went on to say that colleges are defined by the challenges faced by them and that Ithaca must be led by a president willing to make a fresh start.
Although the number of African, Latin, Asian, and Native American students has almost doubled to reach 20% of the student population in the 8 years that Rochon has held the position, students at the school argue that this has not made for an equitable experience on campus. Students at the school protested racial tensions between students and public safety officers, racist remarks from alumni, and racist attitudes among Greek life on campus, writes Julie Zeilinger for Identities.
Around 1,000 students participated in a walkout in November organized by a group called People of Color at Ithaca College after a number of racist incidents occurred on campus, including possible racial profiling by campus police and a fraternity party that held the theme “Preps and Crooks,” which many felt were modeled after stereotypes of African-Americans because the dress code called for a “90’s thuggish style. Come wearing a bandana, baggy sweats and a t-shirt, snapback, and any ‘bling’ you can find!”
A separate incident in October involving an alumni panel saw one participant, a black woman, discussing her “savage hunger” for success. Her comment was met with a reply by two other participants, older white men, calling her the savage, writes Susan Svrluga for The Washington Post.
At the time, Rochon apologized for the comments, saying while the college cannot prevent any hurtful language, it does continue to try to be an “inclusive and respectful community.”
Similar demonstrations have been held at the University of Missouri after students became angry over the handling of racial tensions at the school, resulting in the resignation of then-president Tim Wolfe.
The day following his resignation, Rochon announced the creation of a chief diversity officer position, but was met with shouts of “no confidence” by students in attendance.
A search for a new president will begin at the Upstate New York college in the summer of 2016.