Tag Archives: student activism

Update from Tonight’s Meeting

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Students sitting in greet supporters through the windows at Crouse-Hinds hall.

In tonight’s meeting with senior Vice President and Dean Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz, Associate Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric Spina, and Dean Bea González, students continued to express concern that the available decision-making channels are not transparent and do not consider student input. Students expressed particular concern about the fact that both the campus sexual assault advocacy center and the POSSE scholarship program were terminated without any student input. Inside Crouse-Hinds Hall, students spoke about several key goals which have been at the center of THE General Body’s concerns:

1.) the need for the student body president to email the entire undergraduate student body;

2.) university divestment from fossil fuels

3.) student representation on the university’s Fast Forward committees

4.) honoring the contract for the POSSE program; and

5.) increasing accessibility on campus.

While THE General Body and administration made productive steps on points 1, 2, and 5, students are still waiting for commitment on the part of the administration for increased student representation on Fast Forward committees, and for the university to honor its original contract with the POSSE scholarship program. Several major points of discussion remain pending, such as reinstatement of an advocacy center that provides similar services to the one that was closed in May; the need for adequate mental health services on campus; and support for students with marginalized identities.

“These are life and death issues, issues that affect the health of the entire campus community,” said sophomore Angelina Vargas. “We will remain here until we get solutions.”

Throughout the sit-in, the demands have been consistent and they center on the following issues: transparency in decision-making processes and support for policies and programs that foster student safety, diversity, and inclusion. Prior to Wednesday’s preliminary meeting it was understood by the upper level administration that they would be receiving a preliminary document that would be updated by their meeting on Thursday. Since Thursday there have been minor revisions to the portion dealing with needs around disability and access. Otherwise, the document has remained consistent and is structured to keep dialog open.

The campus community has taken up this invitation, and THE General Body continues to receive incoming demands/needs, demonstrating the many unaddressed concerns and issues faced by students, faculty and staff on this campus. They also serve as evidence for the faith the campus community is placing on THE General Body’s negotiations with administration and the need for an open channel of communication and flexible negotiation process that can accommodate incoming demands and needs. The community’s choice to input demands via our website and through direct communication with members of THE General Body also reflects the broader community’s concern with the fact that the administration has overridden established governance processes in favor of unproductive work groups and ad hoc task forces. These groups do not have the power to produce the structural changes that the campus community needs.

“The upper level administration has been constructing a narrative that THE General Body’s list of demands has been shifting significantly, and that this is the reason we have not moved forward with negotiations,” said PhD student Yanira Rodríguez. “Negotiations have been hampered by the fact that Dean González reminded us repeatedly that she cannot make any decisions in relation to the demands,” said Rodríguez.

Following Sunday’s meeting, the administration published a recap of the weekend’s events that identified several points—such as prioritizing increases in the minimum graduate assistant stipend to follow this year’s 7% increase—as commitments that arose out of THE General Body’s demands. THE General Body is still waiting for a commitment to a specific percentage increase that will allow graduate assistants, who are often teachers at this university, to have a living wage. Currently, the 7% does not meet a living wage, and means that some graduate assistants on campus only earn $13,000/year. THE General Body is asking for clarification on stipend increases to ensure that they meet a living wage.

Negotiations with upper-level administration will resume Monday afternoon at 4PM.

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THE General Body and Administration Cover Important Ground, Identify Next Steps

weekend negotiations

Today THE General Body enters its seventh day of the sit-in and continues a weekend of talks with Dean Gonzalez regarding how to move forward and map out a timetable for the list of needs. It’s time to reflect on what the sit-in has accomplished so far.

On Saturday, students discussed seven points from the list of needs with Dean Gonzalez:

  • allowing the Student Association president to e-mail the entire undergraduate student body;
  • freezing direct investments in fossil fuels and minimizing fossil fuel investments in mutual funds;
  • granting students 1/3 representation in each Fast Forward committee (with 2/3 of that group being composed of undergraduate students);
  • reversal of cuts to the POSSE contract, which was prematurely terminated in two cities
  • immediately beginning a search for an ADA coordinator to improve accessibility on campus and making sure that they are hired and empowered;
  • merging elements of the Multicultural Spring Program into the existing “Own the Dome” structure
  • implementing diversity training for senior administrators and the campus at large; and
  • implementing a living wage and improved services for graduate staff and commuters.

Pending a written commitment from the administration, they agree to move forward with the following points. While there is still  a long way to go, the following gains indicate that there is room for productive collaboration.

  • The undergraduate Student Association president will be allowed monitored access to all undergraduate student emailing. For years, students have been advocating for full, unrestricted e-mail access to the student body. Presently, the administration has agreed to vetted, bi-monthly emails; THE General Body is negotiating for the e-mail list to function like a listserv to facilitate transparent communication with students about important campus issues.
  • The Socially Responsible Investment Matters Committee will meet with Divest SU. This is an important step forward in working towards transparency about the university’s investments.
  • The University will immediately begin an inclusive search process for an ADA coordinator. This is evidence that the university is taking important steps towards increasing accessibility on campus.
  • THE General Body’s proposal to enhance campus trainings by adding intersectional trainings throughout the various divisions of the university will be taken up and considered by the university. These trainings will be conducted by Conversations Around Race and Ethnicity (CARE) and Safer People Safer Spaces (SPSS). This indicates that the university is taking seriously THE General Body’s proposals to address the lack of safety and understanding on campus, particularly for students, faculty, and staff with marginalized identities, and the necessity that social justice assume an important role in academic work.

Beyond the accomplishments through the negotiations, THE General Body has accomplished creating a space for democratic processes, teach-ins, and education around issues affecting the 25,000 students at SU and SUNY-ESF. It is important to note that this is a student, community, and faculty-led initiative, and serves as an example of the kind of dialogue and transparency that we are calling for from the administration.

THE General Body will be meeting with Dean Gonzalez today at 5PM to work through additional needs and solutions.

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Students Receive an Outpour of Food Donations and Support at Noon Rally

rally 11.8.14 at crouse hinds

Despite efforts to keep students separated from their outside support groups–including students who need to meet with their dissertation advisors–around 50 students, faculty, staff, and community members rallied outside Crouse-Hinds at noon to show their support.

 faculty staff support

Students also received food donations from friends, faculty, staff, community members and family, who made homemade dishes and baked goods to keep students’ spirits up. John Colasacco, a teacher in the Writing department, who arrived to donate food shortly after the designated drop-off time of 4:00-4:45, was turned away at the door by DPS. Colasacco’s seven-year-old  son, who needed to use the bathroom was also denied entry. But the people bringing in food bought by Dean Gonzalez came inside carrying trays.

In a show of solidarity with those who made an effort to contribute and were stopped at the door, students donated the Dean’s contribution to Food Not Bombs, which will take the food to a homeless shelter.

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