Hundreds of Ithaca College students protested on campus Wednesday to demand the resignation of college President Tom Rochon, voicing concerns of systemic racism and a lack of racial diversity in top positions at the college.
Demonstrators at the event, organized by the group People of Color at Ithaca College, reportedly chanted “Tom Rochon! No confidence” and staged a die-in — a popular tactic by the Black Lives Matter movement in which protesters lie down on the ground to symbolize dead bodies and attract attention to their cause.
“I’ve never had a black professor,” junior Nigel Cyril, who was holding a sign asking students to vote no confidence in the president, told Syracuse.com. “I do feel the racial tensions in this college. I’ve been pretty quiet so far, but it’s time for [the president] to do something.”
“Diversity and inclusion here at Ithaca College is nothing more than an image,” student Tyler Reighn shouted through a megaphone. “… We have no desire to work within this broken structure.”
College spokesman David Maley said Mr. Rochon attended a portion of the protest to listen and “to speak if asked by the students,” Syracuse.com reported.
Mr. Rochon also on Wednesday announced the hiring of a “chief diversity officer” to “improve our campus’s racial climate and build a culture that lives up to its values of civility, mutual respect, and justice.”
The protesters voiced concerns over an incident last month in which an unaffiliated fraternity at the college sent out a Facebook event for a “Preps & Crooks” theme party. They also took issue with the administration’s recent forum on “Addressing Community Action on Racism and Cultural Bias,” which consisted of mostly white men.
“There have been a litany of episodes and incidents during [Mr. Rochon’s] tenure here which have led to frustration because, when brought to his attention, the view of the protesters is that he has been unresponsive,” Don Lifton, a 29-year professor at the Ithaca College School of Business, told The Daily Signal.
Students have been asked to participate in a Student Government Association-sanctioned survey asking for a vote of “confidence” or “no confidence” in Mr. Rochon, Kyle Stewart, vice president of communications for the Student Government Association, told The Daily Signal.
The Student Government Association voted unanimously to hold the vote for students but is a neutral party, he said. It was unclear when that vote would take place.