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Alumnus, Adjunct Faculty, and Two-Time Chancellor’s Award Recipient Reflects on Value of Scholarship in Action

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Dear Chancellor Syverud, Dean Gonzalez, and members of THE General Body,

I write this to express my sincere concern for the fate of Syracuse University, and to offer a humble suggestion for its future.

My name is John Cardone, recent Public Artist in Residence with the Near West Side Initiative, and adjunct faculty in the University Honors Program. I am also a recent alumnus of SU with a degree in Sculpture and a minor in Creative Writing. I was an Imagining America Engagement Fellow, a VPA Scholar, member of the Honors Program, and two time recipient of the Chancellor’s award for public and community service. During my time at SU, I founded an ESL tutoring Program at Nottingham HS, assisted Prof. Sarah McCoubrey in starting after-school programs at the Blodgett School, and Coordinated a volunteer tutoring program at the Center for New Americans. I was also one of the key students involved in the development and maintenance of 601 Tully with Prof. Marion Wilson, a pursuit which brought me endless joy and invaluable experience. Suffice it to say that SU has served me extremely well in the past six years, and I in turn have done my best to give my service the university and to the city itself. And it precisely because of this exchange of service, this engagement of scholarship, that I consider my time in Syracuse to be the most valuable learning experience of my life.

For several years I believed that my positive experiences in Syracuse were brought about entirely by my own doing, and indeed there were many people who did their best to reassure my beliefs. However, I now realize that it was not merely my own initiative but the individuals, communities, and values of SU that gave me the resources to expand beyond my bubble of a self-concerned student into a wider world of very real need and of problems worth solving. Moreover, it was precisely the values of community engagement and civic involvement that salvaged my experience from being one of apathetic theoretical discourse to one of urgent and practical problem solving. Continue reading

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Women’s and Gender Studies Department Chair Supports THE General Body’s Goal to Achieve Meaningful and Lasting Change

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Dear Chancellor Syverud,

Many of my colleagues have been truly eloquent in their pointed and poignant letters to you, written from so many different points of view and social locations. They have offered astute lessons in the history of social movements, in the first amendment, in what it means to be an educator, on what it means to be a part of this institution and dedicate one’s career to this place and its thriving, and more. I have been moved by their writings just as I have been deeply inspired by so many SU students who have demonstrated intellectual depth, powerful reflection, dialogic engagement, and a profound dedication to understanding the indivisible nature of myriad forms of injustice and harm.

As the students have well articulated and described, this means that what may seem, on the surface, to be divergent and separate issues and problems must be addressed together, not sequentially or separately. Questions of campus accessibility, mental health support and services, the Posse scholarships, endemic sexual assault on campus and the need for advocacy and a transformed campus climate, ongoing experiences with widespread racism/sexism/homophobia/ableism on campus, ADA compliance, environmental sustainability, uneven and sometimes antagonistic relations with campus and community police forces, and more are interrelated. Together, these issues and more are part of the shape and pattern of structural inequalities and asymmetrical life opportunities not only “out there” in the world, but inside “here,” at SU and in the communities in which we live and work

THE General Body represents a coalition of some of our most dedicated and engaged students coming together across a diverse (and what many others see as a divergent) range of issues. Their actions, words, and vision of what’s possible by working collectively across differences to achieve meaningful and lasting change, alongside the compelling vision of so many faculty and staff, should be seen as inspiring and as a great opportunity to forge dialogue and work toward improving SU on these and other myriad fronts.

The students and faculty are calling forth a sense of the greater possibilities before us to find ways to craft a more just, reflective, inclusive, and meaningful educational environment for all. Will you take up the invitation before you?

Most sincerely,

Vivian M. May
Associate Professor and Chair
Women’s & Gender Studies Department
National Women’s Studies Association President, 2014-2016

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Founder and Director of 601 Tully Shares Letters of Support

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I write to show solidarity with The General Body.

I also am gratified to know that the de-funding of 601 Tully in the first round of Chancellor cuts is on your list of grievances. 601 Tully was a former drug house on the NWS that 117 students from colleges across campus helped to renovate into a vibrant art, ecology and eduction center. Until this summer it served as model collaboration between artists, University and an impoverished neighborhood. It offered free classes, gallery and artist residencies seven days a week and attracted in its first year of staffing 4700 visitors. 601 Tully is also a member of CMAC (Coaltion for Museums and Arts Centers); and the School of Education has, as best they are able to, continued to support this important work.

I want to share with you two documents (here and here) of the many letters from around the country written in support of 601 Tully and against the decision to cut its funding by 100 percent last Spring by the Chancellor. These letters were sent to the Chancellor via Eric Spina at the time of the news and it seems appropriate that they be added to your list of support and grievances now. Please feel free to post them on your blog.

I look forward to supporting you tomorrow at the faculty rally.

Marion Wilson
Associate Professor
Syracuse University
Founder, Director 601 Tully
(Center for Engaged Art & Research)

marionwilson.com
601tully.syr.edu
mobileliteracyartsbus.blogspot.com

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Associate Professor of English Discusses Institutional Intimidation at University

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Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I am writing to express my profound concern about what I understand to have transpired at Crouse Hinds today (as reported to faculty by Prof. Janis MacDonald). To deny our students access to direct legal advice after they have been given individual written warnings about potential disciplinary action by the University is a fundamental violation of their basic rights and a severe breach of the values that ground the very idea of a university. To explicitly prohibit any lawyer and/or Law School faculty member from speaking to the students in Crouse Hinds constitutes not just a violation of basic rights but also a form of institutional intimidation towards students engaged in a legitimate, respectful, peaceful and dedicated protest to bring about positive change at our university.

I urge you to reverse the current prohibition and allow students immediate access to direct legal advice from lawyers and faculty who have offered to provide it to them.

Sincerely,

Roger Hallas
Associate Professor of English

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African American Studies Professor Expresses Concern Regarding Denial of Access to Legal Advice for Members of THE General Body

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A very good Saturday evening to you Chancellor Syverud! I am writing to express grave concern regarding a report from Professor Janis L McDonald, indicating that she has been denied access to members of THE General Body who had sought legal advice from her. This is shocking and difficult to understand, especially bearing in mind that you are an attorney yourself and a Professor of Law by profession. Surely, access to legal counsel is one of the most fundamental rights, not only to any member of a society, but certainly, to an accused person – which applies to every member of THE General Body served with a notice last night by Dan French, the University Lawyer. Even sentenced criminals are allowed this right. How much more so should innocent young women and men – our students and wards, to wit – who are only advocating greater justice on a university campus that is supposed to stand for academic justice?

Chancellor, I consider myself a stakeholder in this situation because in my classes I not only encourage students to question, argue, dissent and claim their democratic space in the classroom, the campus and the outside world; but to stand up for what they believe. while adamantly resisting silencing. I feel implicated in what seems to be an attempt to use power in order to intimidate, silence and punish the students, seemingly for having rejected your offers during negotiations. These are our students; our youth and “children.” Should be treating them this way instead of exercising patience and continuing to dialogue with them till negotiations reach a point of mutual acceptability?

Personally, I am very proud of THE General Body and the courage they have shown by “speaking truth to power,” for, their grievances are justified and reflect serious gaps in the administration of justice, equity, equality and inclusion on the SU campus. As someone who was once exiled from my country for advocating democratic rights, I stand with them. Ironically, their basic grievances were a part of the Civil Rights Agenda decades ago and long before they were born. It is sad, especially for those of us who were in that struggle to see the same issues persist in 2014. As the intelligentsia-in-the making, these students should be applauded for realizing that their privileged status calls for responsibility to apply the theories learnt in the classroom towards problem-solving in their communities and world at large. To their credit, they have learnt early enough that the vocation of knowledge is to humanize the world: not to dominate through exclusion and monopoly of power.

As the chief custodian of academic rights and administration of justice on this campus, I humbly urge you to re-open negotiations with THE General Body; re-instate the general immunity you had originally issued till the negotiations are complete; and certainly, to grant our students access to legal counsel.

Thank you and stay well!

Mĩcere Gĩthae Mũgo.
Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence
Department of African American Studies, Syracuse University

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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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