Tag Archives: administration

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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THE GENERAL BODY ENDS 18 DAY SIT-IN WITH A GROWING BASE OF FACULTY, ALUMNI, STUDENT, AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT

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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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THURSDAY: 1:30PM MEETING WITH BEA GONZALEZ & PRESS CONFERENCE

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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.

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“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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Four Pressing Problems Not Addressed in Chancellor Syverud’s “Final” Response to Student Needs & Grievances

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At Thursday’s press conference

 

We write this update 132 hours after Chancellor Syverud’s negotiation team committed to another meeting with THE General Body, a commitment that has not been honored. Instead, the Chancellor wrote a “final response” that does not adequately address many important, and in some cases life-and-death, needs of the university community.

We have now been sitting in for two full weeks, and it is important to challenge any claims that the activities arising from the sit-in have been supported by the Chancellor and his administration. The teach-ins, the knowledge exchange, and the support networks we have built have grown organically out of a collective recognition of students’ unaddressed needs.

Unfortunately, because we do not have access to the campus community listserv, we have been constrained in how we are able to share our story. The public representation of the negotiation process and the policing of Crouse-Hinds Hall has thus been tightly controlled by the Chancellor and his administration.

The outpouring of support from the faculty comes from their direct experiences with some of the administration’s tactics to discourage THE General Body. The reports from this weekend–specifically concerning the administration’s refusal to allow students in Crouse-Hinds to meet with their legal counsel–are a microcosm of what students have been experiencing throughout the sit-in:

–During the weekends, and during evening lockdown between 10PM and 7AM on weekdays, we are exposed to arbitrary DPS and fire safety check-ins and rules, denied access to study rooms, and in general kept in a heightened state of tension and surveillance.

–One morning, a student woke up to DPS taking pictures of sleeping students, without telling us how the pictures would be used.

–When we received individually addressed envelopes containing the Code of Student Conduct and Disruption Policies, it became apparent that our IDs had been scanned to catalog our comings and goings, rather than for our own safety (as the administration had assured us).

In one moment, Chancellor Syverud praises students for their leadership and historical precedent on campus, and in the next, his legal council threatens suspension and treats students as criminals.

The conditions in Crouse Hinds reflect the lack of good will Chancellor Syverud has taken in response to student grievance, needs, and solutions. After reviewing the list of student needs on November 5th, Chancellor Syverud said “They’re all important” and to choose among them “feels like asking somebody to choose between their children” (Nov. 5 official transcript). Despite this public statement to the importance of these issues, the majority of them remain unresolved in Chancellor Syverud’s “final response.”

Below you will find our outline of critical student needs that have not been met by the administration thus far and that require commitment and action.

Sincerely,

THE General Body

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  1. The Chancellor Has Not Committed to Addressing a Culture of Racism, Homophobia, and Hate Speech on Campus, and Must Support Diversity and Student Safety

Chancellor Syverud’s proposed changes to SU’s mission and vision statements take away references that describe “access to opportunity” and students from “diverse backgrounds.”  The unilateral decision to prematurely cut three years of the POSSE program, a merit based scholarship program located in cities, hints at the vision of Chancellor Syverud when it comes to decisions concerning students from diverse backgrounds. An Inside Higher Ed article on January 6, 2014 describes how Syverud, “plans to make changes to the recruitment and admissions practices at Syracuse after he takes office,” shifting to concerns over rankings instead of supporting a diverse and inclusive campus. Hannah Strong’s racist and homophobic comments only made more visible the persistent culture of racism and homophobia. While it is not just the university but an entire society that promotes this hateful thinking, SU can support a diverse campus of thoughtful students, faculty, and administration that works proactively to make the campus a safer space.

During negotiations, the Chancellor and upper-level administration committed to diversity trainings for senior leadership and to making web trainings available to the campus community by the end of the Spring 2015 semester. They have also told us, with no commitment to action, that they would consider many of our requests, often through Express Yourself workgroups. Some of these groups have not yet met, and not one has been specifically empowered to make such decisions. Our requests for the administration to make clear the specific decision making power of these workgroups in relation to many student needs remain unanswered.

THE General Body needs a concrete commitment to maintaining recruitment of students, staff, and faculty of color, abiding by the original commitment to POSSE, recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day, taking steps to add an anti-hate speech clause to the student code of conduct, investing in scholarships for students from diverse backgrounds, adding gender-neutral bathrooms to every campus building, and improving channels for reporting DPS violations.

 

  1. The Chancellor Has Not Committed To Investing in Mental Health, Psychiatric, and Sexual Assault Services for Students

THE General Body is disappointed by Chancellor Syverud’s failure to commit to addressing urgent student health needs. Currently, there is only one psychiatrist serving both SU and SUNY-ESF student bodies. There are only 17 counselors serving the student body–6 fewer than the International Association of Counseling Services, SU’s own accreditation agency, recommends. Despite a national conversation about sexual assault, where many campuses have opened new advocacy centers, SU closed its center without any input from students or faculty governance processes. Studies show that 1 in 5 college women will be sexually assaulted, and that up to 20% of college students have been diagnosed and treated with a mental health or substance use condition.

The Chancellor and his administration have said that they are seeking out ways to increase mental health support and that they are committed to investing in these resources. To follow through on this commitment, the Chancellor must commit to hiring two additional psychiatrists, a minimum of 6 new counselors (including counselors specifically supporting students with marginalized identities), and a minimum of one case manager per 3 counselors by the beginning of the Fall 2015 semester. We ask that the Chancellor’s administration inform students of all available options for counseling, that counselors follow up with all students referred to outside services.

Non-emergency medical transport must be made available immediately for mental as well as physical health appointments and services. Additionally, we ask that the Chancellor commit to implement structural changes to the campus mental health system through existing governance processes. Finally, we ask that the Chancellor and his administration engage in-depth student input for their preliminary plans to open a comprehensive Health and Wellness center.

To adequately serve students who have survived sexual assault, and prevent future assaults, we ask that Chancellor Syverud and his administration commit to opening a stand-alone center for survivors. To educate the campus community on available services, we ask that they ensure that the Yes Means Yes affirmative consent policy is supported and implemented across campus. To better support survivors, we ask that they mandate that SU’s Title IX Coordinator take the Vera House advocacy training, and that they ensure that stickers with clear information on assault services are in place in every single bathroom stall and dorm on campus. Finally, the Chancellor and his administration must honor the recommendations of the Workgroup on Sexual Violence Prevention, Education, and Advocacy by meeting with them and communicating clearly with the campus about any changes to policies or programs.

 

  1. The Chancellor Has Not Committed to Budget Transparency

During negotiations, Chancellor Syverud and upper-level administration provided inadequate budgetary information that had already been made public, and did not take any concrete steps to address THE General Body’s specific demands for transparency. The Chancellor must commit to providing necessary salary data to AAUP, and meeting regularly with the Senate Budget Committee. The Chancellor must also 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.

  1. The Chancellor Needs to Take Immediate Steps to Improve Accessibility on Campus

Syracuse University prides itself on its disability studies program and its Center for Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies. However, for over a decade the university has searched for but not successfully hired an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator to oversee and enforce accessibility on campus violating the standards of the Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). During negotiations, Chancellor Syverud demonstrated willingness to improve accessibility on campus by supporting an expedited search for an ADA coordinator (who will oversee a committee for access) and increasing flexibility in pay negotiations for this position.

In our grievances and needs document, we asked that the Chancellor create a centralized fund dedicated to providing equipment and services that create equal and inclusive access for people with disabilities. The Chancellor responded saying that this would happen within three months of an ADA Coordinator being hired. Given the challenges the institution has had in filling this position, and the wait that people with disabilities have already been subjected to, we need the Chancellor to immediately form a committee to identify and consolidate funding sources for disability access and expand OnCampus transportation. He also must charge the future ADA coordinator with assessing and monitoring The Office of Disability Services.

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“1,100 College Students Commit Suicide Every Year. We Cannot Wait for These Tragedies”

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Below is a statement said by Mali Golomb-Leavitt at our press conference last week:

We all know the statistics that have been surfacing throughout this movement. There is currently one psychiatrist serving the mental health needs of 24,000 students. To meet SU’s own accreditation agency’s recommendations that the senior administration themselves have cited in responses, the Counseling Center would need to hire a minimum of six counselors to adequately serve the needs of our campus.

Chancellor Syverud said during our very first meeting with him that choosing between our demands was like choosing between his children. And yet he thinks he has given us a “final” response without addressing over half of our demands in conversation even once, including mental health concerns. We will not leave without a conversation.

Instead, the only response to the mental health section says it will discuss these issues with the Student Association advisory board.

The response gave no assurance that they will take these conversations and their outcomes seriously as we have seen how easily they disregard other bodies of governance.

Secondly, presumably this SA advisory board will have many other concerns to deal with. Mental health needs a team of people including student representation whose only initiatives are to address the widespread disparities in mental healthcare on this campus. Our request to have a workgroup devoted to mental health concerns was ignored.

Finally, I need to reiterate that this is a clear example of senior administration redirecting our demands into bureaucratic processes with no guarantees of meeting them. The concrete demands in our document were not guidelines or suggestions. They are absolute, life and death necessities and we will not go home until we have commitments on them. There is no assurance that SA advisory board will ensure that these specific demands are met.

To be clear about what the stakes are here: We are talking about providing resources for students struggling with mental health on campus, and these include students whose lives are at risk as we speak. We have emergency medical transportation to take psychiatric emergencies to hospitalization after they have hurt themselves. We do not have consistent transportation to the therapy that can prevent those situations.

1,100 college students commit suicide every year. We cannot wait for these tragedies. Commitments such as hiring at least two additional psychiatric providers are non-negotiable.

We are not going home without these commitments.

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