Racial tensions at Ithaca College

A series of racially charged incidents and student protests have roiled Ithaca College.

One incident involved two alumni referring to a third, a black woman, as “the savage” at a college event after she said, “I had this savage hunger” to build a successful career. Another involved an unaffiliated fraternity that encouraged students to wear “’90s thuggish style” clothing and “bling” to a party.

Though the college’s president, Tom Rochon, issued a statement saying he regretted that the event at which the two alumni made racist comments about the black alumna “was diminished by insensitive comments,” many were angry that Rochon’s response took four days, while a statement addressing the fraternity party appeared in hours. Both episodes angered students and led to protests where students chanted, “Tom Rochon, no confidence” and “no more dialogue, we want action.” (Below: footage of the protest from the student newspaper.)

Dozens of Ithaca faulty members also signed an open letter expressing “very serious concern” over the event where the “savage” remarks were made. “We were distressed and offended,” the letter says, “by the fact that one of the guest speakers, Tatiana Sy ’09, was repeatedly called ‘the savage,’ by both a guest speaker and the moderator. We are disheartened and disappointed by the fact that our academic leaders did not intervene and object to this demeaning and highly inappropriate phrase.”

In addition to those remarks, the letter says the event, which was intended to kick-start a fundamental rethinking of education at Ithaca, “appeared to …