Tag Archives: solidarity

“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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A Follow-Up Letter to the Chancellor

Dear Chancellor Syverud,

In my last letter, I criticized you for the lack of substance in your “Orange Friends” emails. I want to applaud you for breaking that pattern in your message to the university community last night. But I also made another request: that you take THE General Body seriously and talk to us. And in this sense your email, with the mixed messages it offers, falls flat.

You have asked us to “work collaboratively with the duly elected representatives and governing bodies that are currently in place,” suggesting that you have an interest in the democratic processes of shared governance. It’s nice to hear this, since we are also invested in these processes. But it’s hard to take this claim seriously when in the very same email, you unilaterally shut down negotiations with THE General Body. It’s not hard to read between the lines. You are only invested in democratic processes to the extent that they occur within an institutional framework that you control. If you wish to set the record straight, you should recognize that a protest movement like ours represents democracy in its purest form.

In apologizing for the “process and communications” related to decisions about the Advocacy Center and Posse Program, you have again broken somewhat from your past attitudes and taken a step in the right direction. But why the excessive limitations in the scope of your apology? Your unwillingness to express regret for the content of the decisions rather than merely the processes by which they were made and communicated makes this apology seem half-hearted. This sense is bolstered by the fact that your apology contains defensive language about your “sincere” efforts to take everyone’s feelings into account. If you wish to be seen as sincere, honor the university community members whose marginality was aggravated by your decisions with an apology that does not defend your actions or include such limitations in scope.

I urge you to caution as we move forward. The role DPS has been playing in the protest thus far has been troubling enough. By sending security forces – some of them armed – to subject your own students to surveillance and harassment for exercising their right to free speech, exhibiting independent, creative, and critical thinking, and working to actualize their own social visions you have already done grievous harm to the capacity of this university to educate. If you truly desire to improve SU’s academic reputation, it will be helpful to deescalate the role DPS is playing in these protests. I hope you will work toward creating an environment in which students’ development as leaders and intellectuals is not hampered by a heavy-handed use of authority.

Sincerely,

Daniel Cheifer
PhD Candidate, Religion Department
Humanities Center Dissertation Fellow
Syracuse University

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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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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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