Dear Campus Community,
Prompted by a classroom incident that took place earlier this semester, our students in the Department of Theatre Arts have sent a powerful message that they will no longer accept an atmosphere that allows hurtful and derogatory words and behaviors to go unchecked and without consequence. They are demanding that this institution both acknowledge this culture and take action to bring it to an end.
This morning, I joined with many members of the administration, including President Shirley M. Collado and School of Humanities and Sciences Dean Melanie Stein, in walking the hallways of Dillingham Center to bear witness to student statements about their classroom experiences. These statements were poignant, powerful and painful.
I acknowledge to these students and to the entire campus community that we have collectively fallen short in creating an affirming and welcoming environment for all. We recognize that this is not an isolated issue just within theatre arts or the School of Humanities and Sciences. It transcends individual departments and schools, affecting everyone who studies and works at Ithaca College.
Earlier this week, I convened a group of nearly two dozen leaders representing a broad spectrum of the campus—including deans, faculty, and student affairs and campus life team members—to reflect on our core values and the underlying issues that have brought us to this point. Two words kept coming up over and over in our discussion: accountability and responsibility. I have tasked these leaders with helping to develop and put into place an action plan that holds this institution accountable and responsible for turning our words into meaningful actions.
They will build on the momentum of the strategic plan’s Campus Climate action group, in support of our efforts to become a national model for colleges committed to the values of diversity, equity and inclusion. Actions could include policy review and revisions, training for new and returning faculty, and expanding opportunities for hard conversations among and between the faculty, administration, staff, and students about how to be better when it comes to dealing with issues of race.
I applaud our students for speaking out, and invite all who wish to engage on this issue to continue to let us know when and where we fall short. We hear you, we support you, and we learn from your example.
La Jerne Terry Cornish
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs