Tag Archives: administration

School of Education Professor Supports Students’ Lawful Right to Nonviolent Protest

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Dear Chancellor Syverud

I am writing as a faculty member with deep concern over the withholding of legal supports & council for our students in THE general body. I see this as an abuse of power, especially troubling as it is being wielded against our own students after a supposedly “good faith” promise of nonretaliation. I use “our” instead of “the” purposely. Our students are exercising their lawful right to nonviolent protest; they have my full support & admiration. The values they are fighting for (inclusion, diversity, & advocacy) have deep roots in this institution & values that I personally share. I hope you will reconsider your actions.

Respectfully submitted,

Beth Ferri
School of Education

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Dean’s Associate Professor in School of Education Asks Chancellor’s Administration to Rethink Decisions

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Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I write to you this morning to ask that you and your administrative liaisons rethink the decision to not allow the students to seek legal counsel this weekend and to frame their actions as violations to the codes for student conduct. In conversations that I have been a part of regarding re-visioning the mission and ambition for our university, one thing that remains constant is a desire to attract THE best students who are not only academically strong but critically and socially aware and engaged. In my mind and without question, THE General Body reflects that vision. In fact, these students are actively here now and they represent the kind of university culture that I believe we should aspire to and maintain for the present and future students to come. In fact, through their collective actions, they are cultivating the kind of diversity and unity that is articulated in the concept of “one university”.

I have never been more proud to be a faculty member who has the opportunity to engage with students who embody and realize through their actions such commitments to diversity and inclusion. However, I have been disappointed in the administration’s recent decisions to cease conversations with the students about their demands and to further criminalize what I have witnessed to be a peaceful and purposeful protest. In truth, I am horrified at the lengths that our students felt they needed to go to in order to have transparency. They have done nothing wrong but ask to be heard and to have straightforward answers.

As a faculty member committed to moving Syracuse University forward, I ask that we not take steps backwards by denying our students respect and basic rights.

Marcelle Haddix
Dean’s Associate Professor
Reading and Language Arts
School of Education

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A Faculty Perspective on Allowing Students Consultation with Legal Representatives in Crouse-Hinds This Weekend

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Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I wrote to you last week expressing my concern about students being locked-in Crouse-Hinds over the weekend and the rules being reinforced about them coming and going and also being visited by faculty as well as meeting basic medical or self-care needs. I didn’t hear back from you about that letter, although I did hear back from Provost Spina and Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz when I wrote them. Now I’m writing to you again about a related matter.

Many faculty received a letter yesterday from Law Professor Janis McDonald informing us that the General Body students who are sitting-in Crouse Hinds were not allowed to speak with her when she came to consult with them about legal matters. This is an unfortunate situation given the fact that they were hand-delivered letters the night before saying they are in violation of three items pertaining to the SU Student Code of Conduct. Understandably they are going to want to consult legal representatives upon receiving such letters.

As an attorney/Law Professor as well as our Chancellor, you are fully aware of what this situation might mean for these students and how they might be feeling about it. Even as I understand that the university would like the General Body protestors to leave the building and has stated that there will be no more negotiations about the demands document, I urge you to think about the emotional stress the students are under and the signal this sends them to be denied face-to-face consultation with legal representatives this weekend.

I urge you to allow the General Body students in Crouse-Hinds the opportunity to speak to legal representatives this weekend. It seems inhumane not to allow them to do that in a face-to-face setting. Yes, I understand there are rules about the building over the weekend and that no one goes out or comes in, but this seems like a basic human right to consult their lawyers. Even maximum security prisons allow prisoners to speak with their lawyers at pre-designated appointments. Could you allow a window of time for that consultation today?

This situation may eventually drive some students from the building and perform a sort of psychological warfare tactic, but it’s a rather shocking tactic for SU to use, and it’s surprising to see it happening. We look to you, Chancellor Syverud, to be our institutional leader, but also our ethical leader and our leader in matters connected to your field of study and practice. You have a wonderfully long and distinguished track record of accomplishment on a variety of important legal questions and matters. This decision just doesn’t seem like it squares with that long and distinguished track record, and it certainly doesn’t square with the values many of us deeply hold at SU. I am hoping you will let the students talk to their legal representatives face-to-face today. The whole SU community here and across the globe is watching and hoping for the best.

Sincerely yours,

Eileen E. Schell
Associate Professor, Writing
Syracuse University

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“We Have Not Solved Issues of Transparency and Diversity on Campus, Which THE General Body Continues to Fight For”

 

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Below is a statement said by Colton Jones at our press conference today:

On behalf of THE General Body, I would like the thank the administration and members of the community for acknowledging our voices. We, a group of undergraduates, graduates, and supportive faculty members and staff, who come from different backgrounds, different experiences, and from different perspectives. We have stood together, slept on brick floor together, and are now here together, still united, as a living, breathing, organic representation that unification across issues fragmented issues and struggles is possible. We fight for transparency, we fight for diversity, and we fight to make our campus a more inclusive place for all.

We find the administration’s quote “final written response” inadequate.

A single paragraph response to sum up eleven grievances related to mental health, that does nothing more than reiterate that mental health is important, does not show a commitment to student mental health. We think mental health is important too, that is why we are here.

Working within an administrative model that values profit over student experience, it is vital for the university to commit to diversity within our student body as well as within our faculty and staff. Without this commitment we can not be sure that equal opportunities are given for all in the admittance and hiring process. Diversity is how we learn from each other and cultivate our consciousness and compassion for one another, simply acknowledging its importance is not enough.

We are glad the administration has made some small concessions. While a partial apology on the Advocacy Center’s irresponsible closure is important, it should not have taken 8,000 petition signatures, 3 listening meetings, 2 rallies, and 10 days of a sit in to achieve this simple and reasonable request. That it took this long speaks to the ongoing reluctance of the administration to meet the basic needs of the entire student body, including services for victims of sexual assault, basic mental health needs, basic accessibility needs, and the commitment in action (not just in words) to supporting students and faculty of color and other historically marginalized identities on campus. Clearly, we have not solved issues of transparency and diversity on campus, which THE General Body continues to fight for.

To end the sit in, we want to meet with senior administrators who have decision making power, without an absolute time, to get a commitment to a plan of action. Going back and forth on a google doc has been productive, but it’s not enough. We look forward to educating you about the important grievances that have not been properly addressed, and encourage you to listen with an open mind and open heart, acknowledging that as a member of the community, these issues in some way affect you too.

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A Follow-Up Letter to the Chancellor

Dear Chancellor Syverud,

In my last letter, I criticized you for the lack of substance in your “Orange Friends” emails. I want to applaud you for breaking that pattern in your message to the university community last night. But I also made another request: that you take THE General Body seriously and talk to us. And in this sense your email, with the mixed messages it offers, falls flat.

You have asked us to “work collaboratively with the duly elected representatives and governing bodies that are currently in place,” suggesting that you have an interest in the democratic processes of shared governance. It’s nice to hear this, since we are also invested in these processes. But it’s hard to take this claim seriously when in the very same email, you unilaterally shut down negotiations with THE General Body. It’s not hard to read between the lines. You are only invested in democratic processes to the extent that they occur within an institutional framework that you control. If you wish to set the record straight, you should recognize that a protest movement like ours represents democracy in its purest form.

In apologizing for the “process and communications” related to decisions about the Advocacy Center and Posse Program, you have again broken somewhat from your past attitudes and taken a step in the right direction. But why the excessive limitations in the scope of your apology? Your unwillingness to express regret for the content of the decisions rather than merely the processes by which they were made and communicated makes this apology seem half-hearted. This sense is bolstered by the fact that your apology contains defensive language about your “sincere” efforts to take everyone’s feelings into account. If you wish to be seen as sincere, honor the university community members whose marginality was aggravated by your decisions with an apology that does not defend your actions or include such limitations in scope.

I urge you to caution as we move forward. The role DPS has been playing in the protest thus far has been troubling enough. By sending security forces – some of them armed – to subject your own students to surveillance and harassment for exercising their right to free speech, exhibiting independent, creative, and critical thinking, and working to actualize their own social visions you have already done grievous harm to the capacity of this university to educate. If you truly desire to improve SU’s academic reputation, it will be helpful to deescalate the role DPS is playing in these protests. I hope you will work toward creating an environment in which students’ development as leaders and intellectuals is not hampered by a heavy-handed use of authority.

Sincerely,

Daniel Cheifer
PhD Candidate, Religion Department
Humanities Center Dissertation Fellow
Syracuse University

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An Open Letter to Chancellor Syverud from THE General Body

THE General Body at Thursday's press conference.

THE General Body & supporters at Thursday’s press conference.

Dear Chancellor Syverud and Upper-Level Administration,

At the end of Monday night’s meeting, Dean Gonzalez and Dean Kantrowitz committed to having a meeting time scheduled with THE General Body by noon on Tuesday. It has been 52 hours since the administration made that commitment, which remains unfulfilled.

On Tuesday afternoon we received an email from Dean Gonzalez, saying that she would get back to us regarding a meeting time. That commitment remains unfulfilled.

We are glad the administration has made some minor concessions, but we see these concessions as a starting point. For example, the partial apology on the Advocacy Center’s irresponsible closure is important, but it should not have taken over 8,000 petition signatures, 3 listening meetings, 2 rallies, and 10 days of a sit-in to achieve this simple and reasonable request. That it took this long speaks to the ongoing reluctance of the administration to meet the basic needs of the entire student body, including services for victims of sexual assault, basic mental health needs, basic accessibility needs, and the commitment in action (not just in words) to supporting students and faculty of color and other historically marginalized identities on campus.

We should not need to sit-in to meet the recommended ratio of counselors to students, determined by the International Association of Counseling Services. We should not need a sit-in to add hate speech to the student code of conduct, ensuring that we have structures in place to address racist and homophobic actions on campus. We should not need to sit-in out of fear, based on the Chancellor’s statements to Inside Higher Ed, that Syracuse University will continue to move away from programs (like POSSE) that serve inner city leaders and students of color.

The administration applauds our commitment and leadership while it erects a “construction fence” to block the sit-in from view and deploys ten armed DPS officers at a time to guard a group of students and TAs that have not committed a single offense. We remain committed to the issues that brought such a diverse group of student leaders together. We are not alone on these issues, as the recent support of the GSO to many of our core needs attests, and as strong ongoing support from student organizations and faculty demonstrate.

Clearly, we have not solved issues of transparency, diversity, or democracy on campus, which THE General Body continues to fight for. THE General Body remains committed to moving forward on this process and needs cooperation from administration. We realize the list of grievances and needs is long – this only reflects the magnitude of ongoing problems that have yet to be adequately addressed. THE General Body commits to making Syracuse University a more diverse, inclusive, just, and transparent community. Instead of a “final” response to unfinished and ongoing problems, we ask for a commitment to meet on our reasonable list of student needs.

Sincerely,

THE General Body

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SUNY-ESF Students: Why We’re Here

divest esfOn Monday night, a group of students from SUNY-ESF attended THE General Body meeting at Crouse-Hinds Hall. Students from ESF have been closely involved in THE General Body since the beginning, but want to work towards a more visible presence of ESF students at the sit-in.

SU and SUNY-ESF share many resources, such as courses, libraries, health and wellness services, and academic programs, and the outcome of the sit-in will significantly impact both student bodies. ESF and SU students share concerns about diversity, transparency, resource allocation, and the lack of venues for democratic decision-making involving students.

Students expressed a desire to facilitate a larger conversation between science and social justice both within the space of the sit-in and within their classrooms at ESF. They cited environmental racism–where environmental problems, including climate change and pollution from processes like fracking–predominantly affect low-income communities of color in the U.S. and abroad. This conversation would help to work against “white environmentalism,” which several students identified as a tendency within conversations about the environment to omit important discussions of environmental racism. Students of color reported experiencing other micro- and macroaggressive behavior as well.

Students identified the potential for productive crossover between ESF environmental concerns and THE General Body’s mobilization about a range of social justice issues.  “A really cool thing about ESF is that we’re getting the science behind problems like climate change and pollution,” said Katie Oran, a first-year at ESF studying environmental studies. “We know how they work, how they affect the environment and our bodies. However, we need to communicate and mobilize people to care about what’s happening,” said Oran.

ESF students also critiqued the increasing corporatization of their university. Makayla Comas, a first-year student studying environmental studies, situated this as a national problem: “once colleges start seeing that they can treat their students like commodities and products, then other colleges will think it’s okay, and our education is going to suffer.” Sophomore environmental studies major Amanda Tomasello echoed this concern: “We are are setting a precedent for other schools.”

SU and ESF students have already forged connections around fossil fuel divestment. “Divest isn’t just a local issue; it’s a national issue, a global issue. SU and ESF students support each other because we have the same goals, visions, and hopes, and want to see each other succeed. We’re not just in it for ourselves, we’re in it for each other,” said Max Sosa, a first-year studying chemistry at ESF.

These students encourage others from ESF to drop by the sit-in to learn more and work towards increased collaboration between the two student bodies on issues that affect both campuses.

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