On Sept. 15, The Ithacan partnered with the African-Latino Society to host its first public forum to open up discussion regarding racial bias on campus. The turnout included many voices involved in the movement against alleged racial bias — both within the Office of Public Safety and in other areas on campus — as well as a number of administrative figures, including Benjamin Rifkin, provost and vice president for educational affairs, and Terri Stewart, director of Public Safety. The Ithacan is appreciative of all of these appearances and of all of those who shared their powerful sentiments. But based on much of what was said, it’s time for the talking to end and the action to begin.
The discussion was indeed compelling, and though it is always important to listen to these accounts and experiences, it became evident that the people with these stories are tired of always having to come forward when so few people have tried to meet them even halfway.
The fact is that the administration was represented at the forum, so they heard the statements. At this point, they should know what the issues are and know that working for change should be a top priority. It is not enough to send out statements proposing solutions that do not even address the root of the problem without themselves initiating a wholehearted effort to personally meet in a central location on campus with students experiencing this racial bias. Administrators cannot fully understand the issues and how to make progress without getting to know the students behind the movement, especially upperclassmen who have extensive experience and understanding of these issues as they relate to Ithaca College.
Progress is not defined solely by body cameras and diversity councils. It is defined by the effort of the administration, Public Safety officers and other campus leaders to connect with the people affected by this very real issue of racial bias on campus.