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January 18, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 25°F

Opinion

Commentary: Ithaca College fails BIPOC students again

I chose Ithaca College for many reasons — the financial aid package I was offered, the advertised diverse and inclusive community, the distance from home and in part because of Chris Holmes, associate professor and chair of the Department of English.  

Of those reasons that I chose this college, many of them overlap with the reasons I am choosing to leave the college — except Chris Holmes, who has remained a helpful advocate for me in my first few semesters.  

It wasn’t just one moment that made me choose to take a semester off and possibly leave the college. It was a series of difficult situations I had to experience at the beginning of each semester since Fall 2020, where I would be forced to go back and forth with the Office of Student Financial Services at the college until I was able to somewhat figure out what was going on. As a first-generation student, I always knew I would be completely alone with my finances. My parents don’t speak English and they have been unable to financially help me throughout my college career. I knew this and I still chose a private college because it seemed like the best fit for me and I was okay with having the number of loans that I calculated I would have. Each semester something seemed to change and I was left in the dark, despite going around asking everyone I could about what I should be doing or could do. It seems that I had to ask the right person at the right time just to get the right answer. I had done my own research in high school, but none of it prepared me for dealing with forms and conditions I had no prior knowledge of. Many of my peers helped me, but many of my other friends had their parents handle their college finances. It was a difficult process each semester that weighed heavily on my mental health and enabled and amplified my imposter syndrome. I’m not good at asking for help, it’s just how I was raised, but it didn’t help that each time I attempted to ask for help I was let down by many authority figures at the college. I will say there were many professors who helped me when I was overwhelmed and stressed. I came to this college that first-gen students would be guided and under the impression that I wouldn’t be alone in dealing with navigating college. But I did — I navigated the last three semesters, one online, one hybrid and one in person, all on my own. I didn’t have support from my family, there was nothing they could do, and I couldn’t rely on my friends because at the end of the day these are my own issues that I have to learn to navigate. This isolation made me feel like the college only cared about me when it wanted me to enroll and afterward I was disregarded and fell immediately through the cracks. 

Based on what I know now, I have made the choice to leave because at the end of the day this is my education, my loans to pay and my life I have to start taking control of. I couldn’t keep calling and waiting for the right person to pick up. I don’t want to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, so I am making that choice for myself. My parents won’t be paying those loans, it is no one’s responsibility but my own. The college community wasn’t what I was expecting either. 

There is little to no diversity at least in terms of race, and the college continues to idealize this false statement without attempting to make it true. This is another false promise that truly affected me. I did not expect to go months without speaking Spanish, attend multiple classes where I was the sole person of color in the room and educate and correct my own peers on racial matters when the college and professors failed to do so. I was given many false promises that contributed to the decline of my mental health and college performance. This is my experience, and I had to learn the hard way that Ithaca College was my perfect fit on paper, but not in reality.