Atlanta alumni: SU students need your help to advance diversity and transparency

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November 19, 2014

Dear SU Alumni of Atlanta,

We understand that you will be having an event with Chancellor Kent Styverud tonight, and thought we’d write to update you on some things that have been happening at SU over the past few weeks.

As you may have read in USA Today, The Nation, Democracy Now!, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, members of THE General Body—a coalition of 50 student groups—have been sitting in Crouse-Hinds Hall for 16 nights (since November 3). Students are pushing for transparency, diversity, democratic decision-making, vital student services, and inclusive institutional change. We invite you to learn more about us at thegeneralbody.org, and read the comprehensive list of student needs and grievances that we are currently negotiating with upper-level administration.

Our decision to sit in was not made lightly. Many of the students who are part of THE General Body are active in campus organizations and working groups. However, their voices have not been heard through the traditional channels. The following issues have called into question the administration’s commitment to students’ health, safety, and well-being:

  • The closure of the campus Advocacy Center, which provided services for sexual assault survivors

  • The defunding of the POSSE scholarship program, which provided educational opportunities and mentoring to inner-city student leaders

  • The lack of accessibility for students with disabilities

  • The need for improved mental health services

  • The university’s new proposed mission and vision statements, which omit language supporting diversity, citizenship, accessibility, democracy, and community engagement.

  • The need for democratic decision-making processes involving students

We are inspired by the history of student activism by SU alumni. For example, at a rally earlier this fall we were inspired to hear from an alum who had been part of the Coalition Against Racism and Apartheid protests and encampment in 1985, when students persuaded the Board of Trustees to divest from South African companies. We are proud to be part of this legacy, and your support, evident in letters like this one, means so much to us.

YOU CAN HELP US BY CALLING ON CHANCELLOR SYVERUD TO SIGN THIS GOOD FAITH COMMITMENT CONTRACT COMMITTING TO THE FOLLOWING STUDENT NEEDS:

  1. A Commitment from Chancellor Syverud that he will not cut any more programs or scholarships that recruit and admit U.S. students of color and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

  1. A Commitment from Chancellor Syverud that he will abide by the original contract made to the POSSE program, three years of which were prematurely cut without consulting any students

  1. A Commitment from Chancellor Syverud that he will hire seven more counselors for Syracuse University’s Counseling Center, as the International Association of Counseling Services, SU’s accrediting agency for counseling, recommends.

  1. A Commitment from Chancellor Syverud that he will hire an additional psychiatrist to the one that serves nearly 24,000 students on both SUNY ESF and SU’s campus.

  1. A commitment from Chancellor Syverud to honor and implement the recommendations of the Workgroup on Sexual Violence Prevention, Education, and Advocacy, which was created after community outcry in response to the irresponsible closure of the Advocacy Center.

  1. A commitment to financial transparency on campus, including that the Chancellor provide the necessary salary data to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and that he making a comprehensive budget breakdown public–including student tuition and the $1.044 billion raised in The Campaign for SU.

WE ALSO ASK THAT THE CHANCELLOR COMMIT TO SIGNING A NON-RETALIATION AGREEMENT FOR STUDENTS, FACULTY, AND STAFF WHO HAVE BEEN ADVOCATING FOR THESE STUDENT NEEDS VIA THE SIT-IN.

We encourage you to speak to the Chancellor at tonight’s alumni event in Atlanta, or to reach out to him at ksyverud@syr.edu to ask him to commit to addressing these urgent student needs.

You can also help by contacting the Syracuse University Office of Alumni Engagement directly, by calling (315) 443-3258 or e-mailing them at sualumni@syr.edu.

As alumni, donors, and spokespeople for the university, you have significant power to help us communicate our call for change. Please help communicate our message to the administration, so we can work to implement real changes that will benefit all Syracuse University students.

With gratitude,

THE General Body

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