ITHACA, NY – On Monday, the results of a month-long vote were revealed: over 70 percent of voting students at Ithaca College have no confidence in President Tom Rochon.
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The results were revealed during a meeting of Ithaca College’s Student Government Association. The SGA polled 6,907 students at the college. 3,756 responded. The result: 72% of the respondents said they have no confidence in President Tom Rochon’s leadership.
Over 200 students had gathered to hear the result. When it was announced, they erupted in cheers and applause.
Student Body President Dominick Recckio gave a detailed presentation including a detailed demographic breakdown of the votes. Recckio emphasized the significance of the fact that 87% of the school’s ALANA (African, Latino, Asian, and Native American) respondents voted no confidence – notable because some of the primary complaints against Rochon center around racial issues on campus.
Recckio went on to announce the SGA’s two-point plan going forward. The first part involves “Values Sessions.” The goal of these data gathering sessions was “to assess what students value in a leader, what we value in a college president,” Recckio said. The information gathered will be given to the Board of Trustees to serve as a guiding doctrine for what the student body expects from its president.
Secondly, the SGA put forth two new bills aimed at creating a system of “shared and equitable” governance. These bills aim to give the students a larger voice when it comes to administrative decisions.
Following the results of the vote, the SGA held a lengthy Q&A session. The first question asked was one that was likely at the top of everyone’s mind: “Now what?”
It’s important to note that a vote of no confidence has no official power. The onus remains on either Tom Rochon to resign, or the college’s Board of Trustees to remove him.
To that point, Recckio said that on Wednesday, the executive board of the SGA would be meeting with the chair and vice-chair of the Board of Trustees, with the focal topic being the results of the student no confidence vote. He said he hoped that the results might make Rochon reconsider resigning. If not, he hoped to convince the board to vote Rochon out.
This is new ground for the college. Recckio explained that the student government has had little to no actual interactions with the board. The meeting on Wednesday will be the first opportunity the SGA has had to meet with the board.
“We’re going to need to have serious discussions with the Board of Trustees,” Recckio said. “They’re going to have to be a little more active in campus discussion. They’re going to have to allow students into more of their meetings. They’re going to have to be a little more transparent so that discussions can be had.”
When asked if the result of the vote carried “any real weight”, Recckio answered: “I think this is worth ten tons. I think the Board of Trustees has to take this absolutely seriously.” He also noted that the faculty vote of no confidence “should help” their case. Faculty began their voting process earlier on Monday.
Recckio referenced one of Rochon’s recent interviews, where the president wondered what would be the “threshold” for him to resign. Recckio said, “I think that if 70+ percent of students at a college have no confidence in their president, that’s a pretty big threshold.”
Throughout the Q&A, Recckio frequently pointed to the college’s financials as a point of leverage. “We’re an 85 to 90 percent tuition driven institution. You’re paying for your education here.” He went on to imply that potential students might avoid the school and current students might transfer if Rochon remained, giving the board a “duty” – from a purely financial perspective – to get rid of Rochon.
Asked to estimate the timeline for the process, Recckio suggested that the board come up with an answer during the winter break. “They have a meeting in February, but to be honest I don’t think they can wait that long… I would hope January we’d have a significant answer,” he said.
Board of Trustees’ response
Tom Grape, chairman, and David Lissy, vice chairman, of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees issued the following joint statement:
This evening, the Student Government Association released the results of a student vote expressing a lack of confidence in President Rochon. As we noted before Thanksgiving, over the last couple of months, we have sought and received input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents about the right course of action in light of recent events, and we continue to do so. The confidence votes are one way for students and faculty to make their views known to us, but community members have also shared thoughts and ideas with us directly, through in-person meetings and by email.
“We are grateful to the Ithaca College community for participating in this discussion. As the discussion continues, we ask the IC community to support civil discourse and an open exchange of ideas and perspectives as together we aim to improve the college that we all care for so deeply.