Campus Racism Likely to Claim Another University President
Protestors at Ithaca College are now calling for their own president to step down as they seek equality and diversity on their campus.
The rallies and walkouts at the University of Missouri have inspired students at other colleges to fight for equality on their own campuses as well. This week, students at Ithaca College launched their own protests and are calling for their president, Tom Rochon, to step down as well.
The college, named for its location in Ithaca, New York, sees statistics similar to Missouri when it comes to diversity — or the lack thereof. During the fall of 2015, 71 percent of students were reported to be white, while just 5.5 percent were Black, according to the school's website. Similarly, in the fall 2014 semester, 87 percent of the college's employees were white, while just 11 percent were Black, Hispanic, Asian or Native American.
[RELATED STORY: Missouri and Racism Back in the News: Mizzou President Resigns]
A protest on the school's campus yesterday, organized by the People of Color at Ithaca College, saw more than 750 attendees. Activists chanted, "Tom Rochon! No confidence!" The chant refers to a campus-wide vote the People of Color at Ithaca College has called for that asks students to vote "confidence" or "no confidence" in Rochon. Students have requested responses by Nov. 30.
Like in Missouri, Ithaca's faculty is getting involved as well. On Tuesday, the Faculty Council passed a motion to hold its own vote regarding Rochon. According to the chair of the Faculty Council, Peter Rothbart, the referendum will include full-time faculty members, professional librarians, and phased retired faculty.
[RELATED STORY: Yale Students March Same Day Mizzou Pres. Resigns]
On Tuesday, Rochon announced the creation of a chief diversity officer position at the college. According to Rochon, the process will begin at the end of this semester, and the position will be filled by the spring. He also said students will be informed on who will be on the committee responsible for filling the position.
"Given the importance of the duties of this position for the entire campus, the composition of the committee and the search process itself will be inclusive and transparent, with special attention to the needs and perspectives of students, faculty, and staff," Rochon said.
Currently the school has an associate provost for diversity, inclusion and engagement, Roger Richardson, and he will serve as the interim chief diversity officer.
However, given the growing number of racially charged incidents occurring on campus and the rising racial tensions, Rochon's attempt at diversity is too late.
Recent Instances of Racism and Campus Responses
One incident being highly cited took place in August during RA training with two campus public safety officers. According to students, one of the officers responded "very aggressively" when students asked how racial profiling is being addressed on campus. Another student was upset when a different officer said he would shoot someone who he saw carrying a BB gun. The comment was reminiscent of the tragic fate of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was gunned down by police while playing with a toy gun. Students have made complaints and a meeting was scheduled between RAs and public safety. However, according to students, race was not discussed at all at the subsequent meeting, and one of the officers involved in the initial incident was not even present.
[RELATED STORY: Mizzou Pres., Chancellor Resign — What Now?]
Another incident occurred on Oct. 8 at an on-campus event, Blue Sky Reimagining, which seeks to "formulate ideas about the evolution of Ithaca College." One panelist, who is a woman of color, said she had a "savage hunger" to succeed. Following this comment, two Ithaca alumni called the woman a "savage" throughout the remainder of the event.
In a statement responding to what happened at the Oct. 8 event, Rochon said:
In general, the college cannot prevent the use of hurtful language on campus. Such language, intentional or unintentional, exists in the world and will seep into our community. We can't promise that the college will never host a speaker who could say something racist, homophobic, misogynistic, or otherwise disrespectful. Even so, we reaffirm our commitment to making our campus an inclusive and respectful community.
Of course, no campus will ever have control over people making insensitive or even blatantly racist comments towards others. However, nowhere in his statement does Rochon elaborate on his "commitment" to diversity and inclusion. He simply "reaffirm[ed]" a commitment that, as far as many students and faculty are concerned, is nonexistent.
Next Course of Action
While a "no confidence" vote would not force Rochon to resign, it could impact the college's board of trustees. Tom Grape, the chair of the board, has expressed the board's support for Rochon. In a statement, Grape said that he and the rest of the board "are in contact on a daily basis with the president and other campus leaders about the issues that are taking place" and said he is "committed to helping the institution address its problems so that we may become the Ithaca College that we all know we can be."
"We understand that the issues are serious and significant, and we are listening. I am certain that Ithaca College will emerge from this chapter strong and more resolute in its direction forward, and the board and I are actively partnering with Tom Rochon and other campus leaders to make sure that happens," Grape's statement concluded.
However, depending on the outcome of the Nov. 30 vote, it may be too late for Grape's sentiments as well. The college has already made clear its lack of confidence in Rochon, and it seems unlikely that this will change without swift and significant action.
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"I did pull out my gun, but I never pointed it at them," Mark Allen Bartlett said. Video footage shows otherwise.
Mark Allen Bartlett of Hollywood Beach, Fla., pulled a gun on several Black teens, repeatedly calling them the n-word, as they were taking part in a "Bikes Up Guns Down" event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Brickell.
Update: Student Wearing MAGA Hat Standing Face-to-Face With Native American Veteran Releases Statement
"I was not intentionally making faces at the [protester]," said Nick Sandmann.
UPDATE: Monday, Jan. 21, 2019 at 7 a.m.
Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School Junior who stands in front of Nathan Phillips, an elder with the Omaha tribe and a veteran, in a viral video that has sparked outrage, made a statement through a lawyer and spokesman on Sunday night.
Sandmann said the students decided to raise their voices to drown out the comments against them by four protesters who identify themselves as Black Hebrew Israelites. A video has been released of the incident.
"A student in our group asked one of our teacher chaperones for permission to begin our school spirit chants to counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group," Sandmann said in his statement. "The chants are commonly used at sporting events. They are all positive in nature and sound like what you would hear at any high school," he said.
Phillips walked up to the students and said he started drumming and singing a song to encourage unity trying to quell the argument.
"There was that moment when I realized I've put myself between beast and prey,'' Phillips told the Detroit Free Press. "These young men were beastly and these old Black individuals was their prey, and I stood in between them and so they needed their pounds of flesh and they were looking at me for that.''
But said at one point, he claims the teenagers started saying "Go back to the reservation'' and broke into chants of "Build that wall.'' He also questioned why chaperones did not get involved.
"I was scared," Phillips told CNN. "I don't like the word 'hate.' I don't like even saying it, but it was hate unbridled. It was like a storm."
Sandmann claims he was "not intentionally making faces at the [protester]. I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation."
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington in Kentucky is currently investigating the incident.
ORIGINAL STORY Published Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019
Students wearing "Make America Great Again" hats, who attend Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, K.Y., were in Washington, D.C. on Friday for the anti-abortion March for Life rally. In a video, it appears that Nathan Phillips, an elder with the Omaha tribe and a veteran, was being mocked by the students at the Lincoln Memorial.
The incident occurred as the Indigenous Peoples March was ending. Videos showing their behavior went viral on social media on Saturday.
One of the students, standing less than a foot away, appears to be trying to intimidate Phillips by staring him down with a mocking smirk on his face. Phillips was in the midst of drumming and singing a song of unity:
I've seen that look before — on the MAGA boy's face as he taunts a participant from the Indigenous Peoples March. Fueled by ideology and a desire to dehumanize, it frightens me and reminds me of other cruel youth groups from history.
(anyone know original source of video?) pic.twitter.com/Ka6t5HKmCz
— Melissa Chan (@melissakchan) January 19, 2019
Kaya Taitano, who shot the video, told CNN that MAGA hat-wearing-students and four Black teens, who'd been preaching about the Bible nearby, started yelling and calling each other names. That's why Phillips started drumming and singing a song to encourage unity trying to quell the argument.
President Trump, whom the students apparently idolize, posted a tweet last week to mock Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who plans to run for president in the 2020 election.
Trump made fun of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre in response to a video Warren posted on Instagram.
If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash! pic.twitter.com/D5KWr8EPan
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2019
Phillips, a Vietnam Era veteran who said he served between 1972 and 1976, is in tears as he explains in a video how the incident on Friday made him feel:
"I heard them saying, 'Build that wall, build that wall.' This in indigenous land. You know, we're not supposed to have walls here. We never did …"
He continued, "Before anybody else came here, we never had walls. We never had a prison. We always took care of our elders. We took care of our children. We always provided for them. We taught them right from wrong."
He said he wishes the young men who taunted him would use "that energy to make this country really great."
Thank you to @VinceSchilling of @IndianCountry and many others who identified the proud Native man who is being harassed. He is Mr. Nathan Phillips. I'm reposting this video from “ka_ya11" on IG. This man's words pierce my heart. The grace. The wisdom. The hope. pic.twitter.com/BKOA40SVq5
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) January 19, 2019
Robert "Bob" Rowe is the principal of Covington Catholic High School (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
An investigation is now taking place, and the MAGA teens could be expelled. The Diocese of Covington and the high school issued the following statement on Saturday:
"We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church's teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person.
"The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.
"We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our most sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and all those who support the pro-life movement."
More than 10,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org demanding changes at the high school.
Many are saying on social media that the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students mimics how whites tried to intimidate Blacks during the civil rights movement:
The MAGA-hat wearing Covington Catholic High School students mocking Elder Nathan Phillips at the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington are direct descendants of the white privilege that empowered white kids to mock Elizabeth Eckford at Little Rock Central High School in 1957. pic.twitter.com/tQroBf6aPb
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) January 19, 2019
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"I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta," Knight said. There's mixed reactions on social media.
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Kiah Morris resigned from her position because of the harassment, but Vermont's attorney general said he will not file charges against the perpetrators, including Max Misch.