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Ithaca College President Announces Retirement After Campus Protests

Students demanded Tom Rochon's retirement for his handling of racial tensions on campus.

Ithaca College President Tom Rochon announced Monday he will step down from his post in July 2017, following calls for his resignation late last year.

"I am proud of the progress and accomplishments achieved by the college over what will be a nine-year tenure as president," Rochon wrote in a statement. "I look forward to working with the college community over the next 18 months in a constructive and collaborative way, making progress on issues of diversity and inclusion, shared governance, and decision making."

The upstate New York school plans to launch a search for the next president in summer 2016.

In November, roughly 1,000 Ithaca students participated in a walkout after a series of racist incidents on campus, including alleged racial profiling by campus police officers and a themed "Preps and Crooks" fraternity party. The demonstration was inspired by similar protests at the University of Missouri, which led the university's then-president, Tim Wolfe, to resign amid pressure from students over his handling of racial tensions at the school.

Protesters in Ithaca said they were calling for Rochon's resignation because the administration had not done enough to address racism on campus. In December, Ithaca alumni joined that call.

During a November vote organized by Ithaca's Student Government Association, nearly 72 percent of 3,756 participating students voted that they had "no confidence" in Rochon. Weeks later, the school's faculty voted similarly. 

“The message that has come through to me in the form of the student and faculty votes has been a difficult one to hear, but I am listening,” Rochon said of the vote, according to student newspaper The Ithacan. "I understand that many people on our campus are frustrated with the pace of change and with my own role in effecting it. I remain determined to improve Ithaca College’s culture for the better."

POC at IC, the group that led the fall protests, celebrated Monday's announcement on Facebook.

"There is power in the collective," read the post. "We did it!"

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