Update: Summer at the Corporate University


As you may have seen in SU Today and on Syracuse.com, Chancellor Syverud and his administration have continued to institutionalize their corporate prerogatives after many left campus for the summer. You may recall that last year, soon after the school year ended, Syverud closed the campus Advocacy Center, with no warning and no faculty governance processes–and remarkably, there is still no timeline in place for reinstituting sexual assault services.

Over the past month and a half, the following major changes have been announced, foreshadowing what is at work behind the scenes:

1. Board of Trustees. Steven W. Barnes, the new Chair of the Board of Trustees is a Bain Capital director (the company founded by Mitt Romney) and serves on the Boards of Blackhawk Group Holdings (oil and gas) and Securitas (a security services company). Despite the administration’s lip service to democratic processes and fossil fuel divestment, Barnes’s appointment shows their true allegiances.

2. Layoffs/Cuts. At a Faculty Senate meeting where faculty passed a resolution to support THE General Body, Syverud alluded to layoffs happening over the summer. Last week Syverud announced via the SU Today newsletter that SU would be offering a “voluntary separation incentive program,” in which staff whose age + years of experience add up to 65 or over now are eligible for the “option” of quitting their jobs and receiving a lump sum equivalent to half of their yearly salary. Sources have told TGB that at least one dean has been instructed to lay off staff, and each department has been instructed to institute cuts. So, it appears that this “voluntary”program is one step away from layoffs. TGB received the following messages from employees who are eligible:

“I’m eligible for this buyout but do not expect to take it… I am young enough that I do not need “to spend more time with family” but I am too old to “pursue a new professional endeavor or to begin retirement.”

“Even if I did want to start a new venture or career, the time frame that they are giving staff to make the decision is pathetic… roughly 30 days and then there is no guarantee how long you will remain on payroll when you do accept their offer. The announcement reads “Separation from service dates will be determined in accordance with operational needs of the schools, colleges and administrative units and generally will be phased in between mid-August and December 31, 2015.” How do you plan your next venture with that clear as mud offer?”

3. Wasteful spending. Meanwhile, in a moment of great timing, a Syracuse.com article has announced the 20 highest-paid employees at SU, revealing that many upper-level administrators and coaches are making between $500,000 and $2 million per year. Ironically, another Syracuse.com piece cites a 2014 Bain Consulting report that revealed 200 managers at SU are directly overseeing only one person. The university will also be spending big money on new turf for the Dome, one of many construction projects visible on campus.

4. Endowment is over $1 Billion. What would you do with one billion dollars? Syverud is cutting more jobs and programs: “After his first full year at the helm of Syracuse University, Syverud has made it clear, both on and off campus, that great change is coming. Some of it will not be comfortable. Layoffs on campus and cuts to programs in the community are likely as Syverud shifts the university’s focus from community outreach back to research on the hill.” As justification, Syverud cites that beginning in 2012 SU “began to suffer a budgetary shortfall” with expenses exceeding revenues. The total of this shortfall over three years was 21 million dollars. Syverud has used this fact to justify cuts in programs and layoffs, but IRS reports obtained from the Daily Orange show that SU added 127 million dollars to its endowment from 2012 to 2013 alone. In fact, the endowment has more than doubled since 2009 (it was half a billion then, and now over a billion). So SU has doubled its money in the last 5 years but Syverud will fire people, cut programs, and raise tuition because of a budget crisis.

5. Military-industrial complex is gaining strength. In addition to Fast Forward’s plan to increase funding to programs in line with national security interests, the new law school dean is a national security expert. Relatedly, there appear to be new security cameras at each entrance of Crouse-Hinds and one above the main lobby. Who is the administration afraid of? Meanwhile, the GSO continues to push for Syverud to investigate DPS abuses in Crouse-Hinds Hall during the 18-day sit-in, with little response from Administrators.

We say to Syverud: cuts and layoffs are not the only option! Stop this false narrative of austerity, when spending is happening all over campus! We see real leadership in University of Cincinnati president Kent Ono, who denies his bonus and donates the money to fund campus and community initiatives, and at Berea College in Kentucky, which invests the interest from its endowment into operating costs and full-tuition scholarships for all students, who then work 10-15 hours per week in work-study jobs. The endowment doesn’t have to just sit there!

THE General Body also commends the work of student activists at Columbia University, which recently announced that it would divest from private prisons.

Other news you think community members should know? Share it in the comments, shoot us an e-mail, or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

In solidarity,

THE General Body

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