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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 27, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY

News

Students protest racism, express no confidence in Rochon

Over 200 Ithaca College students, faculty and staff gathered at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 21 around Free Speech Rock to protest against racism on campus and to demand action from administration, with a number of members of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees in the audience.

Senior Elijah Breton led the crowd in two chants.

“Tom Rochon,” he yelled while standing on top of the short brick wall that surrounds Free Speech Rock.

“No confidence,” the crowd of students and a handful of faculty and staff members called back.

President Tom Rochon stood in the crowd, no more than 5 yards from Breton.

“No more dialogue,” Breton yelled while standing above the crowd.

“We want action,” the crowd responded.

A number of students spoke at the event, all touching on their experiences as students of color on campus. Each person who spoke to the crowd talked about being sick of talking about these issues and demanded specific action from the administration. Some of the individuals who spoke at the protest circulated a document titled “Concerned Students’ List of Demands,” which called for Rochon to address issues regarding race and discrimination with “tangible action.”

Members of the board of trustees, Rochon and every vice president of the college were in attendance, along with a number of faculty and staff. Trustees are on campus from Oct. 20–22 for their fall board meeting.

The protest follows two events that angered many members of the college community.

At the Blue Sky Reimagining Kick-Off event Oct. 8, racially charged statements were made toward an African-American alumna, causing many people in the room to be uncomfortable and wonder why no one intervened.

The next day, many students were invited via Facebook to an off-campus “Preps and Crooks”–themed party hosted by AEPi, an unaffiliated fraternity. This party was canceled after a backlash against the racially charged theme on social media.

However, the list of demands made clear that these events weren’t the only issue:

“We would also like to clarify that the events highlighted above are not to be treated as isolated incidents and should in turn be treated as the results of a bubbling racial issue that has gone unanswered under President Thomas Rochon.”

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President Tom Rochon, left, and Thomas Grape, chairman of the board of trustees, read the “Concerned Students’ List of Demands” document at the event, which also included a letter from a former AEPi member. Amanda den Hartog/ The Ithacan

Attached to the demands was a letter from a student who left the AEPi fraternity. The letter states that although he cannot speak on behalf of the fraternity, he wants to offer a personal apology and invites members of the community to speak to him.

According to the document, the letter from the students “is a clear display of the effect that the collective, concerned student body has on those individuals willing to listen.”

Sophomore Ava Bryan, senior Eddy Tapia, freshman Marissa Booker and Breton helped lead the event.

“We are all tired. We are exhausted of waking up every day with the racism, ignorance that is going on on this campus,” Breton said.

Bryan and Breton both declined requests to be interviewed.

A handful of other students took the stage to talk about their experiences as students of color at the college. Each one was clearly fed up with what was called a lack of action from administration and continued racial bias on campus.

Throughout the event, Breton demanded that the board of trustees and administrators take action.

“To the administration and the board of trustees, I hope this … brought light to what is going on on this campus. But I hope that it made you feel uncomfortable standing here because if you feel uncomfortable, imagine how uncomfortable we feel living,” Breton said before being interrupted by applause.

Multiple trustees declined requests to comment on the event.

Near the end of the event, Booker told the crowd that there would be a meeting for students to talk about direct action steps in the near future.

Breton ended the event by leading the crowd in the same chants.

“Tom Rochon. ”

“No Confidence.”

“No more dialogue.”

“We want action.”

This article has been corrected from a previous version to reflect that the former AEPi member who wrote a letter to the community apologized on behalf of himself, not the whole fraternity.

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A crowd of over 200 members of the campus community attended the Oct. 21 event. Students leading the event demanded action from the college’s leaders about racial issues on campus and said this event was the last chance to have a dialogue before they begin to act themselves. Faith Meckley/ The Ithacan