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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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Cold Case Justice Initiative and the Democratizing Project Support THE General Body, Demand a Transparent and Accountable University

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Dear Chancellor Kent Syverud,

The Cold Case Justice Initiative and the Democratizing Project at Syracuse University are in full support of the actions taken by the student-led organization called THE General Body (TGB). We have followed and participated in the student sit-ins over the past two- weeks and the negotiations that have occurred, and urge you to continue to work with TGB in meeting their needs.

We also write to register our strong objections to the administration’s handling of the legitimate concerns the students have raised and object to the intensifying acts of intimidation, harassment, and threats that have been waged against them. Members of THE General Body are not our enemies; they are our integral members of our community and they deserve our respect and support. We thus condemn their treatment in the strongest possible terms.

The students who have organized the sit-ins and articulated university needs are the best Syracuse University has to offer. Their level of commitment and enthusiasm in improving the educational landscape and environment of Syracuse University is evident. Although they have been harassed, intimidated, and targeted by DPS, they have remained steadfast. These students must not be penalized for their grievances and actions, but rather, the university must actively work with them in solving the deep-seated issues which they have brought to the fore and that have long affected our University.

The events that have transpired this semester present us with many challenges but also offer us educational opportunities and avenues for change. Considering the political and social climate in many colleges and universities across the country, the needs expressed by our students are not unreasonable. In fact, students are only seeking what a world- class University should already provide: a conducive learning environment that is racially and ethnically diverse, free of discriminatory practices, cognizant of students’ needs, considerate of the changing student demographics, and supportive of student health and well-being overall.

The students have called for transparency and meaningful participation in the decision- making at the University. These demands concern all constituencies at Syracuse University and reverberate into the surrounding community. We call on you to return to the negotiating table with the students. There can be no final word on these matters until there is consensus by the SU community on the issues the students have raised and which impact all of us: students, faculty, and staff who call Syracuse University our home.

While the sit-in might seem a distraction to the daily operations of the University, let us remind you that some of the best changes in American higher education have been the direct result of student discontent and organizing. We thus urge you to reassure us, as well as THE General Body, that you will continue to meet with them and not penalize, threaten, or punish them for their important contributions to our university community.

TGB is the conscience of this university. As members of Syracuse University, we also speak in support of the students’ integral efforts. Together with TGB, we therefore demand a university that is transparent, accountable, and most of all, respectful of every member’s basic civil rights and civil liberties.

Sincerely,

Cold Case Justice Initiative

Democratizing Knowledge Project

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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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Professor in the University Honors Program Charges “Violation of Civil Rights,” Asks Chancellor to Explain Actions to Campus Community

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Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I am deeply concerned about what seems to be a violation of civil rights on the part of your administration in regard to the students. If I understand your actions correctly, you have made the university code of conduct a legal statute that supersedes civil rights granted in the constitution.

I would be grateful if you would explain your action to the campus community.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Sally Roesch Wagner, Ph.D.
Founding Director, The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation
Adjunct Faculty, The Renée Crown University Honors Program, Syracuse University

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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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