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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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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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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#WakeUpSULaw: THE General Body Calls on SU Law to Stop Victim-Blaming & Push for Better Services

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Last semester, four female SU law students were drugged at house parties–likely by a fellow law student. One student has come forward to file a formal complaint and circulated this petition to hold SU Law accountable and draw attention to critical gaps in services on campus: #WakeUpSULaw: Adequately Address this Student Safety Issue. The petition identifies several important needs:

1) For the Dean of Law to address the student body about the attacks

2) For SU Law to counter victim-blaming by shifting its focus to the perpetrator(s)

3) For SU Law to make information about campus services available to law students.

THE General Body stands in solidarity with #WakeUpSULaw and calls on SU Law–and the SU campus more broadly–to implement these recommendations immediately. The law school’s desire to keep this issue “in-house” speaks to a nationwide trend towards silencing survivors of gender-based violence for the sake of avoiding negative PR.

SU Law School Needs to Take these Attacks Seriously

Syracuse University College of Law is actively trying to distance itself from these attacks by reducing the number of attacks and describing them as off campus instead of emphasizing how the perpetrator(s) is likely in our classrooms. In an Above the Law article on the SU law school druggings, Assistant Dean Tomas Gonzalez is quoted as saying:

This is an active investigation so we are limited in what we can provide. What I can tell you is about two weeks ago we did received a report from a law student concerning possible drink tampering at a house party several miles off-campus during the end of fall semester. The College of Law actively encouraged the student to report this incident to the police and she did. The incident is currently under investigation. To date, this is the only student from which we have received a report.

While only one student has filed a police report, SU law is and has been aware of all four druggings.

Furthermore, Gonzalez attempts to minimize the university connection by emphasizing that the one drugging he is willing to acknowledge occurred “several miles off-campus.”  SU–in accordance with the federal Jeanne Clery Act–is required to disclose information about crime in and around campuses, and the SU campus community often receives “off-campus burglary” notifications via e-mail. However, there have been no notifications about on- or off-campus druggings and assaults that (as in this case) occurred a mere 1.1 to 1.4 miles from campus at house parties thrown for and by SU law students, and are likely to suggest SU law students as perpetrators. One of the survivors stated, “While all three parties [where survivors were drugged] had a few non-law students in attendance–random relatives, significant others or friends–none of the same non-law students were at the other two parties. Our house parties mostly consist of SU law students.”

SU Law School Needs to Stop Victim-Blaming

Although SU Law held a forum in response to these attacks on students, the forum reproduced the victim-blaming rhetoric that maintains a culture of silence and allows assault to continue, particularly against women. While a Vera House spokesperson–along with several people who made interventions during the audience Q&A–attempted to shift the focus to working to combat rape culture and hold perpetrators accountable, the forum overwhelmingly maintained a focus on victim responsibility. This raises major concerns for the campus community.

At the forum, a “What Would You Do?” video about date-rape drugging was shown as a way of encouraging students to intervene if they see someone putting drugs in another person’s drink. Unfortunately, the video puts the onus of responsibility on the victim rather than targeting the perpetrator. In the video, a man and woman (played by actors) are out on a first date and he drugs her drink. When he leaves to go to the restroom, the couple sitting next to them asks the woman to get another drink, saying “I wouldn’t drink that if I were you.” At no point do they tell her that it’s been drugged. At no point is there a focus on the issue of how to make sure that people don’t get drugged, not just how to deal with it when it happens. Furthermore, the video makes the argument that if you’re dressed in a “skimpy” dress, people are less likely to intervene if they see someone putting drugs in your drink–that there will be “not as much sympathy” for a date-rape victim who looks like she’s “been there, done that.”

A DPS officer presented a series of slides emphasizing the precautions that potential-victims should take, rather than making a commitment to fight rape culture. The slides in this officer’s presentation–which were labeled “Prevention”–covered the following:

  • Reporting suspicious activity to local law enforcement, supervisors, co-workers, professors, or administrators
  • Being aware of your surroundings & personal items
  • Prevent attacks by avoiding sharing drinks, watching for tampering, and not drinking anything that tastes funny

Truly working to prevent assault would mean a concrete commitment to justice for those who were attacked, finding the perpetrator(s), and actively working to dismantle rape culture. These slides–like the video–hold victims and onlookers accountable for assault and leave perpetrators completely out of the picture.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the forum was the reaction of others in attendance. During the Q&A, one person remarked that “The person writing the article about these assaults is creating a circus. We don’t even know these allegations are true.” After the forum was over, other attendees high-fived her. Hostile comments like these discredit and disparage those who are speaking out. In response, another person in attendance at the forum remarked afterward that “it is disconcerting to see a woman doubt and dismiss another woman’s experience of being drugged, particularly given the fact that these attacks are usually gender-based.”

In response to these troubling dynamics, law professor Paula Johnson drew attention to the forum’s focus on victims and re-focused the room on the need to target perpetrators: “I wonder, what would the difference be had the presentation begun with a focus on what was wrongful behavior and whatever its variation–opposite gender, same gender.” A representative from Vera House also encouraged those present to focus on prevention; several attendees followed up by stating that we need to “create the expectation in society that drugging people against their will is absolutely unacceptable” and to take these criminal acts seriously, treating them “with open hostility [and] shame.” While these comments helped to reframe the forum, the law school, DPS, and students need to take responsibility for reproducing the rhetoric of victim-blaming.

What Should the SU Campus Community Know?

  1. DPS may do investigations of incidents like this, but criminal investigations are ultimately done by local police departments.
  2. There is 24 hour help available through Vera House and the Counseling Center (including people to escort you to the hospital).
  3. Crouse Hospital does not test for date-rape drugs. However, a rape kit does include this test. The Vera House representative at the law school forum clarified that if you wish, you can ask for only the drug test portion of the rape kit (and will not be required to do a physical exam). Some date-rape drugs leave the system quickly, so get tested as soon as you can.
  4. If you have a drug test done at the Counseling Center, it is for your information only and cannot be used in criminal proceedings. If you get a test done at the hospital, then it can be used in criminal proceedings. At the law school forum, the Vera House representative also clarified that you can get this test done before you decide whether you want to file a report with DPS or the police.
  5. Ending assault necessitates a culture change. Join those speaking up in support of victims, against those who would victim-blame, and for services and investigations that support victims and hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes.

We call on law school Dean Hannah Arterian to issue a statement to SU College of Law expressing concern about the four students who were drugged and pledging to commit to a thorough investigation, ensuring that the SU campus community will be a safe place for everyone.

Please support SU Law Students and hold the law school accountable by signing the #WakeUpSULaw petition. If you are an SU alumni, the parent of an SU student, or a concerned community member, call the Dean’s Office (315-443-2524) to voice your concern.

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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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Teach in to Act Out!

Friday, January 30 – Saturday, January 31
Community Folk Art Center
805 E Genesee St, Syracuse, New York 13210

CFAC is walking distance from campus, but you can also take the Connective Corridor Route 443 to the Syracuse Stage bus stop. See schedule here.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!

Join the Facebook event after you register
& tweet and follow along with #TGBteachin

Click here for more detailed information after you register!

THE General Body, a coalition of student organizations, faculty and staff at Syracuse University, is hosting a two-day event that will include panels, workshops, discussions, film screenings, and keynote speakers on the history of student movements, intersectional organizing, university corporatization, resistance skill-building, and art & activism.

Speakers include Margo Okazawa-Rey, Minnie Bruce Pratt, DarkMatter, and many more! (SEE FULL SCHEDULE BELOW)

  • Event is free and open.
  • The space is wheelchair accessible.
  • ASL Interpretive Services will be provided for Margo Okazawa-Rey’s Keynote (Friday, 6:15 to 7 pm), as well as DarkMatter’s performance (Saturday, 4:30 to 5:30 pm).
  • Contact THEgeneralbody@gmail.com with any questions.

Many thanks to our co-sponsors:
Democratizing Knowledge Project, Community Folk Art Center, Women’s and Gender Studies, Geography, Cold Case Justice Initiative, Labor Studies, Anthropology, Cultural Foundations of Education, English, History, Black Political Thought, LGBT Studies, Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, Latino, Latin American Studies, African American Studies, Communication and Rhetorical Studies, Asian Students in America, Imagining America, and Active Minds.

Press coverage:

FULL SCHEDULE:

FRIDAY, JANUARY 30

8-9:30 am: Registration and tea, coffee, and snacks

9:30-10:15 am: THE General Body Welcome & Overview

What We’ve Accomplished & What’s Left to Do

Presenters: Farrell Brenner, Colton Jones, Yanira Rodriguez

10:30am-12 pm: Student Activism Panel & Documentary Clips

Screening of historic documentary clips (curated by Kim Powell) and discussion with folks from historical and current movements.

Panelists: Agyei Tyehimba, Mali Golomb-Leavitt, Nick Holzthum, David L. Jackson

Moderators: Henry Nelson, Danielle Reed

12:15-1:15 pm: Lunch on your own

1:30-2:45 pm: The Corporate University

Panelists: Horace Campbell, Linda Carty, Matt Huber, Risa Lieberwitz, Yanira Rodriguez

Moderators: Jon Schmidt, Sherri Williams

3-4:30 pm: Intersectionality Discussion

Panelists: Lydia Brown, Koy Adams, Nikeeta Slade

Moderators: Keish Kim, Montinique McEachern

4:45-5:30 pm: Meditation with Dr. Marcelle Haddix

Dr. Marcelle Haddix will talk about the importance of breathing and meditation and take folks through visualization exercises and a writing exercise.

5:30 pm: Dinner from Sahota Palace (free!)

6:15 pm: Keynote Address & Discussion with Dr. Margo Okazawa-Rey Keynote Speech: “In These Times: Creating a Beloved Community as a Radical Act”

Dr. Margo Okazawa-Rey is a scholar in transnational anti-racist feminist praxis; armed conflicts, militarism and violence against women; theories and practices of social change.

Introduction to Keynote: Vani Kannan

Keynote address will have ASL interpreters.

7 pm: Black History Month Kickoff at Community Folk Art Center

Lydia Caeser and Brownskin Band, Brandyn Thomas

9-11:30pm: Informal conversation among activists

THE General Body wants to spend time talking across campuses and movements, sharing stories and tactics and inspiration. Regionally, we hope this discussion can be the seed for continued support between local campus movements.

We’ll start at 9PM (right after the CFAC Black History Month kick off) and go to around 11:30PM (we want to give time for people to rest before Saturday’s teach-in), although more quiet discussion could continue as long as folks want.

The Bread & Roses Collective is at 405 Westcott St. in Syracuse. There are five stairs into the house. If you have questions about accessibility, please speak with Ben Kuebrich.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 31

9:30-10:15 am: Radical Readout

Chen Chen, Sherri Williams, Mali Golomb-Leavitt, Kim Powell, Tatiana Cadet, Ernest Daily, Nikeeta Slade, and open mic

10:30 am-12 pm: Community Activism Roundtable

Panelists: Walt Dixie (National Action Network), Lilith Siegel,

Rebecca Fuentes (Workers’ Center of CNY), Mallory Livingston (Transgender Alliance), Cara Liebowitz Moderators: Nick Holtzhum, Ben Kuebrich

12:15-1:45 pm: Lunch

Take lunch as an opportunity to spend time with the folks you’ve met and foster relationships.

2-3 pm: Creative nonfiction workshop led by Minnie Bruce Pratt “And What If You Had to Speak from the Back of a Pickup Truck to 5000 People?”

We know that people love stories, that people learn from stories, that stories are a powerful tool used both by powers-over and by liberation struggles. In this workshop you’ll work with one or two of your stories and hone those for use in different organizing situations. Bring something to write in, on or with, and come ready to share with others. No limit on number of participants.

3:15-4:30 pm: DarkMatter workshop:  the revolution will not have a bibliography: student activism in the corporate university

DarkMatter is a trans south asian art and activist collaboration comprised of janani and alok. using poetry & polemic, tweet & tirade DM is committed to an art practice of gender self(ie) determination, racial justice, and movement building.

Join us for a workshop at the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality that explores how the academic industrial-complex keeps us reading rather than revolting. We will discuss how the university generates apathy and inaction, and how we can use the university and its capital to our advantage to be in solidarity with social movements happening within and without. Social justice is not an extracurricular activity or registered student organization. This workshop is focused on practical steps around organizing and changemaking strategies.

4:30-5:30 pm: DarkMatter performance: #ItGetsBitter

#TBT back to when we were told as queer youth that it was supposed to “get better.” What they forgot to tell us is that gay rights are often only for gay whites! With an increase in racist and queerphobic violence and a state that uses our bodies to advance its imperialist agenda at home and abroad, what’s become apparent is that LGBT rights have become co-opted. JOIN DarkMatter for a night of poetry, polemic, and healing as we not only critique — but also imagine new queer futures. Show followed by Q&A.

Performance will include ASL interpreters.

5:45 pm: Closing remarks

Spread the word and share the flier below!

TBTI-TGB

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