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THE ITHACAN

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THE ITHACAN

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Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Editorial: College must consistently and authentically support the BIPOC community

Editorial%3A+College+must+consistently+and+authentically+support+the+BIPOC+community
Illustration by Ananya Gambhiraopet

At Ithaca College, Martin Luther King Jr. week is celebrated across campus from Feb. 12 to 17. There are a host of events, particularly those surrounding the theme of “Amplifying the Voices of Womxn of Color.” While this week highlights voices across campus that are often stifled, one week of workshops and events is not enough. The college needs to strive to be a more inclusive, safe environment for BIPOC students all year round. 

It is no secret that Ithaca College is a predominately white institution (PWI). An Analytics and Institutional Research report conducted in 2023 found that 21.7% of the college’s student body identify as BIPOC, as compared to 73.6% who identify as white. While these numbers demonstrate the lack of diversity on campus, they do not even begin to exemplify the experiences that people of color face on campus.

In 2023, IC Rise Up formed as a platform for students of color to voice their stories and demand explicit changes to further support students of color on campus. This student-led group gathered the stories of BIPOC students and shared them among the campus community to raise awareness surrounding microaggressions and acts of discrimination at the college. The group presented a list of demands for the college administration on April 12, 2023, including implementing evaluations for the classroom environment, requiring a Critical Race Theory class for all students, providing resources and guidance to help students of color navigate being at a PWI, requiring anti-racism training for faculty and allocating more spaces and financial resources to the BIPOC community. Other student groups centered around racial equity have formed in the past, like POC at IC, which was founded in 2015 in response to acts of racial prejudice at the college. Like IC Rise Up, POC at IC also expressed a list of demands for former-president Tom Rochon.

These efforts were primarily, if not entirely, organized by students of color. There are also a host of student-led organizations at the college that aim to create safe spaces for students of color on campus. Some of these organizations include the Black Student Union, Brothers for Brothers, Asian American Alliance, IC Mixed, Poder: Latinx Student Association and Sister 2 Sister. These organizations provide a sense of community and inclusion — a necessity for  students who are often forced to face the harsh realities of being a student of color at Ithaca College. 

If the college really wants to create a safer campus climate, there should be more financial resources and overall support allocated to these vital student organizations. Furthermore, BIPOC students should not have to be the only people putting in the work to dismantle the exclusionary system of higher education. The responsibility of education and advocacy should not lay on the shoulders of those who already have to carry the burden of others’ ignorance. Rather, there must be more effort on the part of both administration and allies across the campus community to fight for a more inclusive environment.

There have been some notable diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives launched on behalf of the college. The Campus Climate survey was open Oct. 17, 2023 through Nov. 17, 2023 as a way for students to report their experiences on campus and provide information on what needs to be done to make the college more inclusive. Previously, a Campus Climate survey was launched in 2016, receiving a 46% response rate. The 2023 survey was one of the central tasks for the new Center for Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Ithaca College, which was announced March 23, 2023 by President La Jerne Cornish. 

While these initiatives are a start, there is a need for more radical, immediate change. The college must listen to what students are saying and take further courses of action to make systemic changes. From holding more open conversations with students to investing financial resources into student organizations for the BIPOC community, there are countless ways the college can become a more consistently equitable, inclusive place. Students of color are a vital part of this campus community that must be respected and supported — not just in the month of February, not just during Martin Luther King week, but always.

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