Tag Archives: solidarity

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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From Free Speech to THE General Body: Why the Crouse-Hinds Sit In Matters

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An essay by Don Mitchell, Department of Geography:

This autumn marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Free Speech Movement (FSM). In American lore, UC Berkeley student activists and their supporters are now seen as heroic defenders of crucial American ideals: the right to free political speech and the efficacy and importance of civil disobedience. Tightly linked to the rising Civil Rights Movement and to the anti-war movement that was just taking hold, FSM activists sought to open up the UC Berkeley campus as a space for engaged, vigorous debate. In the process, impressive orators like Mario Savio, Jackie Goldberg, and Sander Fuchs also articulated a vision of what many students thought the American university should be. While recognizing that they were part of the great democratization of American higher education that marked the post-war era, they were worried about what the university was becoming.

In 1963, only a year before the FSM erupted, UC President Clark Kerr, the great architect of the California higher education system, sought to articulate the then-modern university’s new role in society. Writing in The Uses of the University, Kerr argued that what he called the “multiversity” had to specialize in the “production, distribution and consumption of ‘knowledge’.” The university was an economic machine, a central cog in the machine of capitalist production. A few years before that Kerr and some colleagues had described their vision of what citizenship might now entail. As they laid it out in Industrialism and Industrial Man (1960) not only were universities part of a new rational social order, but so was politics. Politics were now a matter of management. Men and women, Kerr and his colleagues wrote, “can be given some influence” in political life, but, “Society has achieved consensus and it is perhaps less necessary for Big Brother to exercise political control. Nor in this Brave New World need genetic or chemical means be employed to avoid revolt. There will not be any revolt anyway, except little bureaucratic revolts that can be handled piecemeal.” Continue reading

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English Department Faculty Statement of Solidarity With the General Body

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We undersigned faculty of the Syracuse University Department of English appreciate and applaud the efforts of THE General Body to establish a university for which “community” is not simply an empty platitude covering over an actual situation of corporate— patronizing, top down, covert— governance structures.  We also affirm that, in the process of community building, the critical questioning and advocacy for marginalized groups and voices in which the students are engaged is vital.  For this reason, we hope that the current student movement results in more than limited concessions and short-term monetary allotments from the administration, easily “forgotten” when the current students have graduated.

To the end of producing the inclusive and engaged community to which THE General Body aspires for the longterm and structurally, then, we particularly affirm, in solidarity with the students, that informed debate requires the timely and transparent access of all university members to information and knowledge—including complete financial records– and that the free exchange of knowledge should be a fundamental principle of all aspects of university life, not just in teaching and in faculty research and creative work, the core missions of the university.

We further affirm, in solidarity with the students, that the participation of all university members in genuine decision-making processes is what creates a community worthy of the name, and that to mistake rhetoric about “community” with its actual practice is a devaluation–indeed a positive perversion— of community.

We lament that the administrative response to the “grievances and demands” document issued by THE General Body conspicuously avoids mentioning any administrative concern about (or even acknowledgement of)  student recognition that erosion of shared governance and academic freedom creates an adverse learning environment for them, and that erosion of faculty governance structures, as well as administration and Board of Trustees disregard for University Senate, GSO and SA decisions, harm the university community as a whole.

We do not call attention to this silence on the part of the administration in order to choose among the student demands, but in order to underscore the distinction between longterm structural change and short term concessions.  Changes in governance structures and transparency practices in the university, materially implemented, so that students, faculty, staff and administration all have meaningful, informed, participatory roles in actual decision making (not simply “recommending”) is the sole mechanism through which the goals of inclusion and advocacy for which the students are fighting can be guaranteed for the longterm and in balance with the needs and desires of other community stakeholders, who may not yet have had a chance to voice their own views.

We hope that the administration might learn from the students about how to engage in intellectually serious, rigorous and respectful debate toward participatory decision-making.  We also urge the administration to eschew—on the model of the students– obfuscating empty corporate and PR discourse in communications with faculty, students and staff and speak directly, frankly, and substantively.

Above all, we urge the administration to work with students, faculty and staff in implementing genuine shared governance at this university, based on transparent and timely circulation of all relevant information. We realize that the resources of the university are not infinite, and that hard choices must be made with regard to continuing or expanding programs and services and the like.  At the same time, however, we insist that when such hard decisions are implemented in a fully informed and genuinely participatory manner, they are not only more likely to be just, but more likely to be accepted, even when we do not all get exactly what we hoped for.

We are proud that our students are engaging in direct critical praxis of the type that we analyze and encourage in the critical classroom, and that they are bringing this praxis to bear in university processes and practices where it is so manifestly needed— a move that we wholeheartedly encourage and affirm.

We urge THE General Body to stand firm for the longterm structural changes advocated by their document as well as their more immediate and particular concerns, and we pledge to do the same in solidarity with them.

Crystal Bartolovich
Steven Cohan
Carol Fadda Conrey
Arthur Flowers
Jules Gibbs
Mike Goode
Roger Hallas
Claudia Klaver
Amy Lang
Pat Moody
Don Morton
Patty Roylance
Bruce Smith
Dana Spiotta
Untenured Faculty in English [un-named and un-numbered to protect them— but they are plural!]

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