Distinguished Professor of Geography Blasts “Outrageous” Treatment of Student Protestors in Two Letters to Syverud

negotiations

Saturday 11/15/14

Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I have been at this university for 18 years.  I have never seen nor heard anything as outrageous as today’s refusal to let students occupying — or as your administration liked to put it, merely “keeping presence in” — Crouse Hinds talk with trained lawyers about their legal status.

I fully understand the Syracuse University is a private institution and the students are on private property and so that it is within your corporate right to deny access to these students almost as you wish.  That does not make it right – not even close.  As a lawyer, one would assume you would have great respect for not just the right, but more importantly the necessity, of legal counsel.  Clearly you have availed yourself of it regularly for the last two weeks.  To deny it to the students “keeping presence” in Crouse Hinds beggars belief. Desist now.  Let students meet with legal advisors of their choice.

Sincerely,

Don Mitchell
Distinguished Professor of Geography

Thursday 11/13/14

Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I am writing to express my full support for THE General Body and their actions.  These students have done more to advance discussion about what makes a truly good education and a truly good university than any other initiative, intervention, committee, or “ideation” exercise that I have seen in 18 years at SU (and I have seen a lot of them).

While I appreciate the detailed response you sent out last night, I agree with THE General Body that your administration has yet to satisfactorily address many of the key issues.  I am particularly concerned about the continuing erosion of shared governance at the university.  As you may know, I was the co-chair of the ad hoc committee on promotion, whose recommendations the Board of Trustees adopted.  I find this adoption unacceptable.  The University Senate — the deliberative body of the faculty, staff and administration — carefully considered the recommendations we made, rejected one of them as not being in the interest of the institution as a whole, and presented a quite viable alternative.  This is precisely how the process is meant to work.  And yet the Board of Trustees simply discarded the will of the university and imposed its own will instead.

I served as the faculty representative to the Board of Trustees for two years.  I developed a very clear understanding of the symbiosis between administration interests and Board actions.  It is inconceivable that the Board of Trustees would have rejected the will of the Senate without the support of your administration, which suggests you are willing to override he collective will of the combined faculty, staff, and administration when you so choose.

Among all their concerns, it is this sense of imperiousness in decision-making that rankles students — and many of us faculty — the most.  I have noted your many promises to “do better” by way of consultation and decision-making.  Please begin by honoring your administration’s promise to meet with the students occupying the lobby of Crouse-Hinds and affirming that instead of “final,” the written message you distributed yesterday evening is an important milestone towards on-going resolution of the many concerns about the functioning of this university that so many of us have.

Sincerely,

Don Mitchell
Distinguished Professor of Geography

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