Editor’s Note: Following a written statement by Ithaca College President Tom Rochon on Intercom on Dec. 8, the organizers of the Dec. 4 protest in the Peggy Ryan Williams Center against police violence and structural racism have issued a response and a list of demands. In their response the organizers outline specific steps the college should take and commit to continuing to pursue their goals.
Yesterday, we read with bemusement the statement published by President Thomas R. Rochon in connection to the wave of student activism and demonstrations that demanded accountability, dignity and equality on this campus and in our world. In response to our demands for a structured Indigenous studies minor with a tenured track faculty member, the president said: “I learned that we already have a Native American Studies minor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, with four faculty members listed in connection with the program and with courses available that draw on seven different academic departments.” This definitive statement is misleading. While the Native American Studies minor was placed in the Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity (CSCRE) last year, the requests for a faculty line have been repeatedly denied, despite the Center faculty’s repeated efforts to create one. As a result of the lack of academic and structural legibility of these studies, the classes have not been taught, thus rendering the minor and Indigenous history and culture invisible. This is the reality.
Those of us who have been organizing against structural inequality at Ithaca College believe that the status quo is not only untenable but unjust. Our demonstrations go to the very questions of human value and dignity. The Ferguson and Eric Garner crises not only exposed global systemic oppression, but also the institutional crises that exist here in our college. We, as the students of this institution who contribute to its legacy, must heed the call of our time. We cannot and should not, in good faith, advocate for equality in the world when our institution ignores the stories and histories of the oppressed. As students, we must demand administrative accountability as well as the ending of the culture of silence and complacency here at the college. This toxic complacency and consenting silence among students renders the ideal of community unachievable, and it is only up to us to act differently and forwardly.
The same epistemic violence and inhumanity in Ferguson and in Staten Island are at work here on campus. And we must do well to dismantle these systems, for when we do so, we see the humanity in each other more clearly. And that is why we are demanding:
- A tenured track faculty line established for Indigenous Studies at Ithaca College.
- An increase in faculty of color.
- The review of our institution’s contract with Sodexo—an organization that benefits from the pernicious prison industrial complex.
- A revision of the printing policy to reduce student expense.
- Required diversity training for all Ithaca College staff and faculty members.
- The creation of an Ithaca College Diversity Council to address institutional diversity and inclusion policy that impact the campus community.
Our demands are rooted in Ithaca College’s statement on diversity, which aims to “address current and past injustices and promote excellence and equity.” Our demonstrations are not protests. We are simply rendering ourselves visible, and becoming active participants in our education. With these beliefs, we fully intend on making our demands clear to the administration now and in the future.
We have channeled here the energy and passion of those who stood up and spoke out. Student activism and the tradition of self-determination, in which any student can participate and lead, will always be a choice, and sadly so will the opposite.
Luna Olavarria Gallegos
Steven Kobby Lartey