Tom Rochon to step down as president of Ithaca College

January 14, 2016 by Mark H. Anbinder

President Tom Rochon says he will step down at the end of Ithaca College's 2016-2017 academic year "after much reflection over the winter break."

Ithaca College president Tom Rochon. Photo courtesy of Ithaca College.Ithaca College president Tom Rochon. Photo courtesy of Ithaca College.In a message to "students, staff, faculty, parents, alumni, and friends," Rochon says retiring effective July 1st, 2017 "will enable the board of trustees the necessary time to organize and execute a thoughtful and comprehensive search for my successor."

Students and faculty alike have urged Rochon to resignsaying he has failed to address the college's "problems of institutionalized racism, sexism, and classism," according to an open letter distributed during last fall's family weekend.

Students staging a "die-in" by sitting on walkways on the Ithaca College campus.Students staging a "die-in" by sitting on walkways on the Ithaca College campus.

In November, a "solidarity walkout" organized by a group calling itself "People of Color at Ithaca College," or POC at IC, drew hundreds of IC students out of their classes, as well as dozens of supporters from Cornell.

IC's Academic Quad was packed with students, with campus publication The Ithacan estimating the crowd growing from about 400 at first to around 1,000 protesters and bystanders. Students took turns speaking, held a period of silence in solidarity with other campuses, chanted, and then dispersed to return to classes "and cause a disruption by informing other people about the situation," according to The Ithacan.

At the time, Rochon announced his office would create a new Chief Diversity Officer position. "It has become clear to me that, although we have taken some steps in the right direction, I will need the counsel and full-time focus of a strong and experienced leader with deep knowledge in this area in order to make progress with appropriate speed, inclusivity, accountability, and transparency," the President said in a statement. "I have asked Roger 'Doc' Richardson, associate provost for diversity, inclusion, and engagement, to serve in this role on an interim basis."

Both student and faculty groups held votes of no confidence in Rochon late in the fall semester, but Rochon had said he had no plan to resign.

An official statement from Ithaca College's Faculty Council says, "This has been a tumultuous year at many institutions of higher learning, including Ithaca College. This fall, strong voices raised issues vital to the health of our institution and our society; we as faculty have much work ahead of us." Faculty Council chair Peter Rothbart says, "Faculty Council looks forward to working with all constituencies in advancing the best interests of the College in this time of transition."

A statement from Ithaca College's Board of Trustees says, "The next 18 months are an opportunity for the board, Tom, and the community to collaborate on solutions to campus issues in a way that unites us and enables us to attract a world-class leader as our next president."

The Board's statement, signed by chair Tom Grape '80 and vice chair David Lissy '87, goes on to say, "In order to move forward, we must first acknowledge that the challenges we face are not the result of any one person, and that each of us has a role and responsibility in achieving progress. The articulation of concerns from students, faculty, staff, and alumni has been and will always be welcome on our campus. That said, we must build a campus culture that encourages mutual respect for differing points of view and where our disagreements are aired through civil discourse."

Rochon, the eighth president of Ithaca College, took office on July 1st, 2008. He holds a doctorate and bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Michigan.

This story is developing. Rachel Cera contributed reporting.

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