Tag Archives: kent syverud

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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Geography Professor Challenges Syverud’s “Unconscionable” Denial of Legal Access to Students

Witnesses to the truth of what Chancellor Syverud's move toward efficiency means in terms of real lives affected.

Witnesses to the truth of what Chancellor Syverud’s move toward efficiency means in terms of real lives affected.

Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I have refrained thus far from joining my colleagues in vocal support of “THE General Body,” because I was and am personally uncomfortable with signing on to an extensive and fluid set of demands.

This evening, however, I’ve been told that the students at Crouse-Hinds have been denied access to their lawyers, while being served with documents that can only be interpreted as threatening, given the circumstances.

I am not a lawyer, and cannot claim to know whether a judge would rule this an abrogation of the constitutional right to counsel. But there is absolutely NO DOUBT in my mind that it is counter to the values that most of us at SU try to live by, and the values that I had hoped that you would lead us in respecting. To threaten (directly or by implication) a group of non-violent student protesters with legal action, whilst simultaneously denying them the chance to meet with their lawyers is simply unconscionable.

While I may not agree with every one of the student protesters’ demands, I do respect the commitment that underlies their actions. I believe that their willingness to commit themselves to their ongoing action actually reflects credit on this institution — I teach in a School of Citizenship, and these are students who are taking their citizenship very seriously indeed (they could perhaps be contrasted with the students who regularly bring disrepute on us all with drunken antics that do not seem to result in their receiving threatening letters).

It’s my belief that the values of Syracuse University would be best expressed by allowing non-violent protesters to remain in place while respectfully engaging with their concerns, by refraining from threats, and by respecting their legal and ethical right to meet freely with their legal advisors.

Sincerely,

Jacob Bendix, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Department of Geography
Syracuse University

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Writing Instructor Asks Chancellor Syverud: “Why Are You Here?”

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Open Letter to Chancellor Kent Syverud:

There has been a lot of change in these past thirty years since I arrived on campus as a graduate student, but one thing has not changed:

In one of my classes in 1986, I think it was, I was trying to get my students to see beyond the easy binary of black and white racism, not by acknowledging “shades of gray” as that only honors and maintains the original problematic binary, but by getting them to see a world comprised of people, people whose histories, whose day-to-day existences were nuanced and often, for many if not for all, needlessly encumbered by easy categories that hold them back as individuals. While this is true for all students, the particular consequences of these encumbrances could be very different in scale depending upon the color of one’s skin, the demarcations of gender, etc.. In essence, I required that my students engage in what I considered to be the most important question of our day—the question of how and why we can understand and should respect the ideas and lives of other individuals who may be marginalized and even victimized by collective habits and understandings?

As we began our inquiry on one day in particular, I posed the following question:

Why did you come to Syracuse University?

This was almost thirty years ago. The answer from one young man:

Because it’s a party school.

I know this must resonate. A party school.

When you first arrived, you walked among our students to “get a feel” for campus. I believed then that you really wanted to know what it was like to occupy that space, that intellectual space. But I wonder, did you ever try to reach out to a young woman who was a victim of sexual assault? Did you ever try to navigate the hills and social parameters of campus from the seat of a wheelchair? Did you think about the reasons buildings like Whitman and Newhouse (both 1 and II) secure the geographic and metaphoric spaces on the hill in relation to buildings that house African American Studies? Or Native American Studies? It’s not that you would change the geographies of our campus, but that you would understand them at the level necessary to make appropriate and democratic choices for all.

This summer I taught a course in academic writing and I asked students, as they were going to be working together in groups to name themselves. I was amused to find one group named themselves Deers and Bears. I thought of you, and the email I responded to with quite a bit of tongue wedged in my cheek. My response to you was “I’m from New York City so I don’t say Searacuse or Seeracuse. I pronounce it Sieracuse—as in sieve.” I’m sure there are many more pronunciations depending on the speaker and the purpose for the articulation or the geographic region from which the speaker emerges.

But the meaning of the term is more important. And, of course, there is no one thing Syracuse University will mean to all because language itself is a messy business. We will never really erase the “party” brand, nor would we necessarily want to. Syracuse University is, after all (we hope after) a place that promises fun in many forms. But what about that entry of yours into this community will you make serious?

We can use this moment in time, this moment in our common history as it is now being crafted of our students’ works and of our own responses to their work to add to that some nuanced meaning, to say, for example, that

We honor the best in them: their willingness to engage in democratic learning, their willingness to stand up (when they can) for their, for our beliefs, their willingness to show compassion for others who walk or sit among us, and to stand or sit for what they know to be just action.

So I wondered on Wednesday, when I left campus to travel downstate why you had not yet spoken, in your own truest voice, your own most critically alert, gravity packed with the certainty of your own office voice, to what is at the core of the grievances of THE General Body. Why would you not sit with them, roll up your sleeves and ask the more meaningful questions? And then you did. In a brief and dismissive email, you answered. You ended we will do better. And better we now see is to deploy DPS, the university’s legal team and public relations documents that simplify and erase the importance of this movement.

As I asked that student in 1986, I ask you now, Chancellor Syverud (is it Syv, like a sieve?):

Why are you here?

I am really trying to understand. And I know, because I read in their deep, critical descriptions of what it is like to be heard on this campus, that the students who are THE General Body want to know this as well.

In support of THE General Body and in solidarity with their mission, I remain,

Sincerely,

Donna L. Marsh

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Education Professor Directs “Deep Distress” at Syverud’s “Menacing” Attitude Toward “Thoughtful” Student Protestors

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Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I am writing to add my deep distress about recent decisions you have made about how to deal with the student protesters on our campus.

I have been a tenured full professor at this University for over 23 years, and I have never been prouder of our students. There are so many laments about apathetic students and those who are more concerned about partying than they are about their own educations or broader issues of social justice. And now, we have all witnessed some of the finest thinking and organizing ever on this topic. This has truly been democracy in action. The students have been well organized, supportive of one another, thoughtful about their own educations and decisions and policies on campus that are problematic — and they have communicated all of this respectfully.

Those of us who have supported them from the beginning have been watchful of how the administration would respond, and, at first, I was quite hopeful. There seemed to be a real respect for the thinking and integrity of the students, and the entire situation has provided so many teachable moments about social change and advocacy. Two students from the General Body came to speak to my class on Social Justice and Diversity last Friday, and they were magnificent. They were neither strident nor angry, but were articulate and clear about their concerns, the courses of action that would alleviate those concerns, and the ways in which their demands transcended individual wants or needs. I was so proud of them, and thrilled that my students (who are preparing to be educators) could have such a clear model of how one moves from beliefs and ideologies to action.

This is, indeed, a critical moment in your relatively new position of leadership, and all eyes are on you and on Syracuse University. I urge you to think about what kind of University we are and what kind we will become if the response to the students is heavy-handed and menacing. I want to continue to be proud of my institution and of the administration as models of civic engagement and a commitment to social justice and diversity. Many of the student concerns focused on issues of transparency, and the most recent decision to deny students access to legal counsel, seems to confirm the impression that things happen in secret and in private and that those of us who should know and want to know are left out of the loop.

As co-chair of the working group on Participatory Experiences on Diversity, I can only say that THIS challenge to you and the administration provides the most powerful example of how one provides meaningful and important opportunities to broaden student and faculty understanding about diversity and inclusion. Adding a course on diversity will never be as significant as what the entire community will learn from how this challenge is handled.

I am willing and able to speak to you or Bea personally if I can be of assistance in thinking and re-thinking how one deals respectfully with the General Body on our campus.

Sincerely,

Mara Sapon-Shevin
Professor of Inclusive Education
Faculty member: Disabilities Studies, Women’s Studies, Programs in the Analysis and Resolution of Conflicts

Syracuse University

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Religion Professor Challenges Syverud on “Misuse of Your Power to Instill Fear and Compliance in Our Students”

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Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I am writing in response to the startling news that you denied students of THE G.B. access to legal counsel this weekend. Such an egregious action stands in stark contradiction to words you have expressed in letters and emails to the university at large, and frankly it is difficult to interpret it as anything but a misuse of your power to instill fear and compliance in our students. Ironically, it is precisely this kind of sharp diremption between your actions and your words that initiated student protests over the summer and fall. I cannot imagine that this latest action will do anything but galvanize their protest, solidify their resolve, and garner increasing support from faculty.

Against my better judgment, I want to tell you that your inaugural speech in Hendricks Chapel last year brought tears to my eyes. It felt physically relieving to hear the leader of our university foreground and value pedagogy in both its world-preserving and world-transforming possibilities. I had hoped to find in you a chancellor who would carry those priorities into his leadership.

The protests of THE General Body present a most acute opportunity to enact the messages you gave us that day. Here is your opportunity to show us and show all those news outlets and non-S.U. eyes what a university is and what a university can be. Here is the place to show us how teaching can both carry forward and transfigure what earlier generations have taught us. How you respond now to our students simply is your vision of a university, in its institutional, pedagogical, and aspirational components. Please reconsider your approach and set out to meet the high bar you set yourself in your inaugural speech: engage our students as a teacher who cares for their intellectual, emotional, and practical development.

Respectfully,

M. Gail Hamner
Professor and Director of Graduate Studies
Religion Department
Affiliated Faculty in Women and Gender Studies
Syracuse University

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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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