Tag Archives: sit-in

Letter of Solidarity from Colgate University Students

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To THE General Body and students of Syracuse University,

As you enter the next stage of your protest after spending 18 consecutive days in Crouse-Hinds Hall, we salute your resolve, and we, at Colgate University, stand in solidarity with you and your movement for change on your campus. We wholeheartedly support your ongoing battle and we are outraged at the complete lack of respect and dignity the Syracuse University administration has shown THE General Body. We are disheartened by the University’s lack of response to your reasonable and necessary demands. You are fighting for the safety, health, inclusion, and security of all Syracuse students and your fight has not gone unnoticed. Your struggle is our struggle.

Our admiration for your dedication runs deep. We too are strongly against the changes made in the Fast Forward platform, and agree with you that Syracuse University needs to re-wind and focus on creating an open environment for students of all backgrounds. We support your fight for campus accessibility, divestment from fossil fuels, a positive and safe sexual climate, inclusivity and transparency, attention to mental health services, the celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day and an overall environment that benefits students of all backgrounds.

We stand firmly against the actions of the Syracuse University administration, which has locked students in over the weekend, put in barriers to block student visibility, stationed security guards at the space, and taken other steps to block justice and the right to freedom of assembly. At our own sit-in, we first-hand experienced the importance of this right and are appalled at what has been happening during THE General Body’s movement. As we are still in the process of an ongoing and long struggle to transform the climate of Colgate University, it should be noted that our struggles are part of a general struggle to transform education from its corporate model to a democratic and equal one.

Individuals must work together to combat systemic and cultural oppression and marginalization. We are inspired by your efforts and send you solidarity and support as your movement continues.

In solidarity,

Association of Critical Collegians
Black Student Union
Clean Water Coalition
Hamilton Center for the Arts
International Socialist Organization
Oxfam America at Colgate University
Students for Justice in Palestine

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Letter of Solidarity to the University of California Community

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To the University of California community,

Today, we write to you in solidarity. As we left the Syracuse University administrative offices and our 18-day sit-in ended, yours began. We echo your cries for justice — they ring in our ears.

Your struggle did not begin today; it is laden with histories of silence and violence. Ours did not end today; as we move into our next phase of activism, we are cognizant of the mountain before us. There will always be more work to do.

Your bodies are your weapons and your shields. As you use them to fight for your education, please remember to love them. They will not be loved, respected, or regarded by those who try to speak over your voices. You must be louder than them. You may walk away with new scars, but do not forget that your bodies are already the sites of violence and oppression. Audre Lorde once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.

Be strong, and know that we sit with you.

In solidarity,

THE General Body
Syracuse University

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Four Pressing Problems Not Addressed in Chancellor Syverud’s “Final” Response to Student Needs & Grievances

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At Thursday’s press conference

 

We write this update 132 hours after Chancellor Syverud’s negotiation team committed to another meeting with THE General Body, a commitment that has not been honored. Instead, the Chancellor wrote a “final response” that does not adequately address many important, and in some cases life-and-death, needs of the university community.

We have now been sitting in for two full weeks, and it is important to challenge any claims that the activities arising from the sit-in have been supported by the Chancellor and his administration. The teach-ins, the knowledge exchange, and the support networks we have built have grown organically out of a collective recognition of students’ unaddressed needs.

Unfortunately, because we do not have access to the campus community listserv, we have been constrained in how we are able to share our story. The public representation of the negotiation process and the policing of Crouse-Hinds Hall has thus been tightly controlled by the Chancellor and his administration.

The outpouring of support from the faculty comes from their direct experiences with some of the administration’s tactics to discourage THE General Body. The reports from this weekend–specifically concerning the administration’s refusal to allow students in Crouse-Hinds to meet with their legal counsel–are a microcosm of what students have been experiencing throughout the sit-in:

–During the weekends, and during evening lockdown between 10PM and 7AM on weekdays, we are exposed to arbitrary DPS and fire safety check-ins and rules, denied access to study rooms, and in general kept in a heightened state of tension and surveillance.

–One morning, a student woke up to DPS taking pictures of sleeping students, without telling us how the pictures would be used.

–When we received individually addressed envelopes containing the Code of Student Conduct and Disruption Policies, it became apparent that our IDs had been scanned to catalog our comings and goings, rather than for our own safety (as the administration had assured us).

In one moment, Chancellor Syverud praises students for their leadership and historical precedent on campus, and in the next, his legal council threatens suspension and treats students as criminals.

The conditions in Crouse Hinds reflect the lack of good will Chancellor Syverud has taken in response to student grievance, needs, and solutions. After reviewing the list of student needs on November 5th, Chancellor Syverud said “They’re all important” and to choose among them “feels like asking somebody to choose between their children” (Nov. 5 official transcript). Despite this public statement to the importance of these issues, the majority of them remain unresolved in Chancellor Syverud’s “final response.”

Below you will find our outline of critical student needs that have not been met by the administration thus far and that require commitment and action.

Sincerely,

THE General Body

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  1. The Chancellor Has Not Committed to Addressing a Culture of Racism, Homophobia, and Hate Speech on Campus, and Must Support Diversity and Student Safety

Chancellor Syverud’s proposed changes to SU’s mission and vision statements take away references that describe “access to opportunity” and students from “diverse backgrounds.”  The unilateral decision to prematurely cut three years of the POSSE program, a merit based scholarship program located in cities, hints at the vision of Chancellor Syverud when it comes to decisions concerning students from diverse backgrounds. An Inside Higher Ed article on January 6, 2014 describes how Syverud, “plans to make changes to the recruitment and admissions practices at Syracuse after he takes office,” shifting to concerns over rankings instead of supporting a diverse and inclusive campus. Hannah Strong’s racist and homophobic comments only made more visible the persistent culture of racism and homophobia. While it is not just the university but an entire society that promotes this hateful thinking, SU can support a diverse campus of thoughtful students, faculty, and administration that works proactively to make the campus a safer space.

During negotiations, the Chancellor and upper-level administration committed to diversity trainings for senior leadership and to making web trainings available to the campus community by the end of the Spring 2015 semester. They have also told us, with no commitment to action, that they would consider many of our requests, often through Express Yourself workgroups. Some of these groups have not yet met, and not one has been specifically empowered to make such decisions. Our requests for the administration to make clear the specific decision making power of these workgroups in relation to many student needs remain unanswered.

THE General Body needs a concrete commitment to maintaining recruitment of students, staff, and faculty of color, abiding by the original commitment to POSSE, recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day, taking steps to add an anti-hate speech clause to the student code of conduct, investing in scholarships for students from diverse backgrounds, adding gender-neutral bathrooms to every campus building, and improving channels for reporting DPS violations.

 

  1. The Chancellor Has Not Committed To Investing in Mental Health, Psychiatric, and Sexual Assault Services for Students

THE General Body is disappointed by Chancellor Syverud’s failure to commit to addressing urgent student health needs. Currently, there is only one psychiatrist serving both SU and SUNY-ESF student bodies. There are only 17 counselors serving the student body–6 fewer than the International Association of Counseling Services, SU’s own accreditation agency, recommends. Despite a national conversation about sexual assault, where many campuses have opened new advocacy centers, SU closed its center without any input from students or faculty governance processes. Studies show that 1 in 5 college women will be sexually assaulted, and that up to 20% of college students have been diagnosed and treated with a mental health or substance use condition.

The Chancellor and his administration have said that they are seeking out ways to increase mental health support and that they are committed to investing in these resources. To follow through on this commitment, the Chancellor must commit to hiring two additional psychiatrists, a minimum of 6 new counselors (including counselors specifically supporting students with marginalized identities), and a minimum of one case manager per 3 counselors by the beginning of the Fall 2015 semester. We ask that the Chancellor’s administration inform students of all available options for counseling, that counselors follow up with all students referred to outside services.

Non-emergency medical transport must be made available immediately for mental as well as physical health appointments and services. Additionally, we ask that the Chancellor commit to implement structural changes to the campus mental health system through existing governance processes. Finally, we ask that the Chancellor and his administration engage in-depth student input for their preliminary plans to open a comprehensive Health and Wellness center.

To adequately serve students who have survived sexual assault, and prevent future assaults, we ask that Chancellor Syverud and his administration commit to opening a stand-alone center for survivors. To educate the campus community on available services, we ask that they ensure that the Yes Means Yes affirmative consent policy is supported and implemented across campus. To better support survivors, we ask that they mandate that SU’s Title IX Coordinator take the Vera House advocacy training, and that they ensure that stickers with clear information on assault services are in place in every single bathroom stall and dorm on campus. Finally, the Chancellor and his administration must honor the recommendations of the Workgroup on Sexual Violence Prevention, Education, and Advocacy by meeting with them and communicating clearly with the campus about any changes to policies or programs.

 

  1. The Chancellor Has Not Committed to Budget Transparency

During negotiations, Chancellor Syverud and upper-level administration provided inadequate budgetary information that had already been made public, and did not take any concrete steps to address THE General Body’s specific demands for transparency. The Chancellor must commit to providing necessary salary data to AAUP, and meeting regularly with the Senate Budget Committee. The Chancellor must also 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.

  1. The Chancellor Needs to Take Immediate Steps to Improve Accessibility on Campus

Syracuse University prides itself on its disability studies program and its Center for Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies. However, for over a decade the university has searched for but not successfully hired an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator to oversee and enforce accessibility on campus violating the standards of the Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). During negotiations, Chancellor Syverud demonstrated willingness to improve accessibility on campus by supporting an expedited search for an ADA coordinator (who will oversee a committee for access) and increasing flexibility in pay negotiations for this position.

In our grievances and needs document, we asked that the Chancellor create a centralized fund dedicated to providing equipment and services that create equal and inclusive access for people with disabilities. The Chancellor responded saying that this would happen within three months of an ADA Coordinator being hired. Given the challenges the institution has had in filling this position, and the wait that people with disabilities have already been subjected to, we need the Chancellor to immediately form a committee to identify and consolidate funding sources for disability access and expand OnCampus transportation. He also must charge the future ADA coordinator with assessing and monitoring The Office of Disability Services.

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Letter of Support from Geography Faculty

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As faculty members in the Syracuse University Department of Geography, we wish to express our support for, and solidarity with, the students sitting in at Crouse Hinds. As the occupation enters its second week, we are impressed with THE General Body’s clear articulation of what Syracuse needs to become a more just, inclusive, better university. We are impressed with THE General Body’s steadfastness. And we are particularly impressed that they have forced into open discussion across campus issues that we have long complained about, sometimes advocated for, but felt relatively powerless to address.

Like THE General Body, we insist that there needs to be much greater transparency as well as real, effective student, staff and faculty involvement in decision making, and especially in the financial operation of the University. There needs to be a greater commitment to, not an erosion of, shared governance. There needs to be a commitment by the Administration and the Board of Trustees to respect the processes and the will of the University Senate.

Like THE General Body, we are concerned about Syracuse University’s fading commitment to community-engaged research and teaching as a core part of the University’s mission. We are concerned about SU’s apparent withdrawal from its commitment to being a progressive force in the city and region (as imperfectly as that role may have been performed in the past) and its apparent recommitment to once again becoming an aloof institution in Syracuse but not of it.

Like THE General Body we agree the University must remain committed to recruiting a student body that is as diverse as it is talented, that it must remain an institution that is open, welcoming, and supportive to students from diverse backgrounds, and that it must recommit resources to assure that it is so.

Like THE General Body, we are concerned that hasty decisions, such as the one to close the Advocacy Center without real provision for continuance of its services, undermine the services and support students need to thrive at Syracuse University and threaten to make the campus both a physically and intellectually less safe space for some.

And like THE General Body, we know that the University is not a corporation and should not be run like one. The contemporary model of highly instrumentalized education is not only flawed but broken and poorly serves the teaching and research mission of the University. The single-minded pursuit of better rankings perverts the educational mission by putting the cart (faux-prestige) ahead of the horse (high quality learning, teaching, research, and creative endeavors).

We admire the students at Crouse Hinds and are impressed with what they are fighting for. We admire and support their taking of their education into their own hands because in doing so they are helping to make Syracuse University a better university than it currently is. We admire THE General Body because it is at the forefront of a new wave of students who will positively change the landscape of higher education. We call on the Syracuse University Administration to recognize THE General Body’s articulation of “needs and solutions” for what they are – symptoms of significant problems at Syracuse University – to address them with all the serious consideration they deserve, and to enunciate clearly and in writing how it will work collaboratively across campus to address them.

Signed (alphabetically),
Matt Huber
Susan Millar
Don Mitchell
Mark Monmonier
Anne Mosher
Tom Perreault
Jane Read
Jonnell Robinson
Tod Rutherford
Robert Wilson
Jamie Winders

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SUNY-ESF Students: Why We’re Here

divest esfOn Monday night, a group of students from SUNY-ESF attended THE General Body meeting at Crouse-Hinds Hall. Students from ESF have been closely involved in THE General Body since the beginning, but want to work towards a more visible presence of ESF students at the sit-in.

SU and SUNY-ESF share many resources, such as courses, libraries, health and wellness services, and academic programs, and the outcome of the sit-in will significantly impact both student bodies. ESF and SU students share concerns about diversity, transparency, resource allocation, and the lack of venues for democratic decision-making involving students.

Students expressed a desire to facilitate a larger conversation between science and social justice both within the space of the sit-in and within their classrooms at ESF. They cited environmental racism–where environmental problems, including climate change and pollution from processes like fracking–predominantly affect low-income communities of color in the U.S. and abroad. This conversation would help to work against “white environmentalism,” which several students identified as a tendency within conversations about the environment to omit important discussions of environmental racism. Students of color reported experiencing other micro- and macroaggressive behavior as well.

Students identified the potential for productive crossover between ESF environmental concerns and THE General Body’s mobilization about a range of social justice issues.  “A really cool thing about ESF is that we’re getting the science behind problems like climate change and pollution,” said Katie Oran, a first-year at ESF studying environmental studies. “We know how they work, how they affect the environment and our bodies. However, we need to communicate and mobilize people to care about what’s happening,” said Oran.

ESF students also critiqued the increasing corporatization of their university. Makayla Comas, a first-year student studying environmental studies, situated this as a national problem: “once colleges start seeing that they can treat their students like commodities and products, then other colleges will think it’s okay, and our education is going to suffer.” Sophomore environmental studies major Amanda Tomasello echoed this concern: “We are are setting a precedent for other schools.”

SU and ESF students have already forged connections around fossil fuel divestment. “Divest isn’t just a local issue; it’s a national issue, a global issue. SU and ESF students support each other because we have the same goals, visions, and hopes, and want to see each other succeed. We’re not just in it for ourselves, we’re in it for each other,” said Max Sosa, a first-year studying chemistry at ESF.

These students encourage others from ESF to drop by the sit-in to learn more and work towards increased collaboration between the two student bodies on issues that affect both campuses.

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A Faculty Perspective on Shutting Down Crouse-Hinds

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Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I write to appeal to you to stop and not repeat the lock-down situation in Crouse-Hinds that took place this weekend. I am a tenured faculty member who has worked at SU for 18 years and who has served in various leadership capacities at SU: as a former Department Chair and as the former Agenda Chair of the University Senate.

After a long day working on campus with various committee meetings and students, I went to Crouse-Hinds on Friday at 6 p.m. to visit several students participating in the sit-in. Two of my doctoral students and one undergraduate student I mentor were inside taking part in the sit-in. I wanted to check up on them and make sure they were doing OK. I also wanted to see if I could do anything for them–provide food, necessities, or anything they might need for school work as well as let them know I was thinking of them.

When I tried to gain entry at 6 p.m. (I had gone in and out of this building all week along with many other faculty members and students), I was stopped at the door by a DPS officer who respectfully told me that no one was going inside and no one inside could go out and come back in. This all in the name of security and safety. I told him how disappointed I was about this; it was evident to me that this officer didn’t want to turn a faculty member like me away from going in to see students. He had orders to do that, though, and he did. After waving to my students through the glass windows and having them hold up notes to communicate, I went home, feeling very discouraged and frustrated about this situation.

When I was trying to gain entry to the building, I saw seven different officers in plain clothes watching over the students and the building, and there were likely more not in sight. While some security presence is necessary, I question whether or not seven or more officers shutting down an academic building at the request of the university administration is an optimizing strategy on a Friday night. This weekend was also a football game-day when those officers would be needed elsewhere on campus to provide policing.

These students are exercising their freedom of speech and their freedom of assembly, and they pay a sizable tuition bill to attend this university. They care about the future of our university enough to put their bodies on the bricks of that building for almost a week now. They deserve the respect to come and go in that building, a building they pay to access and that their student ID grants them access to as well. I realize there are safety considerations and fire code rules, but the students have followed them to the best of my knowledge.

Some of these students may need to come and go to get specific items, books, or meet medical or self-care needs. What about students with disabilities who may need to leave to meet self-care and medical needs? ​This is a question of humanity, the ADA, and basic rights. What if one of the students in that building stayed in when he/she needed to get medical attention or was feeling ill because he/she knew that leaving meant no re-entry that weekend? A measure to guarantee security and safety could actually backfire in this situation and endanger students’ health and wellbeing.

Yes, Syracuse University can shut and lock-down a building for a weekend and put a good-sized police presence in the building, but these are the not the values that our university is known for and celebrated for among our faculty, alumni, students, and supporters. We are likely going to take a beating in the press for an action like this that is far worse than any beating we might take for the Princeton Review #1 bogus party school ranking we received this fall.

These students are standing up for what they believe in and exercising their rights and freedom of speech, and now the university is locking the building on a weekend, shutting out the faculty members who mentor and teach them, and effectively shutting down a face-to-face relationship between these students and the rest of the campus. This is a shame, and it’s not who we are or what many of us believe in at Syracuse University. Shutting the building also doesn’t shut-down the connections being forged in other ways. These students also have social media/email and are communicating constantly.

It’s also the case that the more you lock down a building, the more security you put on students, the more that pressure tactics are applied to their peaceful sit-in, the more they and others of us will rise up elsewhere and in greater force. Many of us on the faculty are watching this situation with great interest and are supportive of these students. We’ve taught, mentored, and supported these students over the years; they are like family to us–like our sons and daughters, young people that we have hope in for the future. Locking them in/locking us out should not be how we do business at a place like Syracuse University. Our business is to educate, not lock- down or shut-down. In most major moments of crisis over the years, Syracuse University has responded well and thoughtfully. We are proactive, not reactive. This weekend’s lock-down strategy was reactive, not proactive.

All of us want to move Syracuse University forward, but we don’t want to do it by shutting down buildings over the weekend and denying faculty and students free entry. We are better than this and stronger than this; there are other ways to guarantee security, safety, and freedom of speech. I appeal to you to keep the building open and to not repeat this measure in any capacity during the course of the sit-in.

Sincerely yours,

Eileen E. Schell
Associate Professor, Writing
Syracuse University

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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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