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Students at the University of Colorado chant, "Hands up, don't shoot," in support of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, Dec. 1, 2014. Reuters/Rick Wilking

Following a series of protests by students over issues of alleged racism and inclusion at selective Ivy League schools and public universities in the U.S. last fall, Tom Rochon, the president of Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, announced Thursday he will retire in 2017. Rochon, who was the target of a protests led by students of color in November, said he had time to reflect about his leadership role at the predominantly white college during the winter holiday break.

“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 to faculty, students and alumni. “At the same time, I recognize that colleges evolved through eras defined by new opportunities and challenges,” he writes later in the statement. “I believe it is best for [Ithaca College] 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 fall.”

At Ithaca, students were outraged by racially insensitive remarks made about a black alumna during an event on campus last fall. Some said the incident was indicative of long-existing racial tensions on campus. After hundreds of students, faculty and staff members walked out of classes amid similar actions at the University of Missouri and Yale University in Connecticut, Rochon announced the appointment of a chief diversity officer. That official is charged with monitoring incidents of racial bias and discrimination at the college, which numbers more than 6,700 students.

But Ithaca protesters also called for a change in leadership, including Rochon's resignation, for allowing systemic racism to fester on campus. Rochon said Thursday he would remain in his position until July 1, 2017.

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