Editor’s Note: The following is a reprint of a message sent directly to the faculty, staff and students of Ithaca College.
To all IC campus community members:
Over the past year, increased and necessary attention has been given nationwide to long-standing patterns of unfair treatment based on race and privilege. The Ithaca College campus is not immune to these patterns. We must continue to have important conversations about how we treat each other so that we more closely reflect the community we want to be. This is an issue that Ithaca College can’t and won’t ignore.
I have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on the stories shared at listening sessions attended by our resident assistant staff, as well as experiences and perceptions shared with me directly by others. It is deeply troubling, to me and to anyone who cares about this college and its students, that some on campus feel unsafe, invalidated, and disrespected.
The first step we must take is to acknowledge that there are members of our community who experience intimidation and marginalization. We must then act to stop these experiences within our ALANA community and all underrepresented communities on campus.
I strongly affirm the college’s expectation that all members of our campus community must treat others with respect and compassion. This applies especially to Public Safety officers and all others in positions of authority. Ithaca College is an environment for learning – for open and thoughtful interaction with each other. Incidents of bias and racism, while unacceptable in any setting, are especially intolerable on our college campus.
I am working with many on campus to understand the depth of the issue, to find solutions so that all students feel safe and at home on campus, and to reestablish trust and respect among all members of the campus community. Over the last two weeks our residential life staff has been working tirelessly, hand-in-hand with the Office of Public Safety, to listen to student concerns, identify solutions, and build a stronger relationship between our residential life staff and staff in the Office of Public Safety.
But this is not just an issue for the offices of Residential Life and Public Safety to solve. This is a college-wide issue that needs ongoing attention. As such, I have charged our new Provost and Vice President for Educational Affairs, Ben Rifkin, with making these issues a top priority. Under his leadership, we have already begun work on several initiatives.
- We are actively researching ways to create a community review board as an impartial third-party for campus community members to report Public Safety concerns.
- We are also researching the purchase of body worn cameras for our public safety officers, a recommendation that was made by both students and officers.
- We are in the final stage of signing a contract with a highly regarded external firm to develop and administer our next campus climate survey.
- We are completing work on new guidelines for faculty and staff searches to significantly enhance efforts to recruit and hire diverse candidates.
- We recently established a Council on Diversity and Inclusion, co-chaired by Dr. Belisa Gonzalez and Dean Linda Petrosino. The Council will begin meeting this fall to identify additional solutions to these important issues.
These initiatives will help, but the entire campus needs to be involved if we are to move closer to where we want to be as a community. If you have additional ideas or suggestions, please do not hesitate to send them to me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Let us agree to begin our work together with the following commitment: We need to do better here at Ithaca College. It is not enough to say that issues of disrespect, insensitivity and racial bias exist everywhere. We need, all of us, to do better in adopting an empathetic, humble listening posture on the experiences and perceptions we each bring to our learning community. It is only in this way that Ithaca College will become the community of learning, personal growth and mutual respect that it is intended to be.