There is no denying that some Ithaca College students fall victim to the “South Hill bubble” — or a lack of a connection with the greater Ithaca community. This disconnect is even greater given the remote semester. However, now more than ever, amid the upcoming presidential election, nationwide calls for police reform and protests against racial injustice, it is important for students to engage with the community.
Last week, the Ithaca Democratic Socialists of America organized a “Festival Against Hate” as a counterprotest to the Back the Blue rally, an event held in support of the Ithaca Police Department (IPD). Even if students from the college were not able to attend because they are not in Ithaca, it is critical for them to become acquainted with the political and racial climate in Ithaca.
Although this event remained relatively peaceful, a rally in support of President Donald Trump on Oct. 16 became violent. On Oct. 22, six arrests were made after a group of protesters gathered in front of the IPD station in response to the arrest of Ithaca community member Messia Saunders during a press conference held by Rep. Tom Reed, outside the Tompkins County Republican Committee Headquarters in Ithaca. Since then, Svante Myrick, City of Ithaca mayor, has called for a state-level review of the incidents.
Recently, businesses and homes in downtown Ithaca have been vandalized with racist and anti-Semitic graffiti. On the night of Oct. 25, Moosewood Restaurant and Sunny Days of Ithaca were covered with anti-Semitic graffiti and posters that mocked Black and Jewish people.
These discriminatory practices are unfortunately a reality in Ithaca. Ithaca is not always the safe, liberal and open-minded haven that students from the college think they know.
Undergraduate students make up approximately 21% of the population of Tompkins County. Because they are part of the community approximately eight months out of the year, they have an obligation to be involved in it. College students need to be active participants in the community. If you are a student you should educate yourself on issues impacting the community. Familiarize yourself with local politicians. Keep track of the budget process in the city and county to see where funds are being allocated. Attend public comment sessions — even if you are not in Ithaca, many of these are held on Zoom. Students should not just take from the community but actively find ways to enhance it.
The hills that Ithaca College and Cornell University sit on distance students from the community not only physically but psychologically as well. College students must find a way to unite with those in the community so that structural change can take place.