Anthropology Professor and Chair Urges Chancellor to Move Forward with a Respectful Negotiation

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Dear Chancellor Syverud —

I am praying and hoping that there has been a misunderstanding. I have served at this University for 22 years, as a professor, citizen, mentor, advisor, department chair, and as a deeply dedicated member of this community. I deeply love Syracuse University. I have been proud to call this institution my home. I have witnessed many key moments in this institution’s history — from the aftermath of the collective pain of the loss of so many students to terrorism in 1988, to the rallying of faculty, students and staff in 1998 in support of the service workers on campus, to the collective amazement and joy so many of us felt together in these halls when we witnessed on screen the inauguration of the first African American president and debated the future together. These have all been moments of collective emotion and the opening up of new futures. We have as a university always been willing to debate and discuss our differences, we have learned from them and we have moved forward.

But today I feel pain and sadness. I feel that my pride in the university I have worked for for 22 years has been compromised. I do not feel proud to be a Syracusan today. I felt uplifted last week by your genuine openness and willingness to engage with the students sitting in at Crouse-Hinds. I felt uplifted by your promise to take no retaliatory action against students who are motivated — whatever you may think of the specifics — by idealism and love for this institution. I felt uplifted by your repeated recognition and acknowledgment that the students were participating in a long and honorable history of dissent.

Obviously eventually the students will leave Crouse-Hinds. The question is how and under what terms. There is every reason to believe we can move forward with a respectful negotiation, well mediated. But to act as it seems you have done today — to tell DPS to deny the students access to legal counsel — this is not the way forward. This is the way of intimidation and disrespect and fear and sadness. Please, please do not give in to those sides of institutional life. That will be a choice that will haunt this institution for years to come. Please, please choose the path of love and patience. We can do this together. The students need their legal counsel, and they need mediators. They do not need threats and the denial of access to counsel.

I pray and hope there has been a misundestanding.

Very sincerely,

John Burdick
Professor and Chair
Department of Anthropology​

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