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An Update from THE General Body

On Wednesday night, 80 members of THE General Body coalition student group conducted preliminary negotiations with Chancellor Kent Syverud and Dean Bea González in Crouse-Hinds lobby. Following the meeting, Syverud, his executive team, and González met to respond to THE General Body’s 46-page document of grievances and demands, opening up possibilities for next steps.

However, in an e-mail to the entire University community on Thursday evening, Dean González expressed disappointment that negotiations did not move forward in time for today’s Board of Trustees meeting, and stated that next steps are contingent on THE General Body ending the sit-in and vacating Crouse-Hinds Hall.

We share Dean González’s disappointment in this impasse. Although Wednesday’s meeting offered a promising and positive start in negotiations, very few of the grievances and demands were covered in the 90-minute meeting. THE General Body is disappointed that the University expects students to acquiesce to proposals that have no guarantees or timelines.

We remain committed to improving this University and will continue to show our dedication with our sit-in at Crouse-Hinds Hall. Backed by extensive faculty and community support, the sit-in has facilitated teach-ins and dialogue about pressing issues affecting all of us. The significance of the physical space of the sit-in cannot be minimized. This is evident in national coverage from Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Nation, Democracy Now, and local Syracuse news sources including Syracuse.com, TWC News, and the Daily Orange.

Neither González’s e-mail nor the administration’s responses to our demands and grievances adequately address the full scope of the concerns of THE General Body, and fail to adequately respond to urgent student needs. For example, in response to our demand for emergency medical transport for students with mental health disorders, the administration simply restated their existing policy language, ignoring the fact that students are currently suffering from a lack of services despite the existing policies.

In her e-mail to the student body, Dean Gonzales writes, “In making these many commitments, University leadership asked for only one thing from the student group in return—that they commit to depart Crouse-Hinds Hall by tomorrow and return the building to normal operating status moving forward.” But in reality University leadership is asking much more of students. As senior Political Science/Public Policy major Ella Mendonsa remarked, “By not giving us a definitive plan of action to our demands, University leadership is asking us to give up our rights to adequate mental health services, to sexual assault advocacy services, to give up our rights to accessibility on campus for students with disabilities. These are services we shouldn’t have to fight for on this campus.”

We call on the upper-level administration to honor their good faith and respect the negotiation process established during Wednesday’s meeting. We call on the student body, faculty, staff and community members to hold these administrators accountable.

As we stated explicitly in Wednesday’s meeting we want to reiterate that the sit-in will not end without written confirmation that the Chancellor and Dean are willing to commit to a clear timetable for moving forward with each item in our demands document.

Visit THEGeneralBody.org for more information about the sit-in.

Download this document here.

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A Letter From an Alum

Dear Editor:

I had not been aware until recently the radical and wrong-headed decisions of the new Chancellor Kent Syverud’s actions such as the unilateral decision to close the Advocacy Center.

I arrived as a Freshman in the Fall of 1989 and was met with what appeared to be an epidemic of students being raped in the first months of my  tenure at Syracuse. I became active in the very vocal and successful student movement in that era bringing attention to the lack of services and the lax administration response to the problem of rape and sexual assault on the Syracuse campus. In my Junior year at Syracuse I was the President of the student group Students Concerned About Rape Education (SCARED), which was the center of this movement.

One of the most important and lasting accomplishments of that movement was the establishment of the Advocacy Center. This was not an easily won accomplishment either, but was one that was won with the constant pressure of both students and faculty impressing upon the leadership of the University that survivors needed their own space for treatment, counseling, and advocacy. Because of this, Syracuse has been looked at by other schools as a model in how to address student survivors of sexual assault.

Mr. Syverud’s decision to unilaterally destroy The Advocacy Center ostensibly with the goal of saving money and resources, especially when looked at in conjunction with his published vision for the University, causes this proud alumnus to fear for the future of my University. Mr. Syverud is reversing decades of student centered education which has benefited both the students and the greater Syracuse community. His callousness toward the student body and especially the needs of the most vulnerable on his campus shows that he is not the person for this job.

The Chancellor of Syracuse University needs to be a leader. Mr. Syverud appears to nothing more than a manager. It is clear from his actions, the tremendous and awe-inspiring response from the student body to these actions, and the complete inability of Mr. Syverud to address the legitimate concerns of the students and faculty to his decisions that the Trustees of the University made a mistake in hiring him. It is in the best interests of the university that the Trustees admit this mistake and take the actions necessary to rectify it immediately.

Paul J. Ditz
Class of 1993

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An Uncertain Start to the Trustees’ Meeting Weekend

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 5.27.39 PMYes, we’re still still here—despite a rising sense in the Crouse-Hinds lobby that the administration is hoping to take swift action to disperse our sit-in. As we speak, the campus fire department is here trying to fire-code-violation us into taking our signs down. So the signs are coming down, but we’re not leaving. This is to be expected. Since the beginning of this protest it’s been clear that the Administration’s most trusted tool is a slow barrage of minor, inconvenient administrative requests that slowly deplete our statement.

Here’s what we need: PEOPLE TO COME SLEEP HERE. Folks who have been sleeping here are tired and, like you, want to go spend a night in their beds. Come. Sleep. Here. We have clearance for up to 40 students per night.

Here’s what we know right now: the Board of Trustee meetings have begun. The Daily Orange has reported that the new mission statement is still on the agenda, despite Chancellor Syverud’s statement last night that he would e-mail the board requesting the vote’s postponement.

This morning, the Student Association president Boris Gresely presented before their executive committee for student affairs and disseminated our 46-page Demands & Grievances document to the board. He told them we wanted to meet with them, and we think they responded that they’d bring a possible meeting to a vote. We’re receiving confusing messages from the administration (of course)—for example, that they won’t let us meet with any trustees until Saturday, even though the board meets Thursday and Friday. Of course, some trustees will be here until Saturday and some do live in the area. We’ll keep you posted as we receive more information about that.

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We’re also receiving still-dubious information from the administration that they will only meet with us if we end the sit-in. And of course, that’s not happening. We’ve already been covered by Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Ed, as well as extensively in the local press, and today we spoke further with the Chronicle for more in-depth coverage. So no, we’re not moving for a single, minor issue. That would only concede to what we understand to be the Administration and Trustees’ clear objective, namely to clear this protest as quickly as possible with the fewest concessions they can manage. We are staying until we receive written responses to all major segments of our demands.

The general meeting is starting, so we’ll be back with updates later. Til then.

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A Letter to the Chancellor

Dear Chancellor Syverud,

With all of the turmoil that is happening on campus as a result of your decisions, how do you see fit to write to us about insubstantial issues like your appreciation of an a cappella concert? The fact that you would take the time to attend such events and write the campus your reflections on the experience is astonishing in light of the fact that you have by and large avoided meeting with students negatively impacted by your decisions and have not yet written to the university community to take responsibility for the harmful consequences of your actions. It has taken an action as drastic as the sit-in in Crouse-Hinds to gain ground with you in this regard. Understand this: ignoring us has only made us more tenacious.

I have been in residence at this university since 2007 aside from two and a half years spent away for field research, and up until recently had noted a dearth of activism on this campus. It is telling that unlike many college towns, Occupy Syracuse took place not on our campus, but in Perseverance Park. In contrast, at Rutgers and Columbia, where I pursued my BA and MA, protests on a variety of issues both global and local were a fixture of campus life. But even at the nadir of the Bush years, dissent was not as strong and protests were not as frequent as is the case here, now, on this campus. You must realize it is no coincidence that the political climate of this campus has changed so radically within less than a year of you assuming leadership.

The time for platitude-laden e-mails to your so-called “Orange Friends” is over. The jig is up. As things stand, you do not strike me as a friend. Your undemocratic decisions and the unpopular direction in which they are taking the university makes this painfully clear. Your disingenuous rhetoric about friendship, kinship, and unity is no different than those used by many corporations to make their workers feel like traitors for unionizing. But a university is not a corporation and you are not a CEO. The cold, dehumanizing logic of corporate neoliberalism is no way to foster an educational community. But it is not too late for a change. If you truly want to prove yourself to be a friend to the university community and restore unity to a campus that is more fractious than ever, you need to change course. This is the time for dialog, not another PR campaign. Take seriously the grievances and suggestions with which THE General Body has presented you, and talk to us.

Sincerely,

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

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We’re Still Here

Welcome to the blog of THE General Body! When this site started, it was to provide a static online home for our list of Demands and Grievances. As DAT Movement has grown, though, this site has grown too—it now holds videos of our stories and our interactions with the administration as well as an archive of all the press coverage we’ve received,  and created ourselves. (And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Instagram, too.) And now, we have a blog! This is our first post, but expect many more.

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It’s late now, so we’ll just take a minute to update you on what’s been happening. After three days sitting, studying, and sleeping in Crouse-Hinds Hall, tonight the Chancellor came to meet with us face-to-face and listen—and hopefully move toward action. You can read tweets and Instagrams of that hour-long meeting right here. The negotiation was an important first step, but we have a long time to go—and in the meantime, we’re still sleeping on these too-familiar brick floors.

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