After Ithaca Students Demanded Diversity Forums, Nobody Actually Showed Up

Posted: Sep 20, 2016 7:20 PM

Last year at Ithaca College, students held a walk-out to protest racism on campus and to express displeasure with how the school's president was handling diversity issues. The school eventually organized a "diversity and inclusion" discussion group to address student concerns. This year, however, school administrators have a new concern. Nobody is going to them.

Faculty and staff are looking for ways to ramp up student interest in the college’s weekly diversity and inclusion discussion groups. These groups were created in response to student protests last fall to address complaints about the administration’s lack of emphasis on diversity and inclusion. However, students do not seem to be attending the discussion groups.

A group of representatives at the college organized the first of these Diversity and Inclusion Circles in November — led by Gerald Hector, previously the Vice President for Finance and Administration. The goal was to create a space for individuals from different backgrounds at the college to come together and discuss issues of race and inclusion.

Jaimie Voorhees, assistant to the vice president for finance and administration, took over as the lead facilitator of the group earlier this academic year.

“This group cares about making the college better,” Voorhees said. “I think one of the more important ways it is doing that is taking the taboo out of talking about race.”

However, a lack of participation from the student body has disappointed those involved. Virgilio Pinto, Interlibrary Loan lending coordinator, is a more recent regular attendee of these meetings and said he has also noticed the absence of students.

“The group is open to students, faculty and staff,” said Pinto. “But unfortunately, we haven’t seen many students at these meetings.”

At the Sept. 4 meeting, out of approximately 30 participants, none were students. The following week at the Sept. 11 meeting, there were fewer members present and still no students.

Curious. It seems odd that students would do so much protesting, and then effectively give up when the new academic year began. What gives?