As of 10 p.m. Dec. 7., approximately 60 students were occupying the lobby of Peggy Ryan Williams Center, planning to spend the night as part of an occupation of the building by POC at IC.
POC at IC, a student group that has been protesting the racial climate on campus this semester, began an occupation of the Peggy Ryan Williams administrative building this morning.
A Facebook group for the event was created just before 9 a.m. The event, titled #OccupyPRW, aimed to “demand Tom Rochon’s immediate resignation and reclaim and transform PRW to a safe space for community, education, and healing” for the ALANA community and its allies.
Two student members of POC at IC made an announcement to approximately 60 students, a number which fluctuated throughout the day, at 3:15 p.m. about the results of the Nov. 30 no confidence vote, saying, “we anxiously awaited the survey’s outcome providing various sources that argued against Rochon’s ability to lead. Through the unveiled results, it is evident to both POC at IC and allies that Tom Rochon lacks the confidence to engage students, faculty and leading initiative to create a safe space for marginalized groups on this campus.”
At 6:10 p.m., Benjamin Rifkin, provost and vice president for educational affairs; Nancy Pringle, vice president and general counsel of legal affairs; and Terri Stewart, director of public safety and emergency management, made a statement regarding safety for the students occupying the Peggy Ryan Williams Center.
“I just want to reinforce that Ithaca College respects the protest movement’s desire to make the PRW a safe space for them and for everyone,” Rifkin said.
Rifkin said the building closes and automatically locks at 5 p.m. Occupants will be able to access the building’s public spaces, and the administration is not preventing students, faculty and staff from coming in and out of the building.
Those entering the building will have to present a valid college ID, and anyone who violates this regulation will be asked to leave the building. Rifkin also asked occupants to make sure they keep the spaces clean and maintain access to entrances, stairways and fire exits, and threats to personal safety, damage to property and fire code violations are subject to judicial referral.
Stewart said there will be a uniformed officer at the exterior entrances so students, in the event of an emergency, know there will be somebody at the doors at all times.
“We’re going to do our absolute best to give you your space, but it’s important for us to be here in the event that something does happen and ensure that the people coming into the building actually are members of our campus community, and that’s for your safety,” Stewart said.
Senior Zach Mota, who said he is a member of POC at IC, said the actions made by the students are not over.
“At the very least, the occupation will indicate to the administration that despite what they may think, we are not done with demonstrations and protests,” Mota said. “There is symbolism in occupying, but at the base of it, it’s indicating that we’re not going to lose steam. It’s not just going to fizzle out over break, as much as they would like it to. They will have to actually consider listening to our demands and that we’re not going to be ignored.”
Dominick Recckio, president of the Student Government Association, said this occupation is a great step for POC at IC, and he believes the administration has to realize there is institutional inequity created over and over again.
“This is a great opportunity for students to say, ‘This is such a center of privilege on campus: privilege in thought, privilege in occupation of space.’ This occupation will start to prove that those things can be dismantled,” Recckio said. “I think that if we can start to dismantle structural and institutional racism on whatever level as a college, we’re going to move forward indefinitely. Until we have support from the administration to do that, then we can’t.”
Recckio said he hopes this occupation will allow President Tom Rochon to reflect on the students’ actions and his position at the college.
“President Tom Rochon’s going to come down those stairs later today for a meeting or something, and he’s going to see those students, those same students that are calling for his resignation for a long time, and I really hope he reflects on it seriously and continuously because we need real change, and this movement is reflective of that,” Recckio said.
Freshman Rianna Larkin said although she is busy preparing for finals, it was important to her to take part and show support for POC at IC.
“I believe in what POC at IC is doing. I believe that removing the president we have now would be a good step in gaining more equality on this campus and just having more communication between us and the people who are supposed to represent us,” Larkin said.