Dear Chancellor Syverud,
I wrote to you last week expressing my concern about students being locked-in Crouse-Hinds over the weekend and the rules being reinforced about them coming and going and also being visited by faculty as well as meeting basic medical or self-care needs. I didn’t hear back from you about that letter, although I did hear back from Provost Spina and Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz when I wrote them. Now I’m writing to you again about a related matter.
Many faculty received a letter yesterday from Law Professor Janis McDonald informing us that the General Body students who are sitting-in Crouse Hinds were not allowed to speak with her when she came to consult with them about legal matters. This is an unfortunate situation given the fact that they were hand-delivered letters the night before saying they are in violation of three items pertaining to the SU Student Code of Conduct. Understandably they are going to want to consult legal representatives upon receiving such letters.
As an attorney/Law Professor as well as our Chancellor, you are fully aware of what this situation might mean for these students and how they might be feeling about it. Even as I understand that the university would like the General Body protestors to leave the building and has stated that there will be no more negotiations about the demands document, I urge you to think about the emotional stress the students are under and the signal this sends them to be denied face-to-face consultation with legal representatives this weekend.
I urge you to allow the General Body students in Crouse-Hinds the opportunity to speak to legal representatives this weekend. It seems inhumane not to allow them to do that in a face-to-face setting. Yes, I understand there are rules about the building over the weekend and that no one goes out or comes in, but this seems like a basic human right to consult their lawyers. Even maximum security prisons allow prisoners to speak with their lawyers at pre-designated appointments. Could you allow a window of time for that consultation today?
This situation may eventually drive some students from the building and perform a sort of psychological warfare tactic, but it’s a rather shocking tactic for SU to use, and it’s surprising to see it happening. We look to you, Chancellor Syverud, to be our institutional leader, but also our ethical leader and our leader in matters connected to your field of study and practice. You have a wonderfully long and distinguished track record of accomplishment on a variety of important legal questions and matters. This decision just doesn’t seem like it squares with that long and distinguished track record, and it certainly doesn’t square with the values many of us deeply hold at SU. I am hoping you will let the students talk to their legal representatives face-to-face today. The whole SU community here and across the globe is watching and hoping for the best.
Eileen E. Schell
Associate Professor, Writing