Ithaca College President Tom Rochon announced plans to retire Thursday, following months of protests over his administration’s handling of racial incidents and demands for his resignation.
Rochon announced in a statement that he plans to retire in July 2017, after completing the 2016-17 academic year. The search for a new Ithaca College president will begin this summer.
“I am proud of the progress and accomplishments achieved by the college over what will be a nine-year tenure as president,” Rochon said. “I look forward to working with the college community over the next 18 months … [to] make progress on issues of diversity and inclusion, shared governance and decision making.”
Rochon called the hiring of a new president a “fresh start” for Ithaca College and a chance to address challenges on campus in a different way.
“I recognize that colleges evolve through eras defined by new opportunities and challenges,” he said. “I believe it is best for I.C. to be led in the future by a president chosen by the board specifically to make a fresh start on these challenges, including those that became so apparent to us all last semester.”
In November, hundreds of Ithaca College students participated in a walkout, expressing solidarity with student movements at Missouri and Yale and protesting Rochon’s handling of racial incidents on campus. These incidents included alleged racial profiling by police officers, a “Preps and Crooks” themed fraternity party and racially insensitive remarks at a college event.
Rochon released a statement in response to this last incident in October asserting that the administration “cannot prevent the use of hurtful language on campus.”
In November, 72 percent of 3,756 participating students voted that they had “no confidence” in Rochon as president in a vote organized by Ithaca’s Student Government Association. In December, 78 percent of the college’s faculty also vote “no confidence” in the president.
“The message that has come through to me in the form of the student and faculty votes has been a difficult one to hear, but I am listening,” Rochon said after the vote, according to The Ithacan. “I understand that many people on our campus are frustrated with the pace of change and with my own role in effecting it. I remain determined to improve Ithaca College’s culture for the better.”
Rochon has served as Ithaca College’s president since 2008. POC@IC, the group that led the fall protests and calls for Rochon’s resignation, celebrated Thursday’s announcement in a Facebook post.
“There is power in the collective,” the post read. “We did it!”