ITHACA, NY – After months of pressure in the form of protests, no confidence votes and sit-ins, Ithaca College President Tom Rochon announced his resignation. Here is how some of IC’s faculy reacted to the news.
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Professor of Sociology Rebecca Plante said she was not surprised by the announcement.
She explained that about a year and a half ago, Rochon had been speaking at a higher education conference and was explicitly asked, “How does a president know when it’s time to go?”
Rochon, she said, laid out some variables that would help him make the call. “Given the statements he made then, it’s not too surprising that is now the transition point.”
Asked if the timeline of Rochon’s resignation made sense, Plante felt that really was no “correct” decision. “With tens of thousands of constituents – student, faculty, staff, alumni – there’s no way to satisfy the bulk of them,” she said.
While noting that there are firms that specialize in providing interim officials in situations like this, she also acknowledged that the upper echelons of IC’s administration would already have their hands full. “Maybe it’s six-of-one, a half-dozen of the other,” she said. By keeping Rochon on, she noted, the administration is now forced have to straddle two sides of a line: trying to finish out Rochon’s term while also trying to move the campus community forward.
She also said it was important to keep in mind that Rochon was serving until the end of his contract, which perhaps might dull the significance of his announcement.
This brought on the question of just how much impact all the demonstrations and votes against Rochon really had.
“We just don’t know,” said Plante, “but it would be short-sighted to assume the only goal was to compel a resignation. The bigger goals were to connect the community, which we seemed to be doing.”
She continued, “We wanted to raise some bigger questions about what type of community we want to be… What does it mean to have a campus community of this kind? What are its goals? It’s a really important conversation to have. That was the undercurrent to what happened in the fall, and we’ll continue to look at those things independently.”
They “made the right call”
In contrast, Professor of Accounting Warren Schlesinger, who in November cautioned against taking rash actions, said “I think the board and the president made the right call.”
Schlesigner said he thought that the situation was handled in a “very sensitive way, showing a commitment to the well-being of Ithaca College.”
“Some would’ve preferred to see him leave sooner, but the Board’s rationale in the statement was compelling in terms of searching for a new president. I’m hoping the community will respond positively to that.”
Asked how he thought things would play out during Rochon’s “lame duck” phase, Schlesinger expressed little worry. “Governance will still function day-to-day. It doesn’t just depend on person. We have very good administrators, deans, provosts, an excellent CFO. And a new provost who is committed to doing well in his position.”
He added that this is the ideal time for the Board of Trustees to step up and become more engaged with the campus community.
Looking ahead, Schlesinger said that the next president would need to be someone with a commitment to excellent, somebody who understands the realities of higher education and has skills in fundraising and development. The other key requirement Schlesinger mentioned is one that many critics called Rochon out for: the ability is able to get engaged in the community and involved with faculty and staff.
“Not sure how he expects to lead”
Professor of Politics Asma Barlas told us, “This is bad news to me because Tom Rochon is simply going to retire at the end of his present term which expires in 2017. In the interim, the Board has made it clear it not only backs him but also some of his initiatives which many students and faculty had rejected last semester because we find them mostly cosmetic, like hiring a new chief diversity officer.”
Barlas continued, “I would have wanted Rochon to resign following the overwhelming votes of no confidence against him by students and faculty. Not sure how he, or the Board, expect him to lead a campus that does not have any confidence in him.”