Category Archives: Press Releases

Press releases for distribution to the media

THE GENERAL BODY ENDS 18 DAY SIT-IN WITH A GROWING BASE OF FACULTY, ALUMNI, STUDENT, AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT

ending sit in

Today at 1:30 pm in Crouse-Hinds Hall, THE General Body met with Dean Bea Gonzalez to discuss six urgent student needs that Chancellor Syverud had refused to acknowledge in his “final response” last week. Chancellor Syverud had been personally invited to attend by a delegation of faculty supporters, who delivered an invitation to his home two days ago. He appointed Dean Bea Gonzalez–the former “liaison” between the administration and THE General Body–to go in his place.

During the 1:30pm meeting, it quickly became clear that Chancellor Syverud did not enable his representative to make any decisions on his behalf. “I am not here to speak for the Chancellor,” she said in response to THE General Body’s  six needs. Before the meeting, the Chancellor had received the six synthesized university community needs as a Good Faith Commitment Contract. “From day one this sit-in has asked for commitments from Chancellor Syverud on crucial student needs. I find it unreasonable and irresponsible that the Chancellor would send someone without the power to make any commitments on day 18,” said Ben Kuebrich.

Dean Gonzalez expressed a desire to return to negotiations, but when pressed, was unable to clarify what that would entail in light of Chancellor Syverud’s  “final response.”

After the meeting, THE General Body held a press conference, where senior Colton Jones announced that the sit-in would be ending that afternoon. The decision to end the sit-in follows a growth in campus pressure on the Chancellor to commit to addressing urgent student needs. Over the past week, faculty, alumni, staff, community groups, and campus organizations have written letters to the Chancellor urging him to sign a written commitment to address student needs. These letters also urge the Chancellor to sign a non-retaliation agreement, which would protect students, faculty, staff, and others involved in the sit-in from facing punitive action.

THE General Body ended the sit-in on a strong note, with a clear sense of support from the campus.  “We decided to end the sit-in on our own terms,” said undergraduate student Angelina Vargas. In addition to statements of support from alumni, students, and faculty, THE General Body has received solidarity statements from 1199SEIU, a coalition of Syracuse community groups, Adjuncts United, and Cold Case Justice Initiative and Democratizing Knowledge, among others.

At the press conference, available as audio here, PhD student Tessa Brown reviewed the sit-in’s achievements and how far THE General Body has come. Vani Kannan, PhD Student, discussed the future of the movement. Law school professor Paula Johnson also spoke, expressing her respect and admiration for the students of THE General Body, her belief that they have changed campus for the better, and her commitment on behalf of the faculty to stand with them as the movement continues into next semester.

Following the press conference, students clapped, hugged, gathered their belongings, and exited the building. Carrying signs that read ‘Coming Back Stronger,” they marched with a delegation of faculty and staff up to Hendricks Chapel, where DAT Rally was held nearly three weeks ago. After saying final goodbyes, many students returned to Crouse-Hinds to clean the building.

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We Are Leaving This Building, But We Are Not Going Anywhere

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credit: Sherri Williams

 

My name is Vani Kannan, and I’m going to talk about where THE General Body is going next.

Last night we gathered to discuss our future. The conversation went late into the night, and reinforced for me the strength, passion, clarity, and commitment to each other and to this campus that I have observed throughout this movement.

Being in this room has been one of the greatest educations of my life. The deep commitment of the people in this room to each other, to the university and to the Syracuse community, should not be underestimated.

The faculty, staff, and community support we’ve received this week speaks more loudly than any one person can.

The messages of solidarity from universities across the country, where students are struggling with the same corporate imperatives speak more loudly than any one person can.

The letters from students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members about their individual, collective, and institutional struggles speak more loudly than any one person can.

And the messages of solidarity pressed against those glass windows, which speak to the crackdown on dissent nationally and globally–scream much louder than any one person can.

This movement is growing.

This is our 18th day in Crouse-Hinds. After this press conference, we will be leaving.

We are leaving with the knowledge that what we are asking the Chancellor to commit to works towards equity, justice, and safety for every person here today and every person not here.

We are moving into phase two of the General Body, starting now. This new phase represents a growing body of students, faculty, staff, and community members who refuse to submit to undemocratic administrative policies that hurt this campus and this community.

We will continue to fight alongside each other despite the forces that are trying to divide us.

When we look back, and look around, we know we are in good company.

Now, today, we are leaving this building, but we are not going anywhere.

Vani Kannan
PhD Student, Composition and Cultural Rhetoric

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THURSDAY: 1:30PM MEETING WITH BEA GONZALEZ & PRESS CONFERENCE

ferguson teachin

At 1:30pm on Thursday, November 20, Dean Bea Gonzalez will meet with THE General Body in Crouse-Hinds Hall. This meeting is in response to THE General Body’s call for Chancellor Syverud and his administration to sign this Good Faith Commitment Contract which addresses 6 crucial student needs that were not addressed by the Chancellor in his “final response.” Once the crucial student needs are discussed, THE General Body will hold a press conference to deliver a statement about the future of THE General Body.

While the Chancellor stated he needed to move on from THE General Body’s concerns in order to address the needs of the 21,000 other students on campus, his statement largely ignores the issues that THE General Body advocates for, which are relevant to the entire campus and surrounding community. The six crucial needs identified by THE General Body reflect students’ widespread concerns about mental health services, sexual assault, and racial and economic justice. They concern scholarships and programs for students of color and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds; hiring 7 counselors in order to meet SU’s accrediting agency’s recommendations;  hiring one additional psychiatrist to serve the nearly 24,000 students on SU and SUNY-ESF campuses; improving sexual assault services as one in four women are victims of sexual assault; and making budgets and salary data transparent.

Over the past week, THE General Body has experienced new threats from the administration. On Friday night, students in Crouse-Hinds were issued individually-addressed envelopes containing the student code of conduct and campus disruption policies. The next morning, when students attempted to meet with a tenured professor of law serving as their legal counsel, DPS blocked her from entering Crouse-Hinds.

This administrative behavior has garnered increased support from faculty, alumni and parents who have been writing the Chancellor daily requesting he open up dialog and re-initiate negotiations. Yesterday, faculty marched to the chancellor’s house to deliver an invitation to Crouse-Hinds Hall to discuss the six urgent needs. Over the course of the past 24 hours, faculty and alumni have written dozens of letters to the chancellor urging him to meet with students. In response, he wrote to THE General Body to say that Dean Gonzalez–who had previously been appointed as the administration’s “liason” to THE General Body–would meet with students.

While THE General Body has called consistently for a meeting with the Chancellor, they have only met with him once. A committed and growing group of faculty, students, parents, and alumni await the Chancellor’s commitment to addressing these crucial campus needs.

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CALLING ON CHANCELLOR SYVERUD: SIGN A GOOD FAITH COMMITMENT CONTRACT

THE General Body calls on Chancellor Syverud to sign the following Good Faith Commitment Contract to demonstrate his commitment to the needs of the campus community. These six crucial student needs were not addressed in the Chancellor’s “final response” to students’ needs, grievances, and solutions. We also ask that the Chancellor fulfill his commitment to sign a nonretaliation agreement, thus ensuring that students, faculty, and staff participating in the sit-in will not face punitive measures for their work to address these pressing problems.

A committed and growing group of faculty, students, parents, and alumni await the Chancellor’s commitment to addressing these crucial campus needs.

************************************************************************************************

“They’re all important,” and to choose among them “feels like asking somebody to choose between their children.”

— Chancellor Syverud, November 5, 2014 official transcript, on describing the issues raised in THE General Body’s Grievances, Needs, and Solutions document.

Demonstrating my good faith commitment to the university community, I, Chancellor Syverud, commit to the following critical needs:

  1. I, Chancellor Syverud, commit to not cutting any more programs or scholarships that recruit and admit US students of color and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
  2. I, Chancellor Syverud, commit to the original contract made to the POSSE program, three years of which were prematurely cut without consulting a single student.
  3. I, Chancellor Syverud, commit to hiring seven more counselors for Syracuse University’s Counseling Center, as the International Association of Counseling Services, SU’s accrediting agency for counseling, recommends. The agency recommends one counselor for every 1,000 students.
  4. I, Chancellor Syverud, commit to hiring an additional psychiatrist to the one that serves nearly 24,000 students on both SUNY ESF and SU’s campus. This is in addition to the psychiatric nurse that the university is currently searching for.
  5.  I, Chancellor Syverud, commit to honoring and implementing 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.
  6. I, Chancellor Syverud, commit to financial transparency on campus, including providing the necessary salary data to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Last year’s failure to provide this data led to the Syracuse University’s AAUP’s inability to write the Z report (a critical data source on faculty salaries) for the first time in nearly 50 years. I further commit to making a comprehensive budget breakdown public, including student tuition, the $1.044 billion raised in The Campaign for SU, the amount of money spent on student services, community projects, scholarships, and the amount of money given to the university from both the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

After addressing these critical university community needs, I, Chancellor Syverud, look forward to a more inclusive governance process that includes the entire university as we work toward our common goals of safety, diversity, accessibility, equality, social justice, and democracy.

Signed,

_____________

Chancellor Syverud

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THE GENERAL BODY TO HOLD 3 P.M. PRESS CONFERENCE AS SU ADMINISTRATION ISSUES “FINAL WORD” ON STUDENT NEEDS & GRIEVANCES

Please note the location has been updated to outside the Hall of Languages, rather than Crouse-Hinds Hall.

November 13, 2014. At 3 p.m. on Thursday, THE General Body will hold a press conference in front of the Hall of Languages, where students will discuss Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud’s “final offer” on student needs and grievances. Breaking with precedent, Syverud e-mailed this document to the entire university community, instead of using preexisting channels of communication between his administration and THE General Body.

Syverud’s e-mail is consistent with his administration’s unilateral approach to governance and communication. It was received after two days without promised communications to set up more meetings from the administration. On Wednesday night, more than 20 members of THE General Body sat down as a group and systematically moved through Syverud’s comments, noting places where the administration had addressed students’ concerns, and searching for concrete commitments to action.

The administration has made real promises on several of THE General Body’s proposed solutions. Most heartening are the administration’s commitment to the search for an ADA coordinator,  a commitment to a 7% raise for Grad Student TA pay for one more year and more student representation on the Fast Forward Working Groups and Steering Committee, and the ability of the Student Association president to e-mail the entire student body.

However, there are still several important issues that are not being addressed or remain unclear. THE General Body is particularly concerned that many of students’ life and death needs have not been properly addressed. Many of the administration’s responses are vague and direct students to preexisting processes that are not transparent and disinclude student voices. Areas of concern include:

  • An inadequate commitment to details and action plan for improving mental health and rape prevention services and policies, and discrepancies in public statements from administration on the search for a university psychiatrist.
  • No agreement to do anything beyond “consider” the recommendations made by the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Sexual Violence Prevention, Education and Advocacy, created in the wake of the sudden closure of The Advocacy Center
  • A refusal to honor the original contract with the POSSE scholarship program
  • No commitment to maintaining and enlarging the numbers of faculty, staff, and students of color and students of lower socioeconomic backgrounds, nor a commitment to add hate crime language to the student code of conduct
  • No commitment to recognize Indigenous People’s Day
  • No disclosure of specific requested financial and enrollment information, nor a true re-commitment to shared governance structures, structures which we have seen continuously disregarded and overturned
  • A refusal to open comments on the new Mission and Vision statement for longer than one month, rather than our proposed full semester process of a community-wide collaboration to rewrite what will become the guiding principles for the future of SU

THE General Body maintains that the sit-in will not end without written commitment from the administration to taking concrete steps towards resolving the student body’s needs and grievances, and moving towards concrete steps for safety, justice, equity, and access on campus. The sit-in was a last resort for students, many of whom have tried to work through traditional channels for change for months, even years. Claims by the administration that they have been responsive to THE General Body and have engaged reasonably with students must be understood within the context of the administration’s unilateral decisions without student input. Further, the heavy policing of students at the sit-in, including a functional lock-in over the weekend, belies the administration’s insistence that student safety is their primary concern.

Find us on Twitter @TheGeneralBody and #DATMovement.

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THE General Body responds to Chancellor Syverud’s “Final Offer”

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After two days of not communicating with us, Chancellor Syverud’s e-mail of a “final offer” (see below), copied to the entire university community, is counterproductive to the negotiation process. The administration has made real promises, but too many responses are vague and direct us to preexisting processes that are not transparent and disinclude student voices.

THE General Body is unsatisfied with this offer and continues to demand the administration recognize our outcry against the rapid and undemocratic revision of university goals and missions. We reiterate our insistence that undermining the demographics of our student body, the mental and sexual health of our students, the accessibility and safety of our campus, and the relationship of Syracuse with its community are not appropriate or democratic ways to balance our budget.

We will be holding a press conference tomorrow at 3pm in Crouse-Hinds. A longer press release with more details of our response is forthcoming.

In solidarity,

THE General Body

To read Chancellor Syverud’s e-mail in full,  Continue reading

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THE General Body Fights for 11 Needs Imperative to the Campus Community

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As THE General Body garners national media attention with articles in USA Today, The Nation, and Democracy Now!, a point of confusion has emerged: the size of the grievances and needs document. For example, when members of THE General Body described students’ grievances and needs at a Student Association (SA) meeting last night, one SA member asked, “how can students expect immediate change when the administration has to address 40+ pages of demands?”

To clarify, the bulk of the document comprises extensive research, anecdotes, and definitions (for example, for terms like “racial microaggression” or “hate speech”). The grievances and needs themselves can be summarized in the following 11 points:

  • Opening Fast Forward’s new mission and vision statements for widespread university participation. The new statements omit statements supporting diversity, citizenship, accessibility, democracy, and community engagement. This is imperative since mission and vision statements provide guidance on how the university prioritizes programs, curricula, and the campus environment.
  • Committing to invest in sexual assault services and a community space for survivors in light of the closure of the Advocacy Center.  This includes issuing an apology for closing the Advocacy Center with one business day’s notice covertly in an email attachment, without any student or faculty input, and for leaving gaps in crucial services such as advocacy for sexual assault survivors in the summer. It also includes concrete commitments to invest in sexual assault services and prevention.
  • Increased student participation in FastForward workgroups. THE General Body calls for ⅓ of each workgroup to be students (of which ⅔ would be undergraduate students). These groups are charged with determining how the University as a whole will be restructured.
  • Investing in academic programs, scholarships, and faculty/staff representing the diverse student body and academic interests. This includes honoring the original contract for the POSSE program, which is a merit-based scholarship for inner city leaders, maintaining needs-based scholarships and programs for diverse populations, and recruiting more faculty of color and LGBTQ faculty.
  • Committing to divest from fossil fuels. This includes transparency about the university’s current investments, and a commitment to divestment.
  • Accessibility on campus. This includes hiring an ADA coordinator to oversee large-scale changes serving students with disabilities, investing in services and trainings for all students, and improving the accessibility of buildings on campus.
  • Taking preventative measures to protect the safety of students with marginalized identities. This includes diversity training for upper-level administrators, integrating diversity training into curricula, and adding a prohibition on hate speech to the student code of conduct.
  • Working for the well-being of graduate students in GA, RA, and TA positions. This includes a living wage, commuter parking, and access to open enrollment in dental health care.
  • Improving mental health services on campus. This includes hiring additional psychiatrists to meet student needs, additional counselors, improving medical transport, and establishing a mental health workgroup. The significance of this cannot be diminished as one in four students are in need of mental health services and the national conversation on mental health after the Virginia Tech incidents had other universities scrambling on how to provide better services for its students.
  • Transparency about administrative budget decisions. This includes making available a breakdown of how tuition dollars are spent, providing salary data to AAUP, and releasing data on sports team financial transactions and the over $1 billion raised for the endowment.
  • Investing $7 million in the library budget. The university used to have a great library until a move toward technology became the justification for its slow dismantling and the relocation of books. The library now functions primarily as a study space.

This evening, THE General Body submitted a complete series of responses to the administration based on the negotiations over the past few days. Students await a meeting commitment from the administration for Wednesday, November 12.

THE General Body continues to receive wide support from SU faculty and has also received wide support from other university campuses struggling with similar issues.

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THE General Body and Administration Cover Important Ground, Identify Next Steps

weekend negotiations

Today THE General Body enters its seventh day of the sit-in and continues a weekend of talks with Dean Gonzalez regarding how to move forward and map out a timetable for the list of needs. It’s time to reflect on what the sit-in has accomplished so far.

On Saturday, students discussed seven points from the list of needs with Dean Gonzalez:

  • allowing the Student Association president to e-mail the entire undergraduate student body;
  • freezing direct investments in fossil fuels and minimizing fossil fuel investments in mutual funds;
  • granting students 1/3 representation in each Fast Forward committee (with 2/3 of that group being composed of undergraduate students);
  • reversal of cuts to the POSSE contract, which was prematurely terminated in two cities
  • immediately beginning a search for an ADA coordinator to improve accessibility on campus and making sure that they are hired and empowered;
  • merging elements of the Multicultural Spring Program into the existing “Own the Dome” structure
  • implementing diversity training for senior administrators and the campus at large; and
  • implementing a living wage and improved services for graduate staff and commuters.

Pending a written commitment from the administration, they agree to move forward with the following points. While there is still  a long way to go, the following gains indicate that there is room for productive collaboration.

  • The undergraduate Student Association president will be allowed monitored access to all undergraduate student emailing. For years, students have been advocating for full, unrestricted e-mail access to the student body. Presently, the administration has agreed to vetted, bi-monthly emails; THE General Body is negotiating for the e-mail list to function like a listserv to facilitate transparent communication with students about important campus issues.
  • The Socially Responsible Investment Matters Committee will meet with Divest SU. This is an important step forward in working towards transparency about the university’s investments.
  • The University will immediately begin an inclusive search process for an ADA coordinator. This is evidence that the university is taking important steps towards increasing accessibility on campus.
  • THE General Body’s proposal to enhance campus trainings by adding intersectional trainings throughout the various divisions of the university will be taken up and considered by the university. These trainings will be conducted by Conversations Around Race and Ethnicity (CARE) and Safer People Safer Spaces (SPSS). This indicates that the university is taking seriously THE General Body’s proposals to address the lack of safety and understanding on campus, particularly for students, faculty, and staff with marginalized identities, and the necessity that social justice assume an important role in academic work.

Beyond the accomplishments through the negotiations, THE General Body has accomplished creating a space for democratic processes, teach-ins, and education around issues affecting the 25,000 students at SU and SUNY-ESF. It is important to note that this is a student, community, and faculty-led initiative, and serves as an example of the kind of dialogue and transparency that we are calling for from the administration.

THE General Body will be meeting with Dean Gonzalez today at 5PM to work through additional needs and solutions.

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Students Receive an Outpour of Food Donations and Support at Noon Rally

rally 11.8.14 at crouse hinds

Despite efforts to keep students separated from their outside support groups–including students who need to meet with their dissertation advisors–around 50 students, faculty, staff, and community members rallied outside Crouse-Hinds at noon to show their support.

 faculty staff support

Students also received food donations from friends, faculty, staff, community members and family, who made homemade dishes and baked goods to keep students’ spirits up. John Colasacco, a teacher in the Writing department, who arrived to donate food shortly after the designated drop-off time of 4:00-4:45, was turned away at the door by DPS. Colasacco’s seven-year-old  son, who needed to use the bathroom was also denied entry. But the people bringing in food bought by Dean Gonzalez came inside carrying trays.

In a show of solidarity with those who made an effort to contribute and were stopped at the door, students donated the Dean’s contribution to Food Not Bombs, which will take the food to a homeless shelter.

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Locked in to Crouse-Hinds Hall, THE General Body Pushes for Policies Protecting Students

PLEASE SPREAD WIDELY

“When we think about it deeply, safety is ultimately one of the major reasons we are doing this sit-in,” says Hasmik Djoulakian, SU sophomore, who has been sitting in at Crouse-Hinds Hall since Monday night. “No one wants to be here with lights on all the time, our movement monitored at all times. But we are here because many of these issues are truly life or death,” she said. “The General Body believes in safety first.”

Students delineate these safety concerns in a 40+-page document. They include the need for adequate mental health services, services for students with disabilities, services for victims of sexual assault, and safety and support for students of color and marginalized students on this campus.

Students Lead Effort to Keep Crouse-Hinds Hall Safe, but Face Challenges from Administration

Students sitting in have led the effort to comply with the university’s rules for their safety. In a walk through Crouse-Hinds Hall with Syracuse University fire inspectors, students were directed to potential fire hazards to make sure to keep themselves, the staff, and the campus safe.

However, regard for safety from the part of the administration remains a huge concern. After a week that saw huge campus and community support for THE General Body, students were locked in Crouse-Hinds Hall for the weekend, allowing little outside communication. Last night, for example, students had to negotiate for almost an hour to allow an outside supporter to drop off food for dinner.

The students have also been given varying rules of safety and despite asking repeatedly, they have not been presented with actual written codes. This has made it difficult for students to learn the safety parameters. For example, students were told they could have signs on 50 percent of the walls. Then, in the middle of the night, officers came by to tell them they needed to tear the signs down. “They change the rules constantly,” said MFA student Becca Glaser. “This puts us in an uncomfortable situation, where we wish to cooperate as best we can to respect fire codes while still maintaining our presence here,” said Glaser.

Students also face challenges from the active presence of DPS officers in Crouse-Hinds. The upper level administration insists that the reason there are seven security guards is for “student safety.” Yet, it is clear that DPS is also engaged in techniques which decrease safety. Students have repeatedly requested that the fire coordinator should survey the building and make sure that being locked in over the weekend does not compromise anyone’s safety. Instead, DPS and fire safety did a walk through during the early hours of the morning, taking pictures of students sleeping without communicating the purpose of the pictures or any further actions that needed to take place on the students’ part to keep safe.

For a good part of the morning, students requesting to meet with the coordinator were told that the coordinator is busy at the Dome with today’s football game. The fire inspector finally stopped by in the early afternoon and told the students they are in compliance.

Students also requested opening a room for study hours which was initially denied. We were told that we would have access to the room today from Dean Bea Gonzalez, the university’s negotiator, but as of 2 p.m. that has not happened. “We are put in a compromising position, between having spaces in order to focus on our school work and making the changes that this campus needs” said Syracuse University junior Kevin Sampaio.

This arbitrary communication along with random check-ins while students are busy doing school work has been extremely taxing on students trying to concentrate on their work. In recognition that this is a sit-in and not an easy process the students have made every attempt to comply, while trying to remain focused on the goals to bring about significant changes.

The Sit-In is a Last Resort

The students who make up THE General Body are some of the most involved students at SU,  and have been trying for months–in some cases years–to work with the upper level administration through existing channels. They participate on Express Yourself workgroups, made attempts to get on Fast Forward committees, and serve as a direct line to the larger student body’s needs and concerns. Realizing the dire nature of the student concerns and the limitations of these existing institutional channels, these students made countless attempts to communicate with the upper level administration to no avail.

“It is important to note that it is only from doing the tactic of the sit-in that we have been able to get the ear of the upper level administration and trustees,” said senior Kimberly E. Powell. “The sit-in is a last recourse.” As the students’ negotiation team works diligently at responding to the administration, the constant distractions and changing rules have made it not only difficult to get results, but made things physically taxing on the students.

“No one likes to sleep on brick floors, but we believe students should be safe on this campus,” said PhD student Yanira Rodríguez.  “We believe these are our rights as students and educators, we believe funding should be redirected to uphold these rights, that they are fundamental to a good education and the health of our campus community,” said Rodríguez.

In an e-mail this morning sent to the campus wide community titled “University Conversations Continue with Student Group,” Gonzalez writes that negotiations have been taking place over the past four days. Conversations continued on Wednesday evening when the Chancellor came to speak to students but actual negotiations did not start until Thursday. However, the administration still has not agreed in writing to address all student concerns. The upper level administration’s first responses were vague and led to only one or two actions and just mostly “considerations.”

In the preliminary negotiations Dean Gonzalez came back with proposals that by Friday had already been overridden. According to the Student Association President Boris Gresely the Board of Trustees voted Friday on what they are now calling a “draft” of the mission and vision statement. They also refused to meet with students.

Incoming demands continue to demonstrate the many unaddressed needs and concerns faced by students, faculty and staff on this campus. This serves as evidence for both the faith the campus community is placing on THE General Body negotiations with administration, and the need for an open channel of communication and flexible negotiation process that can accommodate incoming demands.

 

The General Body Waits for an Administrative Commitment to Addressing Student Concerns

Dean Gonzalez also cited the administration’s willingness to meet and have dialogue as a concession. However, THE General Body staged the sit-in and has been working diligently specifically to move toward a commitment to action. For example, the campus community cannot wait for students to have access to adequate mental health services. During the student demonstration in front of the board of trustees meeting, a reporter discussed his prior coverage of the incidents at Virginia Tech and mentioned how Syracuse University expressed pride for having adequate services in place. Yet, currently there is only one psychiatrist on staff to service 25,000 students, including students at ESF.

The upper level administration has made the same degrees of commitment and effort to address these concerns as those that led to the sit-in. They publicly and verbally say they support the students efforts, set up listening meetings and workgroups but do not take actions toward actual change. Today students have so far met for almost three hours with Dean Gonzalez only to hear that she cannot make any decisions about the issues. This is an indication that there are no “negotiations” taking place as of yet, just merely listening.

Students cannot afford to wait for a huge tragedy to be what leads upper level administration to take these issues seriously. THE General Body understands there have been many incidents already at this level of concern. Some students already feel unsafe and unsupported on this campus. “I support THE General Body’s efforts to get this administration to understand the real discrimination that students of color, especially women, LGBT and the working class, face on this campus and hold administrators accountable to have plans, including faculty and administration training, to truly address these issues so these students can thrive as scholars here,” said Sherri Williams, a PhD candidate at SU.

Unfortunately, communication from the upper level administration subtlely mirrors the kind of unsafe categorization of students that THE General body is mobilizing against. This morning, an email from Dean Bea Gonzalez went out over the University’s news service, which on the one hand praises students efforts and states respect for what they are doing yet suggests students are uncooperative about negotiations. The email also attempts to suggest there is not wide support for THE General Body’s efforts. However, the halls of the administration building have been continuously visited by supporters from throughout the campus and Syracuse community, dropping off food and joining the sit-in during the day. Faculty have also circulated petitions in support of students and conducted teach-ins attended by several hundred students throughout the past five days to help educate the broader community on the significance of these issues.  The sit-in is widely supported, as evidenced by national and local coverage from Democracy Now!, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, Syracuse.com, TWC News, and the Daily Orange, and support petitions circulated by students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members.

“THE general body is here because we have identified numerous problems at SU and are attempting to address them,” said freshman Kristen Koniuch. “We have exhausted all options, and hope that the sit-in, though not the ideal way for anyone, will lead to good outcomes for all,” said Koniuch.

 

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