Tag Archives: diversity

THE GENERAL BODY ENDS 18 DAY SIT-IN WITH A GROWING BASE OF FACULTY, ALUMNI, STUDENT, AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT

ending sit in

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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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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“Vague Assurances Are Not Enough”: Two Law Professors Reject Syverud’s Unilateral “Fast Forward”

photoDear Chancellor Syverud:

We are co-directors of the Cold Case Justice Initiative and faculty members at SU College of Law. We want to take this opportunity to comment on what is happening on campus with The General Body. We want to be clear that we have not introduced our concerns about CCJI to the students. However, we understand the students’ call for change in the way decisions are made. These decisions (e.g. withdrawal of support from nationally recognized SU efforts, particularly ones concerning issues of importance to African American and other minorities) are made without meaningful input from the populations who are most affected. The decisions then are expected to be accepted without objection or complaint.

This has been the problem with the Advocacy Center, the Posse program, the mission statement, fast forward and others items on your agenda. An apology about the process is not enough. Listening groups are not enough. Vague assurances to allow more input are not enough. This is an important moment in your administration. Positive decisions need to be made that ensure the integrity and continuance of these critical programs.

We have had an opportunity to attend various meetings and programs of the Posse Atlanta. We were very impressed with the quality of the program, the quality of students chosen and the intense involvement across the Atlanta community in this effort. The students we have met who have come to the program return to Atlanta praising their experience at SU and supporting the new students who join Syracuse University. Our Atlanta Alumni Regional Council has been very involved in this program; indeed as you know, Board of Trustee Member Rey Pascual was one of the initiators of Atlanta posse. Likewise Angela Robinson, also a prestigious alum and member of the Board of Advisors for Newhouse, helped to establish this program and remains a staunch supporter. The whole Atlanta community is very aware of Syracuse’s presence and work in the Atlanta area, including Posse, work by Newhouse and work by the Cold Case Justice Initiative there. Many of them are concerned that Syracuse may withdraw support from these successful regional initiatives.

In the proposed new mission statement, the dramatic elimination of a commitment to people of color in admissions, support, scholarships, safety, recognition and programs that directly affect them is distressing and frankly insulting. This is not about general diversity which tends to dilute the obvious and direct problems that affect traditionally marginalized individuals and groups – people of color, people of different abilities, sexual orientation, and gender identities. This University has established a reputation for supporting and encouraging these groups to come to this campus and thrive. However, when the students identify problems or a change in that commitment your discussion of the advantages of general diversity, general scholarship opportunities or other priorities diminish the message to these students and their allies.

Furthermore, the University’s message about the new direction troubles those of us who see what is happening to all of our previous efforts to create a place that supports and sustains these initiatives. The message you are sending is giving credence to those who believe that students of color bring down the academic standards of the university. This unfairly and inaccurately blames those diverse populations. If this is not the message you mean to convey, your activities should directly confront this racist connotation through actions, words and policies, including those that the students urge.

The Syracuse community is alarmed by the changes, too. We are constantly asked by a range of community members – politicians, educators, community activists, artists, and ordinary residents: “What is happening at Syracuse? Why are they abandoning the strong hill/community connection we have all worked so hard to establish.”

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. 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. We urge you to take Immediate actions to order DPS to cease intimidation with their barrage of ever-changing rules and requirements aimed at the students who are sitting in Crouse Hinds. Further, we urge you to ensure that the building remains heated while students are there.

Thank you for your attention. We hope to soon feel better about the university that we have served for over twenty years. We have produced passionate, skillful, and dedicated advocates from our students at CCJI. It is this sort of passionate advocacy that we are witnessing as this broad coalition of students who comprise The General Body insist that Syracuse University reach its potential to be an inclusive environment in which to learn, teach, work, and live.

Janis L. McDonald & Paula C. Johnson
Professors of Law
Co-Directors Cold Case Justice Initiative
Syracuse University College of Law

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“Diversity is a Reality”

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Below is a letter from Danielle Reed’s mother, which Danielle read at our press conference today:

Parents Office and Chancellor Syverud,

Diversity is a reality and you do not have a right to reject and not support students and organizations based on disability (PL 94-142, IDEA etc protections) nor economic or ethnic discrimination. You may cloak it as needed budget cuts or default to other reasons but its apparent your attempts as stated by student investigations. You need to revisit these secretive changes. If you do not heed the populous, the university will not flourish as it has in previous years. If you do not take responsibly and admit to these grave errors, you failed if you came to SU to be a great leader. You inevitably choose to obliterate years of hard work and growth to be an inclusive university as evidenced in the previous vision and mission statements. You technically may have a right to not solicit parent or student approval for these actions but ultimately the university is to serve the students and communities. You will be gone after several years but my child’s education and access to mental and financial need will impact her and my entire family for generations to come.

Sincerely,
Ms. Karla Y. Russell
Curriculum & Instruction with Conflict Resolution M.Ed
Special Education Facilitator B.S.
Online Student for Certification as an Addiction Counselor
Community Activist

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