Category Archives: Why I Sit

Testimonials from members of THE General Body

We Are Leaving This Building, But We Are Not Going Anywhere

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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


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 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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Tatiana Cadet’s Press Statement on Behalf of THE General Body


Below is Tatiana Cadet’s statement from our press conference last week that describes who THE General Body is and what the group stands for.

Good afternoon and welcome to our space. I am Tatiana Cadet, and this is my first semester at Syracuse University.

As a member of THE General Body, I want to describe who we are and what we stand for.

THE General Body is a diverse coalition of student leaders, coming together to support diversity and transparency on our campus.

It is apparent to us that major transformations are happening at this university, changes that affect the entire Syracuse University community, including those presently here and those to come.

While the Fast Forward Syracuse plan is in the making, we have an idea of where it is headed.

On Thursday and Friday, the Board of Trustees will meet to adopt a new mission and vision statement that strips away many of the values that we hold dear.

References to students of diverse backgrounds, the university as a public good, the role of students as citizens, and the idea that we should be strengthening democracy through this school have been deleted.

We aren’t just concerned about the verbal changes – we have also seen changes in action that have us deeply concerned about the direction of the university.

As many of you know, the Advocacy Center was closed over the summer without student, faculty, or staff input. Not only this but the center was closed with only one day’s notice for students and no adequate replacement services for victims of sexual assault over the summer.

Likewise, an inner-city student leadership program called Posse was closed without consulting with students or transparent information of where the funds would be reallocated.

There are many other incidents on campus that reveal a hostile and unsafe environment for students with marginalized identities, including people of color, disabled students, and students in need of mental health services.

These are not isolated events – they are a trend, as others will address.

It is clear to us that Fast Forward Syracuse is leading us to a university in which decisions are made from the top down.

It is important to point out that this sit-in was our last resort. This is not the first time we have brought up these issues, this is not the first time we are voicing our stance, the rally for Diversity and Transparency was not the first movement intended to voice change.

So in arguing for a diverse, inclusive, and democratic university, we are sitting in. And creating here a diverse, inclusive, democratic space for the voices and perspectives of the university community.

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Honoring the Life and Legacy of Steven Taylor — Human Rights Scholar & Activist at SU



Greatness is not the goodness of a man
But the goodness he inspires in others.

Honesty is as beautiful technique as it is a virtue

~ Burton Blatt

Today, we deeply mourn the passing of Steve Taylor, the Director of the Center on Human Policy, and Centennial Professor in the School of Education. Steve was a wise scholar and professor, a visionary leader, a passionate advocate, and a dear friend. A memorial service is being planned.

If not for his work and the the work of the Center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies, those of us who have developmental disabilities or any other disability would not be living in the community and studying at SU today.

If not for the work of Steve, people with developmental disabilities would be still locked away in state institutions without any rights, power, or voice.

If not for his insistence on pausing coursework to fight for equal access for a few students with disabilities so they could participate equally in a graduate class he taught, the Beyond Compliance Coordinating Committee would have never come into fruition, which brought about a disability cultural revolution on campus with the creation of the Disability Cultural Center and the Disability Student Union.

Picture of button Steve Taylor created for the Center on Human Policy, now being used by students at the SU protests and sit-in. Ivory/tan color button with "Build Community" in capital letters, and the "Human Policy Press" and a very dated address around the edge.

If not for his work on deinstitutionalization, I might be locked away in a state institution because of my label of Cerebral Palsy.

If not for the disability cultural revolution that Steve set in motion, I would never have come to Syracuse University.

If not for Steve’s kind encouragement, I would have never become the Co-President of the Disability Student Union.

Without Steve, Syracuse University would not be the community that it is today.

While we mourn for his life, we will celebrate and embrace the diversity that he brought to SU and the world, and fight like hell for the rights of future generations.

~ Nick Holzthum

Please send and share your condolences by mail to the Center on Human Policy, Syracuse University, 805 S Crouse Ave, Syracuse, NY 13244; by email to; or via the Center’s Facebook page at No phone calls, please.


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