Category Archives: Updates

Updates on recent events

Join THE General Body Tomorrow to Support Reverend Dexter

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Local community and religious leader Dr. Rev. Lemorris Dexter is currently in jail awaiting sentencing on bogus charges incurred after police attacked him and his wife, Alisha, in their front yard on Jan. 4, 2014. He is facing up to one year in jail for “obstructing governmental administration” and “disorderly conduct.”

Rev. Dexter leads the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church and is the President of the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He is a tireless advocate for poor and oppressed people from all walks of life.

Rev. Dexter was targeted because he is an outspoken leader who doesn’t back down in the face of intimidation. But this isn’t just an attack on one man, it’s an attack on an entire community.

Please join us as we gather to support Rev. Dexter on the Friday before his sentencing at 12 p.m. outside the  Onondaga County “Justice” Center at 555 S. State St. THE General Body will meet at Hendricks Chapel on the SU campus at 11:15 a.m. to walk there together. See the Facebook event here.

This event is being supported by: Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Syracuse Answer Coalition, THE General Body, and more.

For more information, or to endorse this action, please contact syracuse@answercoalition.org.

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Message to SU Graduate Program Directors Regarding the Changes to Health Care

In light of the recent changes to graduate students’ health care, we, THE General Body, feel it is important to be transparent with current, potential, and incoming students about these changes. As it stands, the administration has, without consulting students, changed graduate teaching, research, and other assistants’ employee health coverage from the employee plans to the student plans. The administration has sent a message to incoming graduate students suggesting that the plan is an improvement. This is false; the new plan’s benefits are currently unknown and we cannot say whether they will be better than the employee plans. For those of us who were recruited on different terms, we are now seeing an unexpected increase in our expenses, an increase that will hit people with chronic health conditions, people who have children, and lower-income graduate students particularly hard. It also devalues the work of graduate employees.

We have seen the Associate Dean of the Graduate School’s April 3 letter to prospective students alerting them of these changes, but we are concerned that the letter is not transparent about the additional cost and hardship that will be incurred by students. The available information is vague and sometimes contradictory; we have attempted to get a sense of some of the costs that students will incur from this new plan:

  • Under this plan, graduate employees will be forced off of the employee plan and onto the student plan
  • International students report that the student plan will cost $700/year more per person and there will be benefit reductions
  • There is no vision or dental coverage in the new plan
  • The new plan costs $1890 a year for a current single student with no children. According to GSO members, the cost increase (including tax implications) is about $856 more per year
  • A TA with a spouse and two children on their insurance would pay up to $4,615 more for this plan
  • If we understand the university’s FAQ correctly, for new domestic students entering in Fall 2015 and voluntarily purchasing the Aetna plan, their sum will be $2,742.
  • The plan necessitates both co-pay and co-insurance  (a percentage of the procedure, test, etc. paid out of pocket). At the GSO meeting, one student said he needed 4 MRIs this year. This cost him $40 each in co-pay. With the new plan, he said it would cost him between $500-600 per MRI.

According to an e-mail from GSO President Patrick Neary sent April 3, 2015, the agreement has already been signed with AETNA. The GSO has publicly censured the administration for this unilateral decision, and this Wednesday, graduate students and faculty allies will be meeting to discuss unionizing in response. THE General Body is also organizing meetings and actions in response.

As graduate director, you could potentially make a public impact by voicing your opposition to this undemocratic, nontransparent change, which clearly does not have student interests in mind. It’s clear that the administration wants to make it more difficult for students who do not have a significant financial safety net to attend graduate school. As you know, this seriously compromises the diversity and strength of our programs, and potential to recruit students. Along with graduate students in other departments, we urge you to speak out against this blatant injustice by making a public statement, urging the department to make a public statement, and supporting the GSO’s censure of the administration.

In addition to taking a public stand on this issue by writing a statement of support, we ask that you alert your department’s current and prospective students to these changes immediately. You can assure the prospective students that we will be working to support graduate students’ rights to quality healthcare and sustainable financial security.

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GSO Censures the Administration for Changes to Health Care Plan

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April 2, 2015
Graduate Student Organization
216 Bowne Hall

Dear Chancellor Syverud:
On April 1st, 2015 the Senate of the Graduate Student Organization voted unanimously to censure the university leadership for its actions surrounding the recently announced changes to student health insurance. The Senate is appalled at the lack of transparency leading up to this decision, particularly the lack of announcements to those it would impact as the requirements and plans were being constructed.

Additionally, the Senate is outraged that this decision process, one that materially affects students in a substantial manner, did not involve students prior to when a final decision was reached. The GSO insists the University include students in university policymaking, particularly when it impacts students to a large degree.

The Senate calls for all graduate teaching, research, and other assistants employed by the University to remain eligible for the employee health insurance plans, as they have been in this and past years. We censure the university leadership for moving to take this benefit away from all graduate assistants. The GSO is committed to maintaining employee insurance plan eligibility for all these students, regardless of degree type or other categorization. Graduate teaching, research, and other assistants are core to the
instructional and research mission at Syracuse University, comprising up to one-third of the full-time equivalent instructional personnel. The university devalues and demeans the work these students perform by not recognizing them as eligible for employee health benefits. The current plan also presents severe cost increases and an unacceptably unclear benefits picture if it were to go forward, including questions about dental coverage and a total lack of vision coverage. The university needs to send a clear message that it will not diminish the insurance benefits to these students.

The Senate is alarmed at the substantial confusion and cost increases for international students that the new health insurance requirement has created and censures the university leadership for its role in creating this confusion and cost increase. Students across the university are still awaiting a complete plan description, full justifications for the move away from the HTH insurance plans, and a full explanation of the necessity to raise costs for most international students by approximately $700 annually. International students require further information concerning how the new Aetna Student Health Plan will interface with their requirements as international students studying in the US. The GSO insists this information be made public and no further actions are to be taken to implement this plan without GSO Senate input.
Graduate Student Organization Senate

PDF of letter available here.

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Good News, But More Work to Do: A TGB Update

We have exciting news and a lot more work to do. First, our next meeting is this Thursday April 2 at 8:30 p.m. in Hall of Languages 500. Please join us as we continue to gather momentum and take action as we near the end of this semester. Your thoughts will be helpful! We need to continue to work to apply pressure in many ways so that we can continue to work in solidarity to get real, collaborative change at SU.

Things to celebrate:

1. Thanks to dedicated student activism, especially with a combination of Divest-SU/ESF and THE General Body, SU officially announced it is divesting from direct investments in fossil fuel. The New York Times and Democracy Now! picked the story up. Obviously, a lot more needs to happen to stop/slow climate change, and the university is still invested in mutual funds which invest in fossil fuel, and still maintains a fairly environmentally unsustainable infrastructure, but it still shows that activism works.
2. We have also noticed that the Chancellor seems to be making tiny steps towards at least talking a good talk about ending sexual assault, relationship violence, and gender-based violence at SU. This is directly related to our hard work, though we need to see A LOT more REAL change, and REAL MONEY going into this. Take Back the Night was incredible this year, as always, but a reminder of how widespread rape and sexual assault are, at SU/ESF, and elsewhere.
3. The ADA Coordinator Hiring Committee is making progress and interviewing final candidates, however, there is some dissent and problems about how this committee has proceeded.
4. The GSO has asked Chancellor Syverud to do an actual, not just a pretend, investigation of how his administration and DPS treated TGB during the sit-in.

And yet…

Think of all the things the Chancellor is NOT addressing. We have noted again and again, for instance, that he continues to ignore anything to do specifically with students, faculty and staff of color, and/or GLBTQI students.

Next Steps/ACTION:

Yesterday, we contacted the Chancellor to request he meet in a public, open manner, with THE General Body, to continue the dialog and work the administration has claimed to want to work on (see our letter here). We have yet to hear a reply of any kind. 

When (if) we do secure a meeting time with the Chancellor and his administration, we will send a call-out email and post on the blog so we can have as many people there as possible. There will likely be other actions this semester, too!

In TGB structural news:

We have begun a “steering committee” to try to keep things as democratic as possible, while keeping a clearer sense of ‘power’ and communication. This steering committee will rotate out who wants to be on it. There’s definitely more room for those who might want to be part of it! Come to a meeting, or email THEgeneralbody@gmail.com, if you want to be on this more nuts and bolts sort of planning work.

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An Update on the Unjust Arrest of Reverend Dexter

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Right now, Reverend L. Micah Dexter is sitting behind bars at the Onondaga County “Justice” Center. Last week he was convicted of “obstructing governmental administration” by an all-white jury after the police and district attorney’s office railroaded him in court. Rev. Dexter and his wife Alisha were beaten by police officers at their home Jan. 4, 2014 (you can read more background here). His wife, Alisha, was convicted of “resisting arrest,” and she was released on her own recognizance, and is currently caring for their children.

All inmates at the jail have to receive a tuberculosis test. Rev. Dexter was not offered this test and, as a result, he was denied visitation rights for several days. Finally, on Wednesday, he was able to receive the test.

Over the last week he has been able to make phone calls. He wants everyone to know that he is in good health and spirits. He continues to remain defiant in the face of injustice.

As it stands, we are still unsure when exactly his sentencing hearing will be, but it will take place either April 13 or 14. Rev. Dexter and his supporters are asking for a public presence at the sentencing.

We are also in the process of organizing a demonstration in support of Alisha and Rev. Dexter. This will take place prior to his sentencing.

A member of THE General Body will be visiting Rev. Dexter on Monday, and will have another update at that time.

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Stay Tuned for January 2015 Open General Body Meeting

THE General Body has rescheduled its open meeting until early in the Spring semester.
Students are busy this week, and we want to make sure that the meeting is accessible to as much of the student body as possible. Stay tuned for details.
In the meantime, if you want to get involved, e-mail TheGeneralBody@gmail.com — there is a lot of work to be done!

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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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