Category Archives: In Solidarity

Statements of solidarity from faculty, alums, and community members

#WakeUpSULaw: THE General Body Calls on SU Law to Stop Victim-Blaming & Push for Better Services

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Last semester, four female SU law students were drugged at house parties–likely by a fellow law student. One student has come forward to file a formal complaint and circulated this petition to hold SU Law accountable and draw attention to critical gaps in services on campus: #WakeUpSULaw: Adequately Address this Student Safety Issue. The petition identifies several important needs:

1) For the Dean of Law to address the student body about the attacks

2) For SU Law to counter victim-blaming by shifting its focus to the perpetrator(s)

3) For SU Law to make information about campus services available to law students.

THE General Body stands in solidarity with #WakeUpSULaw and calls on SU Law–and the SU campus more broadly–to implement these recommendations immediately. The law school’s desire to keep this issue “in-house” speaks to a nationwide trend towards silencing survivors of gender-based violence for the sake of avoiding negative PR.

SU Law School Needs to Take these Attacks Seriously

Syracuse University College of Law is actively trying to distance itself from these attacks by reducing the number of attacks and describing them as off campus instead of emphasizing how the perpetrator(s) is likely in our classrooms. In an Above the Law article on the SU law school druggings, Assistant Dean Tomas Gonzalez is quoted as saying:

This is an active investigation so we are limited in what we can provide. What I can tell you is about two weeks ago we did received a report from a law student concerning possible drink tampering at a house party several miles off-campus during the end of fall semester. The College of Law actively encouraged the student to report this incident to the police and she did. The incident is currently under investigation. To date, this is the only student from which we have received a report.

While only one student has filed a police report, SU law is and has been aware of all four druggings.

Furthermore, Gonzalez attempts to minimize the university connection by emphasizing that the one drugging he is willing to acknowledge occurred “several miles off-campus.”  SU–in accordance with the federal Jeanne Clery Act–is required to disclose information about crime in and around campuses, and the SU campus community often receives “off-campus burglary” notifications via e-mail. However, there have been no notifications about on- or off-campus druggings and assaults that (as in this case) occurred a mere 1.1 to 1.4 miles from campus at house parties thrown for and by SU law students, and are likely to suggest SU law students as perpetrators. One of the survivors stated, “While all three parties [where survivors were drugged] had a few non-law students in attendance–random relatives, significant others or friends–none of the same non-law students were at the other two parties. Our house parties mostly consist of SU law students.”

SU Law School Needs to Stop Victim-Blaming

Although SU Law held a forum in response to these attacks on students, the forum reproduced the victim-blaming rhetoric that maintains a culture of silence and allows assault to continue, particularly against women. While a Vera House spokesperson–along with several people who made interventions during the audience Q&A–attempted to shift the focus to working to combat rape culture and hold perpetrators accountable, the forum overwhelmingly maintained a focus on victim responsibility. This raises major concerns for the campus community.

At the forum, a “What Would You Do?” video about date-rape drugging was shown as a way of encouraging students to intervene if they see someone putting drugs in another person’s drink. Unfortunately, the video puts the onus of responsibility on the victim rather than targeting the perpetrator. In the video, a man and woman (played by actors) are out on a first date and he drugs her drink. When he leaves to go to the restroom, the couple sitting next to them asks the woman to get another drink, saying “I wouldn’t drink that if I were you.” At no point do they tell her that it’s been drugged. At no point is there a focus on the issue of how to make sure that people don’t get drugged, not just how to deal with it when it happens. Furthermore, the video makes the argument that if you’re dressed in a “skimpy” dress, people are less likely to intervene if they see someone putting drugs in your drink–that there will be “not as much sympathy” for a date-rape victim who looks like she’s “been there, done that.”

A DPS officer presented a series of slides emphasizing the precautions that potential-victims should take, rather than making a commitment to fight rape culture. The slides in this officer’s presentation–which were labeled “Prevention”–covered the following:

  • Reporting suspicious activity to local law enforcement, supervisors, co-workers, professors, or administrators
  • Being aware of your surroundings & personal items
  • Prevent attacks by avoiding sharing drinks, watching for tampering, and not drinking anything that tastes funny

Truly working to prevent assault would mean a concrete commitment to justice for those who were attacked, finding the perpetrator(s), and actively working to dismantle rape culture. These slides–like the video–hold victims and onlookers accountable for assault and leave perpetrators completely out of the picture.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the forum was the reaction of others in attendance. During the Q&A, one person remarked that “The person writing the article about these assaults is creating a circus. We don’t even know these allegations are true.” After the forum was over, other attendees high-fived her. Hostile comments like these discredit and disparage those who are speaking out. In response, another person in attendance at the forum remarked afterward that “it is disconcerting to see a woman doubt and dismiss another woman’s experience of being drugged, particularly given the fact that these attacks are usually gender-based.”

In response to these troubling dynamics, law professor Paula Johnson drew attention to the forum’s focus on victims and re-focused the room on the need to target perpetrators: “I wonder, what would the difference be had the presentation begun with a focus on what was wrongful behavior and whatever its variation–opposite gender, same gender.” A representative from Vera House also encouraged those present to focus on prevention; several attendees followed up by stating that we need to “create the expectation in society that drugging people against their will is absolutely unacceptable” and to take these criminal acts seriously, treating them “with open hostility [and] shame.” While these comments helped to reframe the forum, the law school, DPS, and students need to take responsibility for reproducing the rhetoric of victim-blaming.

What Should the SU Campus Community Know?

  1. DPS may do investigations of incidents like this, but criminal investigations are ultimately done by local police departments.
  2. There is 24 hour help available through Vera House and the Counseling Center (including people to escort you to the hospital).
  3. Crouse Hospital does not test for date-rape drugs. However, a rape kit does include this test. The Vera House representative at the law school forum clarified that if you wish, you can ask for only the drug test portion of the rape kit (and will not be required to do a physical exam). Some date-rape drugs leave the system quickly, so get tested as soon as you can.
  4. If you have a drug test done at the Counseling Center, it is for your information only and cannot be used in criminal proceedings. If you get a test done at the hospital, then it can be used in criminal proceedings. At the law school forum, the Vera House representative also clarified that you can get this test done before you decide whether you want to file a report with DPS or the police.
  5. Ending assault necessitates a culture change. Join those speaking up in support of victims, against those who would victim-blame, and for services and investigations that support victims and hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes.

We call on law school Dean Hannah Arterian to issue a statement to SU College of Law expressing concern about the four students who were drugged and pledging to commit to a thorough investigation, ensuring that the SU campus community will be a safe place for everyone.

Please support SU Law Students and hold the law school accountable by signing the #WakeUpSULaw petition. If you are an SU alumni, the parent of an SU student, or a concerned community member, call the Dean’s Office (315-443-2524) to voice your concern.

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Letter of Gratitude from Parents to Syracuse Faculty Supporting THE General Body

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Dear Faculty,

As parents of students involved with THE General Body, we would like to extend our gratitude to the Syracuse University faculty who supported our students. You were there for them as advisors and advocates. You made sure our students had food for their bodies as well as their minds and souls. You taught them at Crouse-Hinds and invited them to your classrooms to teach others. You boldly stood up for them in the face of adversity and even protested on their behalf. Not only were you committed to the students during their 18-day sit-in, you have committed to continue standing by them – to work to ensure there is no retaliation and to stand side by side with the students to continue demanding that the university address the rest of the grievances.

Our students gave a wonderful gift to Syracuse University by breaking down the barrier of complacency and ignorance about issues of diversity and transparency, sexual abuse, mental health, and more. You gave the students the gift of strength and support. With both groups as allies, positive change will be made at Syracuse University. As Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Thank you again for the gifts you bring to Syracuse University.

Parents of THE General Body

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THE General Body Stands in Solidarity With National Protests Proclaiming that #BlackLivesMatter

a student's sign protesting campus police discrimination, from the sit-in in Crouse-Hinds Hall

a student’s sign protesting campus police discrimination, from the sit-in in Crouse-Hinds Hall

THE General Body stands in solidarity with the thousands of outraged individuals who have taken to the streets in the last 24 hours to peacefully protest the lack of a grand jury indictment for Darren Wilson, the St. Louis police officer who murdered teenager Michael Brown.

We anticipate two criticisms to this stance: first, that we should stay focused on the struggle at Syracuse University, a position articulated to us this morning; second, perhaps that it is an insult to Michael Brown and the other murdered victims of police violence to compare a campus struggle with the struggle for life itself in the face of police brutality and state violence.

To both these claims we can only say that the fights for justice on city streets and on campus walkways is not only symbolically but actually the same fight.

Our fight at SU and the nationwide fight of last night’s protesters are fights against racist profiling, institutional and structural racism, surveillance, and overpolicing; the insidious narratives of biased media; the refusal to see systemic crimes of poverty, gun violence, sexual violence, and mental illness as public health issues deserving of serious medical response; and the deferral by power brokers to broken legal channels. Active protest for social justice displays the will of community members to risk their personal well-being for collective health, safety, and change.

Universities are microcosms of the world, and student activist movements respond to the same systemic inequalities, manifested on campuses, that appear the world over. As a coalition of students, faculty, staff, and community members committed to social justice and policy change, it is consistent within our mission as THE General Body to raise our voices and join in physical protests for the life of Michael Brown.

Ultimately, our fight is the fight of protesters across the country because, here at Syracuse, we also are raising our voices to proclaim that Black Lives Matter. Students of color arrive at Syracuse having already experienced police discrimination and violence in their home communities, violence that is replicated in the city of Syracuse and implicated on our campus. We see that police violence is sexual violence; that police and war violence create disability; and that obfuscated financial transactions underlie the systemic inequalities that make such unequal power relations possible.

Today, we stand in mourning with the family of Michael Brown and in solidarity with those acting on the occasion of his unjust death for a better world. As the Brown family says, “Let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference.”

* * *

Members of THE General Body will be present at multiple events in the Syracuse area and on the Syracuse campus to protest and process these recent events.

This afternoon, SU’s Hendricks Chapel will host an interfaith prayer service from 12:30 – 12:45 PM. The Chapel will remain open for silent prayer and reflection from 12:30 – 4:00 PM, at which time the Diversity and Inclusion Workgroup will sponsor a structured conversation on the events in Ferguson, moderated by Kim Williams. The dialogue will end at 5:00 PM.

And the Syracuse community will hold a peaceful protest at noon Tuesday (today) outside the Syracuse Federal Building, 100 S. Clinton St. The National Action Network will hold a town hall meeting at 10 AM Saturday at Fountain of Life Church, 700 South Ave., to discuss the Ferguson announcement and police policy issues on topics including tasers and chokeholds. See the Post-Standard for more on community events.

Please join us at these events, and visit our Facebook page and group to coordinate with other members who will be in attendance.

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Cooperative Federal Expresses Solidarity with THE General Body

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On November 19, 2014, the Board of Directors of Cooperative Federal, a committee of volunteers elected by their fellow members to govern Cooperative Federal’s credit union, unanimously passed this resolution:

Statement of Solidarity with THE General Body at Syracuse University

Cooperative Federal expresses solidarity with THE General Body and their movement for structural changes to the administration of Syracuse University related to transparency, diversity, and safety.

Our Credit Union Aligns with the 11 Grievance and Need Points of THE General Body:

TRANSPARENCY: As a cooperative entity we uphold transparency in our operations through governance by a Board elected democratically by our shareholding members on the basis of one member, one vote. Institutions should exist to serve people, not the other way around. Our investment in Syracuse to date is over $110 million. All of our members’ money is put to work in and for the local community.

We oppose the corporatization of education and exclusion of the students (stakeholders, if not technically shareholders) and the campus community from access to budgetary information, and the blocking of the inclusion of wording that supports diversity, citizenship, accessibility, democracy, and community engagement in any mission statement. Budgetary decisions should also respect and respond to requests for an increase in library and graduate student employee funding, as well as divestment from fossil fuels.

DIVERSITY: As a financing entity, Cooperative Federal takes great pride in re-investing all of our member’s savings into the community of those we represent – highlighting a culture of mutual aid and service across the diverse membership we are dedicated to cultivating. More than any other financial institution in Syracuse, we provide services to those underserved by conventional for-profit banks – including a growing number of recent immigrants and refugees, from every corner of the globe. Most of our members live on low incomes and a majority of our members are people of color.

Our own beginnings are in line with many campus movements of the last thirty years. Cooperative Federal was organized by a group of local activists seeking a viable and radical alternative to global corporate banks, specifically at that time, divestment from the racist Apartheid regime in South Africa. We continue to uphold a mission of fair services for people of color, single women, the LGBT community, activists and other low-income or nontraditional workers; through special loan terms, Servicios Bilingues, and a “commitment to serve all members fully”.

SAFETY: As an entity of the people, we fully respect and encourage the right to a peaceable, public redress of grievances as enshrined in our Constitution and traditions. This includes full inclusion of provision for mental health and sexual assault services, accessibility for those with disabilities, and preventative measures for those identifying as marginalized, as put forth within THE General Body’s list of needs.

Each member of a community should not only have the same rights as others whom share the same equity of being a functioning and contributing person within an institution, but also the same expectations towards a system and community of services that evolves with THE General Body and the needs they identify.

Prefiguring Society with Our Own Lives and Institutions

Each member, regardless of their wealth or ability, has an equal vote and an equal share in our success at Cooperative Federal, a model which we believe is key to a system that works for people, not for profit. Private educational organizations can take steps within their investments, campus services, and charter to ensure that they include such values as well.

Based on this belief and our record of engagement and service, Cooperative Federal proudly expresses our support for THE General Body at Syracuse University, and student movements everywhere against discrimination, unequal privilege, and lack of student community access to administrative redress. We honor the students fighting to demonstrate another way is possible within our current society, and stand with you throughout this work in progress.

In cooperation and solidarity,

Frank Raymond Cetera, President
Cooperative Federal
Syracuse’s Community Development Credit Union

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Letter of Solidarity from Colgate University Students

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To THE General Body and students of Syracuse University,

As you enter the next stage of your protest after spending 18 consecutive days in Crouse-Hinds Hall, we salute your resolve, and we, at Colgate University, stand in solidarity with you and your movement for change on your campus. We wholeheartedly support your ongoing battle and we are outraged at the complete lack of respect and dignity the Syracuse University administration has shown THE General Body. We are disheartened by the University’s lack of response to your reasonable and necessary demands. You are fighting for the safety, health, inclusion, and security of all Syracuse students and your fight has not gone unnoticed. Your struggle is our struggle.

Our admiration for your dedication runs deep. We too are strongly against the changes made in the Fast Forward platform, and agree with you that Syracuse University needs to re-wind and focus on creating an open environment for students of all backgrounds. We support your fight for campus accessibility, divestment from fossil fuels, a positive and safe sexual climate, inclusivity and transparency, attention to mental health services, the celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day and an overall environment that benefits students of all backgrounds.

We stand firmly against the actions of the Syracuse University administration, which has locked students in over the weekend, put in barriers to block student visibility, stationed security guards at the space, and taken other steps to block justice and the right to freedom of assembly. At our own sit-in, we first-hand experienced the importance of this right and are appalled at what has been happening during THE General Body’s movement. As we are still in the process of an ongoing and long struggle to transform the climate of Colgate University, it should be noted that our struggles are part of a general struggle to transform education from its corporate model to a democratic and equal one.

Individuals must work together to combat systemic and cultural oppression and marginalization. We are inspired by your efforts and send you solidarity and support as your movement continues.

In solidarity,

Association of Critical Collegians
Black Student Union
Clean Water Coalition
Hamilton Center for the Arts
International Socialist Organization
Oxfam America at Colgate University
Students for Justice in Palestine

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Letter of Solidarity to the University of California Community

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To the University of California community,

Today, we write to you in solidarity. As we left the Syracuse University administrative offices and our 18-day sit-in ended, yours began. We echo your cries for justice — they ring in our ears.

Your struggle did not begin today; it is laden with histories of silence and violence. Ours did not end today; as we move into our next phase of activism, we are cognizant of the mountain before us. There will always be more work to do.

Your bodies are your weapons and your shields. As you use them to fight for your education, please remember to love them. They will not be loved, respected, or regarded by those who try to speak over your voices. You must be louder than them. You may walk away with new scars, but do not forget that your bodies are already the sites of violence and oppression. Audre Lorde once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.

Be strong, and know that we sit with you.

In solidarity,

THE General Body
Syracuse University

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The Movement Continues

A video of Paula Johnson, SU Professor of Law, speaking at today’s press conference before the closing of the sit-in.

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