Religion Professor Challenges Syverud on “Misuse of Your Power to Instill Fear and Compliance in Our Students”


Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I am writing in response to the startling news that you denied students of THE G.B. access to legal counsel this weekend. Such an egregious action stands in stark contradiction to words you have expressed in letters and emails to the university at large, and frankly it is difficult to interpret it as anything but a misuse of your power to instill fear and compliance in our students. Ironically, it is precisely this kind of sharp diremption between your actions and your words that initiated student protests over the summer and fall. I cannot imagine that this latest action will do anything but galvanize their protest, solidify their resolve, and garner increasing support from faculty.

Against my better judgment, I want to tell you that your inaugural speech in Hendricks Chapel last year brought tears to my eyes. It felt physically relieving to hear the leader of our university foreground and value pedagogy in both its world-preserving and world-transforming possibilities. I had hoped to find in you a chancellor who would carry those priorities into his leadership.

The protests of THE General Body present a most acute opportunity to enact the messages you gave us that day. Here is your opportunity to show us and show all those news outlets and non-S.U. eyes what a university is and what a university can be. Here is the place to show us how teaching can both carry forward and transfigure what earlier generations have taught us. How you respond now to our students simply is your vision of a university, in its institutional, pedagogical, and aspirational components. Please reconsider your approach and set out to meet the high bar you set yourself in your inaugural speech: engage our students as a teacher who cares for their intellectual, emotional, and practical development.


M. Gail Hamner
Professor and Director of Graduate Studies
Religion Department
Affiliated Faculty in Women and Gender Studies
Syracuse University

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