November 11, 2015

Hundreds Walk Out in Protest of Ithaca College President

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Updated at 8:40 p.m.

Shouts of “Tom Rochon! No confidence!” echoed across Ithaca College’s academic quad Wednesday afternoon as hundreds of students, faculty and staff members formed a walkout hosted by student organization POC@IC.

The crowd, protesting I.C. President Tom Rochon and his handling of racial tensions on campus, stood in solidarity with other campuses including the University of Missouri and Yale University, which have received national attention following student claims of racism.

Following a month of racial tensions at I.C. sparked by a number of alleged racist incidents, students gathered Wednesday to urge a vote of no confidence against Rochon. Those incidents include an Oct. 8 event where two I.C. alumni made racially insensitive remarks about a black alumna at a college event, a “Preps & Crooks” themed party planned by unaffiliated fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi and Rochon’s delayed handling of such incidents.

Students began gathering at approximately 1 p.m. at the Freedom Rock near one end of the academic quad. WIthin 30 minutes, hundreds had crowded in front of I.C.’s bookstore and campus center.

Addressing the crowd with microphones, students made brief and rallying speeches. One student named Rochon the leader and perpetuator of “a broken system” that pretends that I.C. is diverse while perpetuating racism.

“We have no desire to work with this broken system,” the student shouted.

Following the speeches, several students shouted at the crowd to walk off the grassy areas and “cover the pavement” as part of a die-in. The demonstrators moved across the quad and laid down on the wet concrete, all while chanting. At 2 p.m., every person fell silent.

The eerie silence was broken at 2:20 p.m. as hundreds streamed back towards Freedom Rock.

“We have power,” students chanted, in a roar that filled the quad.

The demonstration concluded with a chant “Amandla Awethu,” which, according to The Ithacan, was also chanted during previous protests on campus.

Throughout the walkout, students also circulated documents titled “The Case Against Tom Rochon,” which list seven grievances against him, ranging from “his disregard for minority community members” to “his questionable ethics.”

“When asked to propose solutions, Rochon fails as a former scholar to conduct even the most basic research by drawing on eight years of reports and recommendations that involved countless hours of work by students, faculty and staff, or by accessing the many demands that have been addressed to him and gone unanswered,” the document reads.

In a statement to the media following the conclusion of public demonstrations, POC@IC, the student group leading the protests, laid out its mission.

“We are aware that this times on tension bring to light the same culture of fear that people of color face every day,” the statement reads. “With this in mind, our purpose here is not to demonstrate violently, and we have collectively committed ourselves to furthering this movement in non-violent ways. We ask that all participants also commit themselves to this struggle non-violently as well.”

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(Joon Lee / Sun Assistant Sports Editor)

In an interview following the walkout, a student organizer and member of POC@IC said the organization wants “radical, transformative change in governance and structure at I.C.”

“We want to bring a sense of safety, emotional stability and dignity to the experience of POC@IC, other marginalized groups and the intersections between us as well as the entire I.C. community,” said the student, who did not identify herself.

In response to a question of how long POC@IC had been preparing the walkout for, the student replied, “Some people would probably say their whole lives, to be honest.”

On the morning prior to the walkout, I.C. Board of Trustees chair Tom Grape issued a statement stating he is “actively partnering” with Rochon to ensure that I.C. “emerges from this chapter stronger and more resolute in its direction forward.”

“It is not easy to see the IC community that I love going through such a difficult time — to see so many of our students recounting experiences that leave them feeling fear, pain, and alienation at a time in their lives when they should instead be feeling welcomed, supported, and inspired,” Grape said. “I respect that many of our students and faculty are choosing to express their concerns about Ithaca College’s climate and direction though their public discussions and their votes.

The student vote of Rochon’s confidence began Nov. 4 and will last 26 days, with the final results to be announced Nov. 30. Additionally, the I.C. Faculty Council decided Tuesday to hold a referendum on confidence in Rochon for all faculty members.

Tyler Alicea and Joon Lee contributed reporting to this piece.

  • Recent Alum ’15

    Sun staff, you all should link to the “papers” in the online version of this article. Here it is: http://theithacan.org/opinion/open-letter-the-case-against-tom-rochon/

  • TruthBeTold

    Sadly, the not so useful idiots that are ‘accepted’ into the business’ of higher education are biting the hand that feeds them. Many of these so called students are receiving aid to attend these colleges and rather than focus on bettering themselves in the library, they tear at the foundations of society. How many of these morons could explain in detail the Bill of Rights? Bet that they all know who the Kardashian’s are dating. I am sure I will cross paths with some of them along the way, so I’ll order now. I’ll have mine medium well with fries well done. Thanks.

    • Jim barco

      Truthbetold, I’d hire you in a nano second. Great insight to where our “culture” and values are headed. Somehow I suspect many of those who have not a clue are trust fund babies.

      • TruthBeTold

        Thanks Jim. If the socialist overlords continue to strangle our economy with regulation and high taxes, I’ll be flipping burgers with the Ithaca grads.

    • Laura

      You should be aware that the “Aid” you’re referring too, is a big fat loan that students will be paying back with interest for probably the rest of their lives.
      You obviously think only Black students receive aid and are
      protesting. Your limited view couldn’t be more wrong.

      At a cost of over $56,000.00 a year, students should be able to make demands and asking for a more diverse community is a good thing.

      I’m a parent of a WHITE Ithaca student who was very much engaged in the protest. By the way, my daughter wouldn’t be caught dead watching The Kardashians.

      Apologies accepted if you’re so willing.

      • TruthBeTold

        Sorry Mom, you are a fool. Race had nothing to do with my statement. Couldn’t care less that you have a ‘white’ child. You bring up your whiteness to somehow make you feel superior. You are a ‘good’ white because your sympathies are for ‘diversity’. What type of diversity is acceptable to you? Why not bring in neo-nazi students for diversity or ISIS. Diversity is only OK when you agree with the points being raised by the diverse.

        Look at the failure rates on the ‘AID’ and ask why tax payers are bearing the brunt of the cost.

  • George

    The women’s field hockey team should go on strike.

    • Brian


      • George

        To emulate the Missouri football team. The lesson is that college athletes should be able to dictate university policy.

  • Gary Niger

    It’s all fun to chant and put “Black lives matter” on signs but let’s be real. Nobody cares. Go back to class and be grateful you’re not picking cotton. Sun Staff. Stop posting this shit just because it’s happening in Ithaca.

  • Unacceptable

    It is completely unacceptable that the Daily Sun has allowed commenter “KS” to use the n-word repeatedly. They should be redacted immediately. There are, regrettably, plenty of online forums where bigots like “KA” can exercise their First Amendment rights. And while newspapers like the Daily Sun should promote themselves as a marketplace for the free exchange of ideas, flagrant bigotry has no place in reasoned discourse. Editors: check your comments more regularly and take these down.

  • Batista

    The concept that any Northern Liberal College official does not already pander to an absurd degree to the special victims interest is absurd. Before classes even start everyone has to submit to special meetings to make sure they do not offend the defined victim class. Now mind you the victim class has the right to offend and aggressively seek to oppress the Constitutional right of freedom of speech of everyone else. While it is doubtful even the claims at U of M are true, those for Ithaca NY, a bastion of bleeding heart liberalism and PC culture is comical at best. It is fair to say these individuals who cannot survive in the insular protected cocoon of a liberal University are in for a shock when they hit the real world and people start calling them stupid, ugly, fat…

  • Cornell itself has a long history of confronting injustices on campus, and beyond. Here is a summary of that history, and proposals for student ownership of the university. http://www.paulglover.org/cornell.activism.html

    • Batista

      Anyone who thinks the students at Cornell have the ability to effectively run the university are drinking the kool-aid. The Universities run by students long ago were run by students who had worked on farms and trades to earn the money to go to University, plus some trust babies as exist today. Even those trust babies had much more real world experience then 80% of the spoiled brats in Universities today, many of whom never held a job or played team sports in High School. FYI community organizing is not a real job. On fox last night one such University student officer claimed all Public Universities should be free and she would just make the 1% “hoarders” pay for her free education. It is truly shocking that these students got through high school, much less were allowed into any University. The future of America looks dim, but we have been through hard time before. There is still hope.

  • Dr. Necessitor

    How dare you? Black lies matter! 😉