A Message to Parents from a Member of THE General Body

Yesterday a parent asked us to respond to some negative comments made about THE General Body on a SU parents Facebook group. Jason Ashley volunteered to respond to some of the criticism. Here is the response:

Dear concerned parent(s):

I have volunteered to respond to some negative posts regarding THE General Body. I hope you do not feel as though I am invading your space, that is not my intention. Rather, I will try to provide you with my own perspective on our sit in and what THE General Body stands for.

Some specific concerns that I have seen: changes being made to our demand document, trying to stay in the spotlight, infringing on others’ rights, casting the university in a bad light to prospective students, diverting DPS officers away from their duties in other places on the campus…

Our demand document has always been a living document (and has always had timetables, those are not new), meaning it will change if we receive new information or feel that our wording does not truly represent our position. The changes that I assume are being referred to stem from clarifications of our position so that our values are fully represented and from the addition of student organizations that were not originally involved in the creation of the document. Indeed, we have received many additional demands from the SU community to add to the document that we simply have not put in, which is a very strong testament that our document, despite its length, is not exhaustive of the issues that students, faculty and staff face daily here at SU.

Further, I can assure you that the space we currently occupy is no “spotlight.” Our sit in is a last resort action meaning we do NOT want to be here, rather we HAVE to be here. If we could all go home, never sleep on a brick floor again, never have to wonder if DPS is watching over our shoulder, never be locked in a single room for an entire weekend and never have to endure the criticisms that some of you have raised, we would. However, we cannot. There are severe problems with our beloved Syracuse University, and we need to see that they are rectified. Make no mistake, this university is our home, and it is because we feel this connection to it that we want to make it better.

I have to completely disagree with the idea that we are casting SU in a bad light for prospective students. We are taking away the veil that many of us, and you, were tricked into believing. It is our duty to ensure that future students understand what they are signing up for. Services that we have a right to, that we were in fact promised upon coming to this university, are either absent or abhorrently mischaracterized. Student voices, indeed even faculty and staff voices, have not been given much, if any, credence; a shameful truth especially when SU can lay claim to a school with the first amendment etched into its facade, and citizenship etched into another.

Finally, the idea that diverting DPS officers to protect a small group of students for prolonged periods of time will endanger your child… is slightly valid. I concede that having DPS resources tied up protecting us (or watching over, you choose) may decrease the presence of DPS officers in other areas of the campus. However, your child is not necessarily safe under the purview of a DPS officer. They may (although not necessarily) be able to deter a physical threat, but many of our demands involve threats to your child’s safety that a DPS officer is simply not trained to defend against.

Combating microagressions is beyond the ability of DPS, even if they wanted to take them head on. Counseling a victim of sexual assault is not within the scope of DPS. Ensuring access to mental health services is not something the DPS Chief is responsible for. I ask that you look beyond the mere presence of an officer to determine whether or not your child is safe at SU. Safety is a very broad term, one that encompasses so much more than seeing a blue light, or a uniform, wherever you are. THE General Body is fighting for a holistic approach to student safety, so that your child will be safer than you think he or she is now, so that they will be as safe as you were promised when you sent them here.

I understand your concerns. You sent us here to get an education, to do well in our classes, to have fun, to make amazing friends, live the best years of our life with as much passion as you did, explore new areas of the world, become the first member of the family to attend university, to gain the skills to get a great job, to fall in love, to become better human beings, to respect you more, to take another step toward becoming an adult, to follow our dreams.

There is nothing more that we want than to do all of those things, yet we have found, during our time at SU (short and long), that the campus we are on must change. We did not sign up to be products of a corporation, to be voiceless, to be harassed, assaulted, unsupported, marginalized, stigmatized, scared, delegitimized, or taken advantage of. You did not send us here to be mere sheep, to simply stand by and say nothing when injustice occurs right in front of us.

We want your blessing, your nod of approval that we are doing the right thing. But, we are right. And we will fight for our rights, and the rights of everyone on this campus including your children, whether you stand with us or not. For justice is not signified by the number of people that occupy a particular side of an issue. Nor does justice necessarily come in the form of what you may believe to be normal behavior. Justice is simply the right thing to do.

If you have questions or concerns about what we are doing, please, reach out to us. Go to our website, http://www.thegeneralbody.org, visit our Facebook page, talk to us. We want you to understand what is going on, we want you on our side because it is the right side to be on. We are making slow progress toward a more just, safe and transparent community, a community you may already think we have here at SU. We are not looking to overthrow the administration, we just want to be heard, our needs met and our rights fulfilled.

If you are still reading, thank you. We truly appreciate your time.

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