Ithaca, N.Y. — Ithaca College President Tom Rochon released a statement Monday in response to the more than 300 student protesters that flooded the building that holds his office last week.

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(Courtesy Namarah McCall)

At the time of the protest, Rochon declined to comment on racial injustice or police brutality. He also said he supported the demonstrators’ demand for the establishment of a Native American Studies minor.

On Monday, however, in a statement published on IC’s website, Rochon says that “…police brutality should never be tolerated, and I join with all fair-minded people in condemning any abuse of power and authority.”

Rochon’s statement also said that the president learned after the protests that IC already has a Native American Studies minor. Students then disputed the accuracy of this claim, saying the minor only exists on paper.

A timeline from The Voice to break down the confusion over the Native American Studies minor at IC

National uproar reaches IC

The student demonstrators on Thursday protested the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two black men who were killed by police officers in separate incidents earlier this year. Neither officer was indicted by a grand jury.

Related: Student protesters hold demonstration, confront Ithaca College President

Those events touched off protests across the country, including in Ithaca. Many of these demonstrations included demands beyond police reform.

At the IC demonstration, protesters lamented the absence of Ithaca College’s Native American Studies minor. At the time, Rochon said he doesn’t have the power to change the college’s curriculum on his own but that he supports the idea of a Native American Studies minor.

(Rochon’s remarks can be heard in the above video around the 3:30 minute mark. The video is published with permission from Izzy Demmon, a junior at IC.)

Then, in the address to the campus community, Rochon said he had learned that the college already has a Native American Studies minor and will push to make it even stronger:

“In the course of the demonstration, a demand was articulated to establish a Native American Studies minor. Although I do not have the authority to create fields of study at IC, I stated that I would advocate for the establishment of this program. Following up later that day, I learned that we already have a Native American Studies minor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, with four faculty members listed in connection with the program and with courses available that draw on seven different academic departments. I will advocate for the strength and vitality of this program.”

Response from Native American Students Association

However, President of Ithaca College’s Native American Students Association Victor Lopez-Carmen said that many things about Rochon’s statement are “misleading.”

“We do not have a single full time, tenure eligible, OR part time faculty, for [Native American Studies] in the Center,” Lopez-Carmen said in an e-mail. “We have submitted requests for a faculty line numerous times but have been rejected each time.”

“Basically the minor exists on paper, but it does not have the resources to operate. So when we ask for a minor, we know that there is one on paper, but we want a structured minor,” he added.

Lopez-Carmen said that the minor used to be taught in the anthropology department, but since two of the professors teaching the subject went on sabbatical, the minor is now hosted by the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity, a department in the college’s School of Humanities and Sciences.

Lopez-Carmen said that an attempt to get faculty to teach the minor has been denied “at least four times.”

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Kyle Friend

A senior at Cornell University, Kyle covers the affordable housing crisis for the Ithaca Voice. Reach him through e-mail: