Months after hundreds of Ithaca College students engaged in a walkout over racial insensitivity on campus, college President Tom Rochon has announced he will step down in July 2017.
The protests in November were in solidarity with the resignation of the University of Missouri's president, and to draw attention to allegations of racist incidents on Ithaca's campus.
The student group People of Color at Ithaca College (POC at IC), which was primarily responsible for organizing the protests, demanded Rochon's resignation on its Facebook page and in speeches during the walkout.
"With University of Missouri's president stepping down, we demand that Rochon to do the same," the group event read. "It is vital to fight against both covert and overt racism in all places of education and empowerment."
Following the protests, students and faculty helped separate no-confidence votes on Rochon's leadership, student newspaper The Ithacan reported.
Though the staff vote is still underway, nearly 77.8% of 406 faculty members who voted, and 72% of 3,756 student voters, expressed no confidence in Rochon's leadership.
The announcement comes following months of national protests against racial discrimination on college campuses.
"I have decided to retire from the Ithaca College presidency," Rochon announced in a statement on the college's website and social media accounts.
Rochon said he was proud of the "progress and accomplishments achieved" in his nine-year tenure as president, but recognized it was time for the college to "evolve."
"I believe it is best for IC to be led in the future by a president chosen by the board specifically to make a fresh start on these challenges," Rochon continued, "including those that became so apparent to us all last semester."
He added that he will be working with the college community over the next 18 months to make "progress on issues of diversity and inclusion," and to "help prepare the college to attract a highly qualified leader to succeed" him.
Many students, including the POC at IC, celebrated the announcement on social media.
"And there it is: Tom Rochon announces his early retirement from his position effective July 2017. There is power in the collective," POC at IC wrote in a Facebook post. "We did it! Faculty @ IC did it! Staff @ IC did it! IC Alumni did it! #PowerToThePeople."
There were multiple incidents that triggered the demand for Rochon's resignations, including tension with campus security and an event in which white male alumni repeatedly referred to a black female alum as a "savage."
The Ithacan reported that a number of resident assistants filed complaints of racism after a training session in which one officer reportedly remarked that if he saw someone holding a BB gun, he would shoot them.
The students said they believed he was refferring to the death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was carrying a BB gun when he was killed in 2014 by Cleveland police.
The second incident occurred at a recorded panel, when famous investor and Ithaca alum J. Christopher Burch repeatedly referred to Tatiana Sy as "the savage" after she referred to her "savage hunger" for education as a student.
When she grew visibly uncomfortable with the situation, he told her, "I think you're an amazing young woman, or I wouldn't give you that nickname."
Of Ithaca College faculty members who voted, nearly 77.8% expressed no confidence in Tom Rochon's leadership. An earlier version of this article stated that the faculty vote was still underway.
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at email@example.com.
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