Students, faculty and staff called on Ithaca College President Tom Rochon and the rest of the college to “keep IC frack free” as they marched late Friday afternoon across campus in protest of the controversial procedure for extracting natural gas.
Holding anti-fracking banners, 32 protesters, some of whom were dressed in Hazmat suits normally worn by those working with dangerous chemicals, started the rally at the Free Speech Rock on the Academic Quad and continued toward the Peggy Ryan Williams Center, where Rochon’s office is located.
Frack Off, the anti-fracking student organization that coordinated the protest, has previously called on the college and the board of trustees to make a public statement pledging not to lease any of the college’s land for natural gas drilling.
Earlier this month, the Student Government Association passed an anti-fracking motion that encouraged the administration not to lease college-owned land for the purposes of fracking.
In a statement to Frack Off, president Tom Rochon said the college board of trustees is committed to the sustainable use of all resources at the college and careful environmental stewardship of campus land. He said the college has not signed leases on any its land and is presently not seeking to do so.
Maura Stephens, associate director of the Park Center for Independent Media and adviser to Frack Off, said the college — generally recognized as environmentally friendly — should not hesitate to make its stance on the issue clear.
“For them not to take a public stand on that is very hypocritical,” Stephens said. “I would expect that the board of trustees and the president will recognize that at the earliest opportunity.”
Proponents of fracking argue that untapped sources of natural gas, a limited resource, could provide power for the U.S. for close to a decade. In addition, supporters argue that fracking would create employment opportunities both directly in drilling and indirectly in local businesses that benefit from more regional workers with disposable income.
Thirty-two percent of New York state residents support hydraulic fracturing, according to a state-wide poll conducted by Marist College in August. Thirty-seven percent oppose the procedure, and another 31 percent are unsure.
Rob Flaherty, vice president of communications for SGA who attended the rally, said he did so in solidarity with the protesters.
“Fracking is going to be very detrimental to this area, very detrimental to students, to our lives here,” he said.
Senior Dan Weller, who marched while wearing a yellow Hazmat suit, said the suit represented a life with hydraulic fracturing.
“They represent the fact that if you frack, you are going to have to live in Hazmat suits,” he said.
CLARIFICATION — In an earlier version of this story, Maura Stephens was quoted, accurately, as having said she saw President Tom Rochon in the window of the Peggy Ryan Williams Center observing the protest and giving a “thumbs up.” It was later learned that Rochon was not in Ithaca at the time.