We have compiled suggested comments you can make to the Fast Forward Syracuse Academic Strategic Plan’s comment period. They’re for pasting in the comment boxes (for people who don’t have time to write up their own comments) through the link sent for commenting on the academic strategic plan draft (they go in order). Here’s the Fast Forward Proposal. They gave the community only 8 days to submit! Submit your comments here!
- The Student Experience
In order to “sustain an inclusive, accessible campus of opportunity for a richly diverse student body, including international students, students with disabilities, and underrepresented students,” SU needs to fund programs like Paris Noir and POSSE that support students of color. Expanding important programs like Intergroup Dialogue, creating campus wide diversity requirements in academic curricula, and having gender-neutral single occupancy bathrooms in all buildings would also support these goals. Hiring faculty and staff from marginalized social groups is also important to this end. The University should give proper funding to the LGBT Resource Center, including an accessible entrance. All SU non-academic units that work to support and create community among underrepresented students should propose a budget for their optimal situation, and this budget needs to be seriously considered by the administration. Additionally, SU must at the very least maintain its current level of needs-based scholarships to allow students from lower-income backgrounds to attend, rather than move towards a merit-based program, which Chancellor Syverud has made very clear he intends to do. Additionally, hiring more mental health care professionals and mandating comprehensive affirmative consent training for all students, including graduate, would be important steps toward “[nourishing] the whole student to ensure academic, social, and emotional well-being.”
To “cultivate young scholars, including undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars,” students have to be able to afford to stay enrolled. This means affordable healthcare with vision and dental, limits on how many course sections TAs have to teach, a living wage for TAs/RAs/GAs and adjuncts, and family care for students employed by SU who have children. Providing better working and living conditions would also help “attract outstanding doctoral students.” Providing more funding for students to travel to conferences would “facilitate professional growth and networking opportunities.” Students also need to feel that they have the support of the entire campus, which means harassment and marginalization cannot be the norm. Racial, misogynistic and homophobic slurs can be heard daily on Euclid Avenue. SU must address the culture of rape at SU head-on and design materials that do not victim-blame, as the current Student Handbook on Sexual Assault does.
To “cultivate and sustain an international community of scholars,” international students have to be able to afford health care. This is not possible for many international students with the recent changes to graduate student health care. International students need more support in other forms as well. It is no secret that SU seeks to admit more and more international students who will pay full tuition; however, these students have very few support services at SU. This amounts to exploitation. Training to better prepare faculty and graduate teachers to teach international students would also be beneficial. If it wishes to address “security challenges facing the region,” the Law School should “cultivate and sustain” programs that empower and train future leaders to address pertinent civil rights, social justice, and general human rights issues. Regarding the reinstatement of the Paris Noir SU Study Abroad program due to student activism, yes, this helps “facilitate distinctive global learning experiences.” Having a consistent set of standards by which these programs run is important. Paris Noir was allegedly cancelled due to ‘low enrollment’ this year, yet other SU Abroad programs are going with as few as 8 students. Finally, the University would do well to focus more on engaging the local community by addressing pressing issues facing one of the most racially-segregated and poorest regions in the country before jumping to “expand our global footprint” by investing “in select regions that are of strategic significance to the University.”
- Veterans’ Affairs
The University’s concern with developing and enhancing research in military affairs and national security is profoundly troubling and raises serious concerns about just what type of “global footprint” SU is trying to have. While we fully support veteran support and access to attendance at SU, strengthening the military-industrial-academic complex is not our idea of “preparing engaged citizens, scholars, and leaders for participation in a changing global society.” As an alternative, we encourage the university to prioritize job-training and skills-building that fosters a commitment to equity, social justice, and accountability.
“Empowering faculty, staff, and students to address the complex demands of our communities and world” requires having better staffed cultural centers and actively recruiting students of color, LGBTQQI students, students with disabilities, students from low-income backgrounds, and indigenous students. Additionally, the University needs to make a concerted effort to hire faculty and staff from marginalized social groups, increase funding to departments that address issues of racial and economic injustice, and honor Indigenous People’s Day.
- One University
To be “recognized as a model employer” SU should pay GAs/RAs/TAs, adjunct faculty, staff, and undergraduate student employees a living wage, provide better family care, and recognize a graduate student union. The Fast Forward Initiative’s emphasis on excellence, status, and competitive advantage at the expense of any inkling of an educational institutions’ responsibility for facilitating positive social change is disconcerting to those of who uphold education as a means of fostering a more socially just society. As the Fast Forward Initiative barrels along, many of us fear SU is rapidly moving in a direction antithetical to the ideal of the University as a public good.
- Other Comments
The overall lack of transparency throughout this process has been seriously disconcerting. While the University has made an impressive effort to accord Fast Forward a veneer of transparency, on the whole the Academic Strategic Plan offers minimal concrete and substantive recommendations and reveals an alarming lack of concern for social justice issues at the university, community, and society more broadly. Allowing the SU community to comment on a condensed version of the plan that contains no tangible recommendations for change does not qualify as meaningful, democratic participation. This condensed version also leaves out many of the troubling details that were presented to the SU community during the open forum several months ago.
Responding to “the challenges of the day” means putting the need for socially-just education at the center of what it is that we do at SU. As a first step, we encourage the administration to respond to students’ grievances and needs as laid out in THE General Body’s comprehensive document of student concerns. Students had to sit in for 18 days to have any kind of input on the Fast Forward plan (of which only six undergrads were part of prior to the sitin), and even then, were only allowed in a couple of the meetings that had been going on for months, preventing any meaningful impact. As part of the Fast Forward plan, we ask that you include an explicit commitment to student input on decision-making and implementation of this plan. We also urge you to take immediate action on the four druggings at the SU Law school, which still have not been publicly acknowledged, as a demonstration of your concern for the student body.
“Maintaining pride in our location and history” means recognizing Indigenous People’s Day and taking responsibility for SU’s relationship to the city of Syracuse and global influence. When we talk about “impact,” we need to make sure that we’re talking about positive impact, not contributing to the concentrations of capital at SU (e.g., the over $1 billion endowment), which has nonprofit status and thus does not pay taxes in the city of Syracuse. Including a commitment to diversity and the university as public good is a symbolic move in this direction.
The following is a direct quote from the Fast Forward forum: “the most successful universities will change quickly in the face of these external challenges – they will be highly and continually innovative – [the] culture of boldness, risk-taking, innovation will trickle down and enrich lives of students, faculty, and broader community.” We suggest instead that SU move away from the language of trickle-down economics and adopt an ethic of reciprocity, collective decision-making (via meaningful student representation and not just in lip-service), and accountability to the Syracuse community.