Hundreds of students, faculty and staff members took part in a protest against racism Wednesday afternoon on the academic quad of Ithaca College, amid recent similar actions on a few other U.S. campuses, the Cornell Daily Sun reported. The protesters called for a change in leadership and for action to be taken against President Tom Rochon for allowing systematic racism to take place on the upstate New York campus.
In an event posted on Facebook, the organization People of Color at Ithaca (POCatIC) called for students to walk out and gather at Freedom Rock. The event followed weeks of tension stemming from other incidents reportedly involving racial slurs and offensive language.
“Our purpose here is not to demonstrate violently, and we have collectively committed ourselves to furthering this movement in non-violent ways," the organization said in a statement. "We ask that all participants also commit themselves to this struggle non-violently as well.”
Coincidentally (or not) the college also announced Wednesday it is starting a search for a chief diversity officer.
This week, the Student Government Association (SGA) sent out an email asking for a vote of “confidence” or “no confidence” on Rochon, with votes due Nov. 30. They are demanding that Rochon step down.
“We have no desire to work with this broken system,” one student said at the protest, according to the Cornell Daily Sun. Following student speeches, protesters walked across the quad and shouted: “Tom Rochon. No Confidence.”
This past weekend several groups on campus circulated a paper titled “The Case Against Tom Rochon,” which details Rochon’s “disregard for minority community members” and “poor leadership” since coming to office in 2008.
Racial tensions at Ithaca came to a head this year when two alumni referred to a third, a black woman, as “the savage” at a college event after she said, “I had this savage hunger” to build a successful career. Another incident involved a fraternity that encouraged students to wear “’90s thuggish style” clothing and “bling” to a party.
During Residential Advisor training, where trainees reported what they perceived as racial aggression by public safety officers. During the training sessions officer Jon Elmore showed various weapons, and said he would shoot anyone he saw with a BB gun on campus, according to the Ithacan, Ithaca College’s student newspaper.
Following the training session, Rochon issued a statement saying that racial discrimination is a “collegewide issue that needs ongoing attention.”
Earlier this week saw the resignation of University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe after weeks of tension and protests over racist campus incidents.