What We’ve Achieved

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I’m here to tell you what we’ve achieved.

Let’s start with the small victories, the met demands: Because we were here, the Student Association president can now e-mail the entire student body. We’ve secured a 7% increase in TA pay for 2016, and a commitment to an immediate search for an Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator. Because we were here, Chancellor Syverud added 11 more student positions to 7 Fast Forward workgroups.

We’ve raised awareness on this campus. We’ve drawn student, faculty, and staff attention to the fact that the Chancellor changed the language of the mission statement in critical ways, removing language on diversity, democracy, and inclusiveness. We’ve highlighted that this is the first time in fifty years that the university hasn’t released the financial and salary data necessary for the AAUP to write its annual Z report. And by living through it ourselves, we’ve exposed the kind of policing and legal intimidating that is possible in the corporate unviersity. Chancellor Syverud, we are still waiting for you to explain what you meant by these envelopes, provided, as Provost Spina wrote, “to afford those students who continued to remain in the building maximum due process.”

These cryptic, highlighted forms suggest we obstructed teaching. But in this space we held teach-ins every day–our tenured and untenured faculty as well as graduate students brought their students here to learn from us, because, in this building lobby, we opened up space for honest and critical dialogue–something so neccessary to this campus that they had to leave their buildings to come here and learn. And for every class that came here, three more invited us to visit and speak with them.

In this space, we created the community we need to live in. But–as one member reminds us–it wasn’t all tea and roses. We created a space that is anti-racist. That didn’t mean racist ideologies disappeared– but it meant we respect and love each other so much in here that we can speak out when aggressions manifest themselves. We created a space that is anti-ablist. That doesn’t mean this space is accessible–look around, this built environment is inaccessible–but our anti-ablism means another member can speak out, reminding us to stay on the ground floor, and we will listen. We created a space that is sustainable, where we clean and cook and donate extra food and reuse our waste where we can. It doesn’t mean we have zero emissions, but it’s a start. And we created a space that is anti-rape, where forty strangers can come sleep on the floor together and be safe, respecting each other’s boundaries–

Except.

Except for the armed DPS guards who sit in groups of two and three at the doors.
Who videotape and scan our IDs for our own safety so that the Assistant General Counsel of this university can threaten us.
DPS guards, as personally kind as they may be, who took pictures of us in our sleep–the most egregious unconsentual action that took place in here.

To those of you who never got to visit, I wish we could have shared this space with you, but I’m glad we can promise there will be so many more opportunities for us to come together in the future. And we will bring into that future our new knowledge from this experience. Every day we learned the limits and the possibilities of this university. We wrote together, studied together, protested together, enacted our shared values together. We were also policed together, marginalized together, visibly obstructed from view together, legally threatened together. All of that is Syracuse. This complex and contradictory Syracuse existed before Chancellor Syverud arrived and it will exist after he is gone. But we are here to fight and to bear witness to his efforts to unilaterally shift our culture and to deny our voices in the processes through which this university evolves.

We stand before you as the bodies who get forgotten in statistics: the twenty percent of women who will be raped on this campus; the thirty percent of enrolled students who are graduate students teaching for an unliveable wage; the thirty percent of students who are of color being devalued and explicitly written out of the constitutional documents of this university; the eighty percent of students who need some kind of financial assistance to attend this school.

And lest you think that climate change doesn’t affect us here in Syracuse, we have only to look west and acknowledge the eight people who died around Buffalo in the cataclysmic snowstorm they are suffering through, to recognize that climate change touches all of us on this planet, including here in central New York.

We believe in the right of every college student in this country to go to a college that values them, that is accessible, that provides adequate health services, that is invested in the health of this planet, that values its students’ health and safety enough to take an active stand against the cultures of rape, racism, ablism, and homophobia that are endemic on campuses across America. This is not acceptable for any school and it is not acceptable for Syracuse. And we will keep fighting until Chancellor Syverud makes a written commitment to honor these critical demands.

Tessa Brown
PhD Student, Composition and Cultural Rhetoric

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