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.
THE General Body