Dear Chancellor Syverud,
We are writing you as alumni of Syracuse University, and soon-to-be alumni, to express our deep concern about your leadership of Syracuse University, a university we chose to attend because of its academic and ethical excellence. During our time as graduate students there, we experienced SU as a place where we did not just learn about the topics we chose to study, but where we were also encouraged to think critically; our commitment to social justice was thus valued and fostered. The commitment to social justice was not only valued as necessary for the world but also as part of academic excellence within the university.
We collectively denounce the decisions you and your administration have agreed to, which have negatively affected people of color, women, people with disabilities, other minorities, and the environment. The closing of the Advocacy Center; defunding the POSSE program; the lack of an advocate, not simply an ADA coordinator, for students, faculty, and staff with disabilities; the refusal to divest from fossil fuels and approve tenure and promotion policy despite the mandate from the student body are our major grievances.
In the wake of the recent decisions to not indict officers for the killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Aiyana Jones, it is glaringly obvious how much work we have to do before institutional racism is eliminated. We find it deeply disturbing that this institution of Syracuse University, which was making important strides to address the pervasive and structural inequality on the campus of SU as well as in the city of Syracuse, has backtracked under your leadership.
We collectively ask you, is this really “leadership”? Teaching students with your example to unquestioningly obey authority, to be passive in the face of injustice, to ignore structural and institutional problems and violence? We denounce not only the message you and your administration have sent via the above-mentioned actions, but your concrete actions that have gone against the basic rights of the students. We denounce using force, surveillance and intimidation tactics to respond to students who participated in the sit-in and contacted you about these issues, denying the General body legal counsel, etc.
Many of us are now professors in other universities and we have watched the students at our alma mater, accompanied by many of our respected professors, do what is every educator’s dream – apply their knowledge and put themselves on the line to demand what they know to be right. The sit-ins at SU have ended, and we applaud the increase in TA pay, the agreed-to search for an Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator and the additional 11 student positions to 7 Fast Forward workgroups. We applaud the activism of the students, faculty and staff who have collectively demanded and negotiated these changes and we recognize your role in accepting them.
But we say to you – there is more to be done. We wish to send you and your administration a clear message that your alumni are watching. Not just the ones who have signed this letter, but many others who support what we have stated in their own way. Our interactions with the university will depend on how these issues continue to be addressed. We hope that you will rethink what it means to lead a university, the history and trajectory of Syracuse University in particular, and the opportunity and responsibility that the university has to work to eliminate institutional and structural inequality.
Dana Hill, PhD 2014, Gender Consultant, Ecuador, Adjunct Professor
Jesse Harasta, Ph.D. (’13), Visiting Professor, Cazenovia College
Alexandria Barabin Harris
Tina Catania, M.A. (’10), PhD Student, Geography Department
Anya Jacobson Stranger, PhD candidate Social Science
Holly Kathryn Norton, PhD 2013 106 Compliance Manager, Colorado Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation
Kassahun H Kebede, PhD 2012 Assistant Professor, Southwestern Oregon College
Laurah E. Klepinger-Mathew, PhD Candidate, Anthropology Department, and LEO Lecturer, University of Michigan, Flint
Zachary J. M. Beier, PhD Candidate, Anthropology Department, and History and Archaeology Department at The University of the West Indies at Mona, Kingston Jamaica
Lauren Hosek, PhD Candidate, Anthropology Department, and Adjunct Lecturer SUNY Brockport.
Carolina Arango-Vargas, PhD candidate in Anthropology
Hayley Marama Cavino, PhD candidate in Cultural Foundations of Education
Madhura Lohokare, candidate for PhD, Department of Anthropology, Syracuse University
Lindsey Kingston, Assistant Professor of International Human Rights at Webster University
Vivek Srinivasan, Stanford University
Liz Mount, candidate for PhD, Sociology Department, Syracuse University
Heather Pincock, Assistant Professor of Conflict Management, Kennesaw State University
Katie J. Wells, Virginia Tech
Payal Banerjee, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Smith College
Emily Billo, SU Alum, Dept. of Geography, PhD, 2012.
Umut Ozkaleli, Assistant Professor, Zirve University
Linh Nguyen, PhD Candidate in Anthropology