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THE General Body to Hold Press Conference Tuesday at 4 PM

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O​n T​uesday, April 7 at 4 PM,​ s​tudents from THE General Body will hold a press conference o​n Syracuse University’s campus in the Hall of Languages, Room 500. This press conference comes on the heels of THE General Body’s most recent request for a meeting with the Chancellor, which was denied on Friday night.

Join the Facebook event here.

“Despite the fact that students sat in for 18 days in November, and the Chancellor’s repeated public claims that his administration is consulting with students, in fact we have had no direct contact since November 12, 2014,” said Becca Glaser,​a​n organizer with THE General Body.

Students from THE General Body have continued to organize since the sit­in ended, with some significant gains. Following a two­year student campaign and an 18­day sit­in by THE General Body last November, Syracuse University made l​ocal, ​n​ational,​ and i​nternational news this week for becoming the​ largest university in the world​ to prohibit direct investments in oil, gas, and coal companies.

“It is important for the school to connect dots between fossil fuel companies and climate change with their announcement, but we don’t want this news to divert attention from the other pressing social justice issues on campus,” said Ben Kuebrich,​a​n organizer with Divest SU and THE General Body. “We have to hold the administration accountable for its opaque, undemocratic decisions around the sudden closure of the Advocacy Center, the mandatory and expensive changes to health care for graduate student employees, broken contracts with student scholarships, and its failure to commit to supporting students with marginalized identities.”

THE General Body continues to push for financial transparency, a commitment to crucial student needs in the university’s new Fast Forward strategic plan, fiscal transparency, and holding the administration accountable to promises made during the 18­day sit­in. Students also continue to push for a timeline of action on issues including the need for sexual assault services in the wake of the closure of the campus advocacy center.

Download the press release here.

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A Message from Tatiana Cadet and Fatima Bangura, SA President and Vice President Candidates

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Dear Student Body,

We, Tatiana Cadet and Fatima Bangura, officially launched our campaign for the 2015-2016 Student Association Presidency on Monday March 30, three weeks before elections.

We were moved to act and organize after reviewing the other Student Association (SA) presidential tickets, Aysha Seedat and Jane Hong, and Abell and Dawson, and now others. We are not confident that their platforms adequately reflect the needs, wants and safety of students of all backgrounds and identities here at SU. Their platforms only address student issues on a surface level and do not venture to truly analyze the causes and effects of the current student experience at Syracuse University, neither do their platforms ask for input from the student body.

As SA President and Vice President, we will address and push back against the rise in tuition. We will strive to build and strengthen the relationship between student organizations and the Syracuse City community. We will improve the relationship between SA and the student body. We will address the feelings of insecurity and fear of students at SU and take steps to eradicate this fear. We will accomplish these goals by embracing four staple principles throughout our year-long term: Strengthen Community, Improve Security, Improve Student Association and Address Your Student Issues.

Fatima and I are not interested in making false promises or saying all of these things just to get elected. These are values and goals that we have been championing since we each stepped foot on the campus of SU. After reflecting on our involvement in other organizations, we believe that SA, the organization with the strongest relationship and direct line of communication to the administration, is the perfect place to continue launching efforts that will positively impact every student on this campus.

We have developed a few plans of action to begin taking steps to solve these student issues, but we also want to continue to develop and embrace some of the resources and programs SA has already implemented thanks to the hard work of students in SA.

Other important issues we will tackle are: the polarization of colleges, departments and programs and how it denies access to students based on their college, major, etc., the division between and mistreatment of transfer students, the transparency of decisions and information within SA to all students on campus, bias within the Safety Escort service, further action on sexual assault on campus and the ‘Yes means Yes’ policy, policies in place for the Bird Library entrances, and the safety of students of marginalized identities.

Seedat has been a member of SA for years and has done good work with the Student Life Committee, but she is disconnected from what many students want and need out of a new SA president. Instead of continuing with the current structure and exclusive atmosphere of SA, we want to improve the relationship and communication between SA representatives and students in all schools, classes and majors. This does not mean that all of the hard work she and her committees achieved will go to waste, on the contrary, we will build upon the strong foundation and resources that students in SA have built and created.

Abell’s platform highlights important issues that students have raised concern about ever since THE General Body created a document of student grievances last semester. Transparency and relations between the Department of Public Safety and students are real issues, but Abell and Dawson fail to outline tangible solutions that are not already taking place to solve these issues.

SA elections will take place the week of April 13 and will end on April 16. All undergraduate students are invited to participate by logging into their MySlice account and selecting or writing in the name of the person they believe will genuinely represent the needs of all students at SU. We believe that we, Tatiana Cadet and Fatima Bangura, legitimately recognize and represent the greatest needs and wants of the undergraduate student body at SU.

If you want your voice to be heard, write in Tatiana Cadet for SA President on April 13-16.

Your write-in candidates,
Tatiana Cadet and Fatima Bangura

What are the issues that you face as a student at SU? We want to know! Please e-mail us your questions and concerns at TatiFati4SA@gmail.com

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Update: A Message to the SU/ESF Community

We are looking for accountability from the administration. Last Tuesday, THE General Body reached out to Chancellor Syverud requesting a meeting with him and his executive team (The full text is at thegeneralbody.org). Despite having publicly stated that his administration is committed to working with us, they instead emailed saying we would be hearing from liaisons who have no relevant decision-making powers or accountability to the items the administration agreed to address last semester.

Most of the issues which led us to take action last fall have not been resolved. Unfortunately, even more issues have arisen since then, demonstrating that the administration has learned little from recent community outcry. They continue to make decisions which negatively affect the SU community, as evidenced by (in necessary abbreviation, as there are SO many issues we could mention):

  • The new health insurance mandate, which affects all undergraduate and graduate students, especially low-income students.Graduate TA/RA/GAs will pay more money for worse health care coverage.
  • The recently-proposed $495 million sports stadium, alongside claims that SU doesn’t have the money to hire additional counselors, staff at the LGBT Resource Center, or continue its original commitment to scholarship programs like POSSE.
  • No public budget proposal or timeline for implementing thedirectives of the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Sexual Violence Prevention, Education, and Advocacy.
  • Inconsistencies regarding cancellation of SU Study Abroad programs, in particular, Paris Noir.
  • The drugging of four SU Law students by a fellow law student(s), and these reported incidents’ mishandling by the administration, which has failed to provide timely and adequate information on student survivors’ rights under the Clery Act and Title IX. These reports have not yet been publicly addressed by the administration.
  • The lack of transparency and collaboration around the SU Mission/Vision Statement and Strategic Plan.

We’d like to continue working with all interested groups, including the Chancellor and his executive team, in creating the kind of university where all students, faculty, staff and community members are valued and respected–not in word, but in collaborative action. We again call on the Chancellor and his executive administration to meet with us to be accountable to items they said they would address, and come to agreements on those they ignored. Among other upcoming events, we are holding a Press Conference on Tuesday, April 7 and a rally on April 14th. Look for more information and get involved! We invite you to be part of this movement. Follow us on Twitter and check back on this blog for frequent updates.

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THE General Body Requests a Meeting with Chancellor Syverud

Yesterday, March 31, THE General Body contacted Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud to request he and other decision-making administrators meet in a public, open manner, with THE General Body, to continue the dialog and work the administration has stated it wants to work on. We have yet to hear a reply. Here is the letter:
THE General Body Requests a Meeting with Chancellor Syverud, April 7, 7pm

Dear Chancellor Syverud,

THE General Body, an organization comprised of students, faculty and staff, has had no direct communication with you since the sit-in ended in November. On November 20, 2014, the day the sit-in ended, you delivered a statement saying, “I want the University community to know I remain fully committed to continuing these conversations and working to make Syracuse University the kind of campus where everyone feels welcome and respected.” While your administration has met separately with the group Divest-SU/ESF, and while you have stated your intention to continue these conversations, you have not reached out to THE General Body, the group who researched, articulated, and presented to you numerous interconnected crucial concerns and solutions.

These concerns are each so critical that you stated during your sole negotiation meeting with THE General Body, “’they’re all important” and choosing among them “feels like asking somebody to choose between their children.” Furthermore, the endorsement and support of many of THE General Body’s core grievances and solutions by the University Senate, Graduate Student Organization, and Student Association illustrate that these are not only reasonable and necessary but that they have broad support within our campus community.

As a demonstration of your expressed desire to work with students and resolve these important issues, we request that you and your executive team meet with student representatives from THE General Body at an open and public meeting on April 7 from 7-9 pm in a location like Hendricks Chapel, Gifford or Shemin Auditorium in order to address the items your administration has agreed to do, to see your progress, and to work on agreements on the crucial items which your final response did not address, including commitments to support current and future students of color and the need for additional mental health service providers.

In your response to the GSO Resolution Regarding University Interactions with THE General Body, you stated: “As we move on in the spring semester I look forward to continued dialog with all interested students on issues that impact our campus community and the world in which we live… Although our work in addressing the grievances and demands of the protestors is unfinished, I do believe we will find common ground and expect the University will be a better place for it.” And while the recent Q&A with Dean Bea González notes that administration has been in conversation with THE General Body, there has been no communication with THE General Body itself on critical, unresolved issues after the sit-in. Among other items, we want to make sure that crucial student needs and grievances will play a central role in the university’s new Fast Forward plan. Having attended forums, been on Fast Forward committees, and reviewed the plan thus far, students, faculty and staff are deeply concerned that the administration is not prioritizing diversity, safety, community engagement and transparency. We see a university moving toward more corporate training and funding and away from education that addresses society’s most pressing issues.

Many of the issues which led us to take action have yet to be resolved. Unfortunately, even more issues have arisen since the sit-in during the fall. To us, this demonstrates that the administration is continuing to make decisions that negatively affect the SU community:

  • The recently-proposed $495 million sports stadium, alongside claims that the university does not have the money to hire additional counselors or to continue its original commitment to scholarship programs like POSSE. Meanwhile, SU administration has not provided a public budget proposal for a center which will properly address sexual assault prevention and survivor support.

  • Reports of four SU Law students drugged by a fellow law student(s), an issue that has not yet been publicly addressed by your administration.

  • The new health insurance mandate, which affects all undergraduate and graduate students, and will disproportionately affect low-income students, and graduate TA/RA/GAs appear to be getting a far worse deal than they currently have.

  • The inconsistencies regarding cancellation of SU Study Abroad programs, in particular, the cancellation of, and scholarships for, Paris Noir.

  • The lack of transparency around the SU Mission/Vision Statement.

These are but a few of the campus community’s concerns about the university’s priorities. These incidents indicate the need for continued work towards creating a transparent, inclusive, and democratic campus community.

We are eager to hear where you’ve made progress on meeting the needs of the student population and campus, and to move forward on the needs that your administration did not adequately address in previous communication. We’d like to continue creating the kind of university where all students, faculty, staff and community members are valued and respected.

Please let us know as soon as possible whether you can make this meeting. If April 7 is not an option, we look forward to scheduling another meeting time in the near future, ideally during evening hours when more students can attend.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

THE General Body

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Update from the GSO’s Request for Investigation About Administrative Actions Toward TGB

On March 26th, 2015, Patrick Neary, the GSO president, sent this letter to the Chancellor regarding his inadequate response to the GSO’s official request for an investigation about administrative actions toward THE General Body:

On February 18, 2015 your response to GSO Senate Resolution 15.13, calling for an investigation of administrative actions toward the General Body, was put before the GSO Senate for discussion. The GSO Senate would like to thank you for your response to this resolution, which was both extensive and thoughtful. We appreciate the time you have taken to respond to our concerns, and understand your letter as a token of your commitment to cooperating with the democratic institutions of our university.

With that understanding in place, there was some debate among the GSO Senate regarding your response. Extensive as your letter is, there are a few lingering concerns that the senate would like to bring to your attention. In general, we had hoped to see more insight from students who were involved in the sit in. Our expectation was that your investigation might have sought out their testimony and incorporated it into your findings more clearly. Moreover, we note that you have asserted that DPS and your administrative team were acting in the interest of student safety. While student safety is indeed an important goal, it is not clear that it is an end that justifies the means. This is especially true when some of the means, like photographing sleeping protestors, undermine the rights and dignity of our students, making them worry for their own privacy and safety at the hands of those who were supposed to protect them. Finally, there have been troubling reports of students being likened to violent criminals in administrative training. If this is true, it would have troubling implications regarding our university’s commitment to free speech, a value which is foundational to shared democratic governance and academic freedom.

Informed by this debate, the GSO Senators unanimously resolved to draft this letter to you, respectfully requesting that you take further action. In our original resolution, we asked that you arrange an open forum where the university community can discuss the concerns outlined in the resolution with you. We ask that you please move forward with this open forum, selecting a time in coordination with the GSO. We also ask that you reopen your investigation into your administrative team’s response to the student protests. We ask that this investigation be conducted by a team that includes volunteer representatives of the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty bodies in addition to representatives from the administration to ensure a balanced approach. This team should provide a written report addressing concerns about the conduct of the administration and DPS in the handling of the protest.

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Share Your Mental Health Experience

The Daily Orange is looking to cover stories on mental health and mental health services on campus and we need your help! If anyone would like to share their experiences, email syractiveminds@gmail.com. Your experience can remain anonymous if you’d like. Remember that your story is the best weapon you have against the stigma and disparity in mental health services on campus! This is our chance to get the administration to listen. Feel free to reach out to Active Minds at Syracuse University with any questions.

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Next Meeting of THE General Body

THE General Body would like to thank everyone for attending the Teach in to Act Out event this past weekend, and a special thank you to our incredible speakers, performers, and moderators! We felt very encouraged by the dialogue that took place and feel more prepared than ever to move into phase two of THE General Body.

Our next meeting will be Thursday, February 5 at 8:30 p.m. in Hall of Languages room 202. All are welcome, both TGB members old and new, or anyone just interested in learning more.

We hope to see you there! Contact THEgeneralbody@gmail.com with any questions.

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