After just four years in the job, Shirley M. Collado is leaving as president of Ithaca College, a private liberal arts school with 5,000 undergraduates where the yearly sticker price is $62,000.
The second woman and the first person of color to head the school, she aimed to prioritize diversity. While she did bring in more people of color to the senior leadership team, including La Jerne Terry Cornish, provost and executive vice president — who will serve as interim president for the 2021–22 academic year — in 2020, 72% of the student body identified as white.
Collado’s predecessor Tom Rochon resigned following a series of no-confidence votes and a semester of protests organized by a group called POC at IC. Among the racist incidents the students of color objected to: an off-campus fraternity held a party where it invited students to wear “‘90s thuggish style” apparel and “bling.”
Collado will become president and CEO of College Track, a program founded in 1997 by billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs. The program is aimed at helping underserved students prepare for college.
The daughter of Dominican immigrants and the first in her family to go to college, Collado attended Vanderbilt University after participating in a college prep program run by the nonprofit Posse Foundation, which supports groups of underrepresented students who together attend selective colleges.
“This transition will be incredibly bittersweet,” she said in a statement, “and this decision is among the most difficult I have ever made, one that I walked through with integrity and introspection.” Collado did not respond to a request for further comment.
Ithaca students and alumni objected to Collado’s decision this year to eliminate 116 full-time equivalent faculty positions and cut majors, programs and departments. The downsizing of the college was part of a strategic plan that was accelerated in response to the pandemic. Enrollment at Ithaca has fallen from nearly 7,000 students in 2010.
On social media, students criticized Collado for enacting the cuts and then leaving. Throughout the year, student and alumni groups like IC Alumni Against Austerity and Open the Books called for financial transparency. According to the school’s most recent tax filing, Collado had a base salary of nearly $500,000.
The board of trustees will “be using the time during the transition to thoughtfully consider and evaluate the best approach to planning for the next Ithaca College president.”
A number of administrators have left the college during Collado’s tenure, including the vice president for finance and administration, vice president for legal affairs, general counsel and secretary to the board of trustees, the chief of staff and three deans.
Powell Jobs wrote that having Collado is “a huge win for students everywhere. Visionary, innovative, and deeply experienced, Dr. Collado is a national education leader who has dedicated her life to lifting up others.”
Note: I am a 2021 graduate of Ithaca College.