Dear Chancellor Syverud,
Moments of challenge to the status quo are the ones that test us. I realize that you are in a difficult position, having been hired by the Board of Trustees, so you perhaps feel that your primary responsibility is to them, as a CEOs is to a corporate board (and to financial share-holders). This might make you hesitant about affirming student (or faculty or staff) challenges to directives you feel you were given by the Board— including, perhaps, to make “problems” such as student protests go away. But this understanding of governance is a misunderstanding imposed by the way that private universities are structured, not the only way of imagining how chancellors could or should lead.
As the AAUP Centennial Declaration underscores, universities — even private (non-profit) ones –have a primary responsibility to the public good, which means its “shareholders” cannot be understood to be primarily represented by the Board of Trustees. Even though the Board of Trustees hired you, then, I hope that you will use your position to us to educate them, not to impose their dictates on us. The values of open-ness, inclusion and transparency the student protesters affirm, after all, are the antithesis of the way the Board operates, and, apparently, what it encourages you to uphold. In choosing between the two, the demands of eduction, justice and community point overwhelmingly in favor of the values visible in the student protest.
I hope that you will use the challenge offered by the student protest, then, as a chance to learn more about this community that you so recently entered, and take this knowledge to the Board so that SU can finally realize in its structure fully informed and truly shared governance. I know that I have learned a lot from the students myself and am disappointed that you would use heavy-handed tactics to try to disburse them—such as attempting to ignore them to death, as well as delivering threatening letters to student leaders–rather then welcoming them as part of your own education and the eduction of the larger campus community, which should protect and nourish voices most in danger of marginalization, not seek to silence them.
Associate Professor of English
I include the full AAUP Centennial Declaration I refer to above here for your reference: