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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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SU Labor Studies Working Group Statement of Solidarity

As an interdisciplinary group of faculty and students, the Labor Studies Working Group supports, and stands in solidarity with the students sitting in at Crouse-Hinds Hall. The Labor Studies Working Group has aspired to raise consciousness about the conditions and concerns of all workers within the Syracuse University community. We are impressed with the students of THE General Body in their efforts to fight for a more inclusive and democratic university. We are amazed by their organizing skills and tenacity to stick to a core set of demands that represent their many diverse struggles.

Like THE General Body, we are concerned with the lack of transparency when it comes to decisions that affect workers on campus.  This lack of transparency has intensified with the new administration. For example, for the first time in nearly 50 years the American Association of University Professors at Syracuse were not provided with critical salary data to write the Z report so important to faculty in understanding the salary structures at the university. The administration also has not been cooperative in meeting with the University Senate Budget Committee.

Like THE General Body, we believe democratic inclusion and shared governance requires that the Administration actually responds to feedback from faculty and student-run institutions. The decision of the Board of Trustees to reject the Senate’s recommendations on tenure and promotion policy is a disturbing and anti-democratic action. We hope the administration takes seriously the recent Senate motions calling on the Board of Trustees to reconsider this decision, and more fully explain their actions.

Like THE General Body, we are concerned about marginalized identities on campus. In particular, we are concerned with the many precarious working populations on campus. This includes contingent part time and adjunct faculty who despite doing the most important thing on campus – teaching – are poorly compensated and lack benefits. This includes the grad students who also teach and lack even a basic living wage. This includes staff and other service workers who deserve value and respect as they are the real foundation of how this university functions.

We respect what the students are doing in Crouse-Hinds. Any scholar of labor knows that sometimes resistance must take the form of direct action and bodily occupation to force systems of power to respond to demands from below. We also respect THE General Body’s unity and solidarity across different concerns and identities that have also been critical to labor struggles throughout history.  We call on the Syracuse University Administration to address THE General Body’s articulation of “needs and solutions” with not only future promises and reviews, but concrete actions and explanations issued in writing.
Signed (In alphabetical order)

Parvathy Binoy, Graduate Student, Geography

John Burdick, Professor of Anthropology
Linda Carty, Associate Professor, African American Studies

Collin Chambers, Undergraduate Student, Geography

Patrick Cihon, Associate Professor of Law & Public Policy, Emeritus

Leyla Fallhan, Graduate Student, Political Science

Brian Hennigan, Graduate Student, Geography, Graduate Students United

Matt Huber, Assistant Professor of Geography

Natasha Koshy, Graduate Student, Social Science

Vincent Lloyd, Assistant Professor of Religion

Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, Assistant Professor, Food Studies

Don Mitchell, Distinguished Professor of Geography

Chandra Mohanty, Distinguished Professor of Woman’s and Gender Studies

Laurel Morton, President, Adjuncts United

Jason Newton, PhD candidate, History Department

William Oliver, Graduate Student, Sociology

Tracy Peterchak, Graduate Student, Sociology

Jessica Posner, Part-Time Instructor in Transmedia Core, Department of Transmedia

Gretchen Purser, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Tod Rutherford, Professor of Geography

Eileen Schell, Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric

Jessie Speer, Graduate Student, Geography

Fabiola Ortiz, Graduate Student, Anthropology

Matthew Victor, Undergraduate Student, Newhouse

Evan Weissman, Assistant Professor, Food Studies

James Williams, Adjunct Professor, College of Law

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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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THE General Body Fights for 11 Needs Imperative to the Campus Community

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As THE General Body garners national media attention with articles in USA Today, The Nation, and Democracy Now!, a point of confusion has emerged: the size of the grievances and needs document. For example, when members of THE General Body described students’ grievances and needs at a Student Association (SA) meeting last night, one SA member asked, “how can students expect immediate change when the administration has to address 40+ pages of demands?”

To clarify, the bulk of the document comprises extensive research, anecdotes, and definitions (for example, for terms like “racial microaggression” or “hate speech”). The grievances and needs themselves can be summarized in the following 11 points:

  • Opening Fast Forward’s new mission and vision statements for widespread university participation. The new statements omit statements supporting diversity, citizenship, accessibility, democracy, and community engagement. This is imperative since mission and vision statements provide guidance on how the university prioritizes programs, curricula, and the campus environment.
  • Committing to invest in sexual assault services and a community space for survivors in light of the closure of the Advocacy Center.  This includes issuing an apology for closing the Advocacy Center with one business day’s notice covertly in an email attachment, without any student or faculty input, and for leaving gaps in crucial services such as advocacy for sexual assault survivors in the summer. It also includes concrete commitments to invest in sexual assault services and prevention.
  • Increased student participation in FastForward workgroups. THE General Body calls for ⅓ of each workgroup to be students (of which ⅔ would be undergraduate students). These groups are charged with determining how the University as a whole will be restructured.
  • Investing in academic programs, scholarships, and faculty/staff representing the diverse student body and academic interests. This includes honoring the original contract for the POSSE program, which is a merit-based scholarship for inner city leaders, maintaining needs-based scholarships and programs for diverse populations, and recruiting more faculty of color and LGBTQ faculty.
  • Committing to divest from fossil fuels. This includes transparency about the university’s current investments, and a commitment to divestment.
  • Accessibility on campus. This includes hiring an ADA coordinator to oversee large-scale changes serving students with disabilities, investing in services and trainings for all students, and improving the accessibility of buildings on campus.
  • Taking preventative measures to protect the safety of students with marginalized identities. This includes diversity training for upper-level administrators, integrating diversity training into curricula, and adding a prohibition on hate speech to the student code of conduct.
  • Working for the well-being of graduate students in GA, RA, and TA positions. This includes a living wage, commuter parking, and access to open enrollment in dental health care.
  • Improving mental health services on campus. This includes hiring additional psychiatrists to meet student needs, additional counselors, improving medical transport, and establishing a mental health workgroup. The significance of this cannot be diminished as one in four students are in need of mental health services and the national conversation on mental health after the Virginia Tech incidents had other universities scrambling on how to provide better services for its students.
  • Transparency about administrative budget decisions. This includes making available a breakdown of how tuition dollars are spent, providing salary data to AAUP, and releasing data on sports team financial transactions and the over $1 billion raised for the endowment.
  • Investing $7 million in the library budget. The university used to have a great library until a move toward technology became the justification for its slow dismantling and the relocation of books. The library now functions primarily as a study space.

This evening, THE General Body submitted a complete series of responses to the administration based on the negotiations over the past few days. Students await a meeting commitment from the administration for Wednesday, November 12.

THE General Body continues to receive wide support from SU faculty and has also received wide support from other university campuses struggling with similar issues.

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Tatiana Cadet’s Press Statement on Behalf of THE General Body

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Below is Tatiana Cadet’s statement from our press conference last week that describes who THE General Body is and what the group stands for.

Good afternoon and welcome to our space. I am Tatiana Cadet, and this is my first semester at Syracuse University.

As a member of THE General Body, I want to describe who we are and what we stand for.

THE General Body is a diverse coalition of student leaders, coming together to support diversity and transparency on our campus.

It is apparent to us that major transformations are happening at this university, changes that affect the entire Syracuse University community, including those presently here and those to come.

While the Fast Forward Syracuse plan is in the making, we have an idea of where it is headed.

On Thursday and Friday, the Board of Trustees will meet to adopt a new mission and vision statement that strips away many of the values that we hold dear.

References to students of diverse backgrounds, the university as a public good, the role of students as citizens, and the idea that we should be strengthening democracy through this school have been deleted.

We aren’t just concerned about the verbal changes – we have also seen changes in action that have us deeply concerned about the direction of the university.

As many of you know, the Advocacy Center was closed over the summer without student, faculty, or staff input. Not only this but the center was closed with only one day’s notice for students and no adequate replacement services for victims of sexual assault over the summer.

Likewise, an inner-city student leadership program called Posse was closed without consulting with students or transparent information of where the funds would be reallocated.

There are many other incidents on campus that reveal a hostile and unsafe environment for students with marginalized identities, including people of color, disabled students, and students in need of mental health services.

These are not isolated events – they are a trend, as others will address.

It is clear to us that Fast Forward Syracuse is leading us to a university in which decisions are made from the top down.

It is important to point out that this sit-in was our last resort. This is not the first time we have brought up these issues, this is not the first time we are voicing our stance, the rally for Diversity and Transparency was not the first movement intended to voice change.

So in arguing for a diverse, inclusive, and democratic university, we are sitting in. And creating here a diverse, inclusive, democratic space for the voices and perspectives of the university community.

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More than Bricks in the Wall

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The upper level administration’s latest tactic: a wall to keep the outside community from connecting with students who are sitting-in. This morning a construction fence was erected outside the windows of Crouse-Hinds Hall, blocking visibility and access for those trying to connect with students staging the sit-in. This will not deter students from sitting until they get a written action plan from the administration. THE General Body  has made tremendous progress in this regard.

The University honors the fall of the Berlin wall then its top level administrators put a fence around student protesters. THE General Body knows historically what these walls mean, they know what side of the fence they are on.

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Update from Tonight’s Meeting

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Students sitting in greet supporters through the windows at Crouse-Hinds hall.

In tonight’s meeting with senior Vice President and Dean Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz, Associate Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric Spina, and Dean Bea González, students continued to express concern that the available decision-making channels are not transparent and do not consider student input. Students expressed particular concern about the fact that both the campus sexual assault advocacy center and the POSSE scholarship program were terminated without any student input. Inside Crouse-Hinds Hall, students spoke about several key goals which have been at the center of THE General Body’s concerns:

1.) the need for the student body president to email the entire undergraduate student body;

2.) university divestment from fossil fuels

3.) student representation on the university’s Fast Forward committees

4.) honoring the contract for the POSSE program; and

5.) increasing accessibility on campus.

While THE General Body and administration made productive steps on points 1, 2, and 5, students are still waiting for commitment on the part of the administration for increased student representation on Fast Forward committees, and for the university to honor its original contract with the POSSE scholarship program. Several major points of discussion remain pending, such as reinstatement of an advocacy center that provides similar services to the one that was closed in May; the need for adequate mental health services on campus; and support for students with marginalized identities.

“These are life and death issues, issues that affect the health of the entire campus community,” said sophomore Angelina Vargas. “We will remain here until we get solutions.”

Throughout the sit-in, the demands have been consistent and they center on the following issues: transparency in decision-making processes and support for policies and programs that foster student safety, diversity, and inclusion. Prior to Wednesday’s preliminary meeting it was understood by the upper level administration that they would be receiving a preliminary document that would be updated by their meeting on Thursday. Since Thursday there have been minor revisions to the portion dealing with needs around disability and access. Otherwise, the document has remained consistent and is structured to keep dialog open.

The campus community has taken up this invitation, and THE General Body continues to receive incoming demands/needs, demonstrating the many unaddressed concerns and issues faced by students, faculty and staff on this campus. They also serve as evidence for the faith the campus community is placing on THE General Body’s negotiations with administration and the need for an open channel of communication and flexible negotiation process that can accommodate incoming demands and needs. The community’s choice to input demands via our website and through direct communication with members of THE General Body also reflects the broader community’s concern with the fact that the administration has overridden established governance processes in favor of unproductive work groups and ad hoc task forces. These groups do not have the power to produce the structural changes that the campus community needs.

“The upper level administration has been constructing a narrative that THE General Body’s list of demands has been shifting significantly, and that this is the reason we have not moved forward with negotiations,” said PhD student Yanira Rodríguez. “Negotiations have been hampered by the fact that Dean González reminded us repeatedly that she cannot make any decisions in relation to the demands,” said Rodríguez.

Following Sunday’s meeting, the administration published a recap of the weekend’s events that identified several points—such as prioritizing increases in the minimum graduate assistant stipend to follow this year’s 7% increase—as commitments that arose out of THE General Body’s demands. THE General Body is still waiting for a commitment to a specific percentage increase that will allow graduate assistants, who are often teachers at this university, to have a living wage. Currently, the 7% does not meet a living wage, and means that some graduate assistants on campus only earn $13,000/year. THE General Body is asking for clarification on stipend increases to ensure that they meet a living wage.

Negotiations with upper-level administration will resume Monday afternoon at 4PM.

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