Ithaca College president gets 'no confidence' vote

The Ithaca College (IC) student government unanimously voted no-confidence in President Tom Rochon Monday night following weeks of contention over allegations of racism and discrimination at the school.

The resolution, passed by all 11 members of the Student Government Association (SGA), calls for an online student body vote later in the month, with results to be announced by the end of November. It recommends the Ithaca College Faculty to vote on the same issue.

“There have been a ton of issues on campus this year that have gone, not entirely unaddressed, but unaddressed in the way students like and are comfortable with,” SGA President Dom Recckio told the Ithaca Voice.

The resolution cites several instances of alleged racism by Ithaca College administrators, employees, and students. Last week, over 200 students and faculty organized as #POCatIC (people of color at Ithaca College), protested Rochon’s administration, and chanted in call-and-response “Tom Rochon/no confidence” and “[n]o more dialogue/we want action,” according to The Ithacan.

“Each person who spoke to the crowd talked about being sick of talking about these issues [regarding being students of color on campus] and demanded specific action from the administration,” The Ithacan reported.

Senior Elijah Breton, who led the protest, told the administrators—including Rochon—and members of the Board of Trustees present, “[I] hope that it made you feel uncomfortable standing here because if you feel uncomfortable, imagine how uncomfortable we feel living.”

In response to the student demands, Rochon and top administrators organized a town hall with students on Tuesday, during which they announced a massive overhaul of the college’s diversity programs, instituting sensitivity training and expanded efforts to hire diverse faculty. As Rochon delivered his remarks, about 40 #POCatIC student protesters stormed the stage and again pronounced their grievances against the college. They then urged those in attendance to walk out and about half did.

The protesters have routinely cited several instances of perceived racism from IC employees and students. Among these include the recent “Preps and Crooks”-themed party at an off-campus fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, which is unaffiliated with the college.

Many IC students argue the theme was racially charged, citing the event’s description of the “crooks” portion of the theme: “[a] more ‘90’s thuggish style. Come wearing a bandana, baggy sweats and a t-shirt, snapback, and any ‘bling’ you can find!”

Earlier in the semester, Ithaca College student resident assistants (RAs) protested campus public safety officials for comments at a training session they described as “racially insensitive,” “aggressive” and “invalidating”, according to a different Ithacan report. The RAs said the officials dismissed claims of on-campus racial profiling. Some reportedly walked out of the meeting when one official held up a black BB gun and said, “If I saw someone with this I would shoot them.”

Another controversial incident involved the school’s Blue Sky Kickoff on Oct. 8, where in the course of a panel discussion featuring notable IC alumni Tatiana Sy ‘09, a black female, who said she had a “savage hunger” for success and afterwards other panelists referred to her as “the savage.” Sy later told The Ithacan that she felt the phrase was not racist, but was a “microaggression."

The resolution also criticized the college’s administration for its constant shuffling and lack of consistency in upper echelons of leadership, citing the three provosts and two interim provosts who have held the position during Rochon’s seven years as president.

In response to the protest, IC’s administration announced a new diversity plan, which calls for mandatory sensitivity training, creating a “safe space” for multicultural students, and efforts to hire more minorities

President of IC’s chapter of Young Americans for Liberty Sean Themea ‘16, who expressed support for the resolution to allow the entire student body to vote, said, “Ithaca College must take a stand against racism on campus. However, the measures put in place to do so must neither compromise freedom of speech nor academic freedom. This will only serve to replace one detrimental campus climate with another.”

This is not the first time a student governing body has voted no confidence in its school’s president; earlier this year, Ray Watts, the president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham suffered one after he nixed the school’s football program.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @CaseyBreznick