Category Archives: Updates

Updates on recent events

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

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 5.00.07 PM

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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What We’ve Achieved

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I’m here to tell you what we’ve achieved.

Let’s start with the small victories, the met demands: Because we were here, the Student Association president can now e-mail the entire student body. We’ve secured a 7% increase in TA pay for 2016, and a commitment to an immediate search for an Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator. Because we were here, Chancellor Syverud added 11 more student positions to 7 Fast Forward workgroups.

We’ve raised awareness on this campus. We’ve drawn student, faculty, and staff attention to the fact that the Chancellor changed the language of the mission statement in critical ways, removing language on diversity, democracy, and inclusiveness. We’ve highlighted that this is the first time in fifty years that the university hasn’t released the financial and salary data necessary for the AAUP to write its annual Z report. And by living through it ourselves, we’ve exposed the kind of policing and legal intimidating that is possible in the corporate unviersity. Chancellor Syverud, we are still waiting for you to explain what you meant by these envelopes, provided, as Provost Spina wrote, “to afford those students who continued to remain in the building maximum due process.”

These cryptic, highlighted forms suggest we obstructed teaching. But in this space we held teach-ins every day–our tenured and untenured faculty as well as graduate students brought their students here to learn from us, because, in this building lobby, we opened up space for honest and critical dialogue–something so neccessary to this campus that they had to leave their buildings to come here and learn. And for every class that came here, three more invited us to visit and speak with them.

In this space, we created the community we need to live in. But–as one member reminds us–it wasn’t all tea and roses. We created a space that is anti-racist. That didn’t mean racist ideologies disappeared– but it meant we respect and love each other so much in here that we can speak out when aggressions manifest themselves. We created a space that is anti-ablist. That doesn’t mean this space is accessible–look around, this built environment is inaccessible–but our anti-ablism means another member can speak out, reminding us to stay on the ground floor, and we will listen. We created a space that is sustainable, where we clean and cook and donate extra food and reuse our waste where we can. It doesn’t mean we have zero emissions, but it’s a start. And we created a space that is anti-rape, where forty strangers can come sleep on the floor together and be safe, respecting each other’s boundaries–

Except.

Except for the armed DPS guards who sit in groups of two and three at the doors.
Who videotape and scan our IDs for our own safety so that the Assistant General Counsel of this university can threaten us.
DPS guards, as personally kind as they may be, who took pictures of us in our sleep–the most egregious unconsentual action that took place in here.

To those of you who never got to visit, I wish we could have shared this space with you, but I’m glad we can promise there will be so many more opportunities for us to come together in the future. And we will bring into that future our new knowledge from this experience. Every day we learned the limits and the possibilities of this university. We wrote together, studied together, protested together, enacted our shared values together. We were also policed together, marginalized together, visibly obstructed from view together, legally threatened together. All of that is Syracuse. This complex and contradictory Syracuse existed before Chancellor Syverud arrived and it will exist after he is gone. But we are here to fight and to bear witness to his efforts to unilaterally shift our culture and to deny our voices in the processes through which this university evolves.

We stand before you as the bodies who get forgotten in statistics: the twenty percent of women who will be raped on this campus; the thirty percent of enrolled students who are graduate students teaching for an unliveable wage; the thirty percent of students who are of color being devalued and explicitly written out of the constitutional documents of this university; the eighty percent of students who need some kind of financial assistance to attend this school.

And lest you think that climate change doesn’t affect us here in Syracuse, we have only to look west and acknowledge the eight people who died around Buffalo in the cataclysmic snowstorm they are suffering through, to recognize that climate change touches all of us on this planet, including here in central New York.

We believe in the right of every college student in this country to go to a college that values them, that is accessible, that provides adequate health services, that is invested in the health of this planet, that values its students’ health and safety enough to take an active stand against the cultures of rape, racism, ablism, and homophobia that are endemic on campuses across America. This is not acceptable for any school and it is not acceptable for Syracuse. And we will keep fighting until Chancellor Syverud makes a written commitment to honor these critical demands.

Tessa Brown
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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FACULTY AND STUDENTS MARCH TO CHANCELLOR SYVERUD’S HOUSE

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On Tuesday, November 18, more than 25 faculty, staff and students of THE General Body marched from the administration building to Chancellor Kent Syverud’s house to hand-deliver the following invitation:

 

Dear Chancellor Syverud,

The Students, staff and faculty of THE General Body request your presence on Thursday, November Twentieth, Two Thousand Fourteen, between ten o’clock am and three o’clock pm, at your convenience, in Crouse Hinds Hall.

We wish to meet on critical university needs left inadequately addressed in your final response. These include: maintaining all scholarships and recruitment for students of color, students of lower socioeconomic status, and other diverse student populations; expanding mental health providers, advocacy against sexual assault and rape culture; expanded counseling staff; and financial transparency.

“We are sending the Chancellor our own ‘final’ response,” said General Body member Benjamin Kuebrich. “While this doesn’t represent the end of our work, the list includes student needs that must be acted on immediately.”

Faculty were blocked by DPS officers from walking up to the Chancellor’s house to give him the invitation. Only one faculty member, who had been invited to an event the Chancellor was hosting, was allowed entrance.

“Thank you for the letter,” said Chancellor Syverud. “I will be sure to read it.”

During the first negotiation meeting with THE General Body, Chancellor Syverud remarked: “They’re all important [the demands],” and to choose among them “feels like asking somebody to choose between their children.”

“This is a chance for the Chancellor to prove his commitment to the students and not just the financial pockets of the university,” said General Body member Kim Powell.

This action at Chancellor Syverud’s house follows yesterday’s rally on SU campus, where 150 faculty, students, and community members gathered under the rain to protest the administration’s treatment of THE General Body. Over the weekend, students in Crouse-Hinds Hall were issued individually-addressed envelopes containing the Student Code of Conduct and Disruption policies. The next day their legal counsel Janis McDonald, a tenured professor of law at SU, was turned away when she tried to meet with them.

The administration’s denial of students’ basic right to meet with an attorney galvanized faculty across campus in support of the students. They responded  by writing numerous letters to the Chancellor and standing outside Crouse-Hinds Hall all throughout Sunday holding signs of support.

“We applaud the tenacity and the thoroughness of the student action. They are dedicated, prepared and very organized. They are truly concerned about these issues, this institution and this community,” wrote McDonald in an open letter to the campus community. “Many of us on the faculty support and respect their peaceful efforts to procure a commitment from the administration to move forward in an integral and concrete manner with specific terms and deadlines”

THE General Body has also received a letter of support signed by the 1199SEIU, Adjuncts United, and a broad coalition of local community organizations.

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A Line-By-Line Reading of Provost Spina’s Email to University Community Members

L-R: Dean Kantorwitz, Provost Spina, and Chancellor Syverud

[Edits bolded in brackets below. -TGB]

November 16, 2014

Dear Faculty and University Community Members:

Over the past 24 hours there have been significant and unfortunate misunderstandings regarding the current situation in Crouse-Hinds Hall.

[We don’t think anything has been misunderstood. Rather, your administration’s intimidation tactics have become public knowledge and tenured faculty are outraged.] 

I want to take this opportunity to reach out to you directly and provide the following facts and perspectives:

[Thanks for your direct contact, Provost Spina – but if Chancellor Syverud has demonstrated such easy and regular e-mail contact with the entire university community, why isn’t he the one e-mailing us right now? Also, we know you can contact the whole campus community but no one else can, something we are striving to change. This translates into a very controlled message. The question is, what do you usually contact us for? Certainly not to communicate really important things like changing the mission/vision statement of this university] 

    1. Tomorrow, Monday, Nov. 17, will mark the 14th day of essentially unfettered access to Crouse-Hinds Hall for the students protesting their concerns. [not unfettered. DPS officers come in every night to cordon off the students to the lobby on the first floor, with no access to other rooms or floors. By contrast, most university buildings lock at night but students have access with ID cards and could easily permit another student to enter, could leave and re-enter, and cound enter classrooms in the buildings.] The only restrictions that apply are [arbitrary and never delivered in writing] fire code rules, expectations that have been set to allow mission-critical University functions such as teaching and learning to continue, and access restrictions to the building when it is closed. During the hours the building is closed, students have been advised that they may remain, but if they depart they cannot return until the building opens. No other individuals, unless they have prior approved access to the building, are able to enter the building during the time it is closed. The same policy applies for many other buildings on campus.
    2. During the hours the building is open, students, faculty, staff and community members have been allowed to gather, hold teach-ins, invite outside speakers, and conduct other activities not normally held in this space; they also have been allowed to come and go freely.
    3. Senior administrators including Chancellor Syverud, Dean Bea González, Senior Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz and I, along with our staffs, have committed hundreds of hours of our time and energy responding to the students. This has included no less than four exchanges of a “Demands and Solutions” document that began at 43 pages and now totals 54 pages following our extensive discussions. During the course of these negotiations the administration has been respectful of the students’ concerns, responsive to giving them answers, and we made ourselves available night and day to respond. [Yes, thank you. Granted this amount of manhours would not be necessary if unilateral actions had  not been taken without seriously considered student input in the first place. Also, this makes more than clear that you were available this weekend to make a different decision about whether to allow us legal representation and instead once again made a poor choice which you are once again calling a “misunderstanding.” How many more misunderstandings from Chancellor Syverud and this administration can this University afford?]
    4. On Wednesday, Nov. 12, a full nine days into the sit-in, it became apparent that only complete adherence to the group’s demands would lead to vacation of the building, and that the significant movement by the administration on the demands and the identification of inclusive processes for further dialog by all members of the University were not compelling to the students. [the whole rhetoric of this paragraph frames the group as fundamentalists and uncooperative. It does not acknowledge the holistic nature of the demands list, for example serious demands that the university reconsider its attitude and stance towards diversity, hate speech, and sexual assault, which it repeatedly has refused to do. It also masks the fact that we need action not empty promises or verbal displays of concern.]
    5. The final document that was provided to the students on Wednesday, Nov. 12, made clear that going forward the Code of Student Conduct would be in consideration and that any previous violations would not be pursued by any means. [Did not make clear. Rather, the document stated in coded, unstressed language that students would not be punished for anything they had not done so far.]
    6. On Friday, Nov. 14, the Office of General Counsel, in an effort to afford those students who continued to remain in the building maximum due process, provided them copies of the Code of Student Conduct. Highlighted were the provisions in the Code that might apply under the current situation. [This is a hilarious joke. SU’s assistant general counsel Gabe Nugent dropped the envelopes on the floor in the midst a group of students with a smirk on his face, refused to answer any questions as to what was inside, said “see for yourself,” and left. There was no educative “effort to inform students” here. This defense of the drop-off is absurd.]
    7. To date no students have been specifically requested to leave the building. In keeping with our commitment to provide appropriate due process, the University commits to giving the students advance notice should plans be made to initiate Code of Student Conduct charges. No such plans are currently in place. [Not reassuring. Does not address our claim that these are tacit legal threats.]
    8. On Saturday Nov. 15, a faculty member from the College of Law arrived at Crouse-Hinds Hall unannounced and requested entry to the building to advise students. In keeping with the rules regarding the closing of the building, anyone was free to exit the building to seek her guidance subject to the building rules. I would note that since day one, these students have had full access to their phones, to University Wi-Fi, and their own internet connections. They have been in communication with anyone of their choosing, including legal advisors, faculty, parents or administrators. [Recourse to arbitrary rules. What actually prohibits someone from entering a building? Nothing mechanical – it was human beings, DPS officers, who did not allow Prof McDonald inside because presumably they had direct orders not to do so. This also does not address how DPS and administrators alike have full range of the space and are constantly/deliberately listening in on our conversations. We have hours of video footage supporting this fact. Including a video of Chief Legal Counsel Dan French berating students during one of THE General Body meetings]
    9. Today and going forward, a process will be developed so that legal advisement can be provided in the building even when it is closed. As of this writing, 14 students remain at their choosing in Crouse-Hinds Hall. [An idea: why don’t you call off all DPS officers immediately except for 1 officer who will regularly patrol the space to make sure no one is being harmed inside the space. To say we are here of our choosing is to ignore the reasons we had to resort to a sit-in due to the egregious actions committed by Chancellor Syverud, yourself and the rest of this administration and your inaction in resolving the very issues you have created.]

I recognize that many faculty members have personal connections to the issues and students [demeaning and insulting; reduces professor support to emotions and relationships w/students rather than thanking them for their thoughtful and ideological agreement with protestors’ legitimate demands]  currently involved in this protest. Chancellor Syverud [where is he again?], his leadership team, and I are working diligently to balance the concerns of the student protestors, the security of the building in which they have chosen to remain and the business functions therein, and the needs of the 21,000 other students who attend our University [this rhetoric again. 30% of college students suffer from depression, 1 in 5 college women are raped, students of color constitute 31% of the student body, graduate students are 30% of total student enrollment, so this is easily more than 50% of campus that is affected by these issues. Stats via CollegeData.]

I hope you will recognize that during the past two weeks this process and dialogue has resulted in change, progress, [yes change and progress arising due to THE General Body and their efforts which the Chancellor and administration attempt to co-opt to hide their inaction and decorate their intent. But certainly we have different definitions of dialogue. We do not call a “final” response a dialogue] and a significant commitment [prove it! Sign a commitment to address student needs] by the University administration to meet many of the demands brought forth by students.

This said, it is clear that the current equilibrium is not sustainable and that all of us should be focused on finding and supporting a more permanent process for engagement [again trying to deflect into preexisting and ineffective channels whose inefficacy are part of the cause of protest in the first place].

Sincerely,

Eric F. Spina
Vice Chancellor and Provost

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