Tag Archives: thegeneralbody

Professor in the University Honors Program Charges “Violation of Civil Rights,” Asks Chancellor to Explain Actions to Campus Community

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Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I am deeply concerned about what seems to be a violation of civil rights on the part of your administration in regard to the students. If I understand your actions correctly, you have made the university code of conduct a legal statute that supersedes civil rights granted in the constitution.

I would be grateful if you would explain your action to the campus community.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Sally Roesch Wagner, Ph.D.
Founding Director, The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation
Adjunct Faculty, The Renée Crown University Honors Program, Syracuse University

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“1,100 College Students Commit Suicide Every Year. We Cannot Wait for These Tragedies”

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Below is a statement said by Mali Golomb-Leavitt at our press conference last week:

We all know the statistics that have been surfacing throughout this movement. There is currently one psychiatrist serving the mental health needs of 24,000 students. To meet SU’s own accreditation agency’s recommendations that the senior administration themselves have cited in responses, the Counseling Center would need to hire a minimum of six counselors to adequately serve the needs of our campus.

Chancellor Syverud said during our very first meeting with him that choosing between our demands was like choosing between his children. And yet he thinks he has given us a “final” response without addressing over half of our demands in conversation even once, including mental health concerns. We will not leave without a conversation.

Instead, the only response to the mental health section says it will discuss these issues with the Student Association advisory board.

The response gave no assurance that they will take these conversations and their outcomes seriously as we have seen how easily they disregard other bodies of governance.

Secondly, presumably this SA advisory board will have many other concerns to deal with. Mental health needs a team of people including student representation whose only initiatives are to address the widespread disparities in mental healthcare on this campus. Our request to have a workgroup devoted to mental health concerns was ignored.

Finally, I need to reiterate that this is a clear example of senior administration redirecting our demands into bureaucratic processes with no guarantees of meeting them. The concrete demands in our document were not guidelines or suggestions. They are absolute, life and death necessities and we will not go home until we have commitments on them. There is no assurance that SA advisory board will ensure that these specific demands are met.

To be clear about what the stakes are here: We are talking about providing resources for students struggling with mental health on campus, and these include students whose lives are at risk as we speak. We have emergency medical transportation to take psychiatric emergencies to hospitalization after they have hurt themselves. We do not have consistent transportation to the therapy that can prevent those situations.

1,100 college students commit suicide every year. We cannot wait for these tragedies. Commitments such as hiring at least two additional psychiatric providers are non-negotiable.

We are not going home without these commitments.

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Anthropology Professor and Chair Urges Chancellor to Move Forward with a Respectful Negotiation

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Dear Chancellor Syverud —

I am praying and hoping that there has been a misunderstanding. I have served at this University for 22 years, as a professor, citizen, mentor, advisor, department chair, and as a deeply dedicated member of this community. I deeply love Syracuse University. I have been proud to call this institution my home. I have witnessed many key moments in this institution’s history — from the aftermath of the collective pain of the loss of so many students to terrorism in 1988, to the rallying of faculty, students and staff in 1998 in support of the service workers on campus, to the collective amazement and joy so many of us felt together in these halls when we witnessed on screen the inauguration of the first African American president and debated the future together. These have all been moments of collective emotion and the opening up of new futures. We have as a university always been willing to debate and discuss our differences, we have learned from them and we have moved forward.

But today I feel pain and sadness. I feel that my pride in the university I have worked for for 22 years has been compromised. I do not feel proud to be a Syracusan today. I felt uplifted last week by your genuine openness and willingness to engage with the students sitting in at Crouse-Hinds. I felt uplifted by your promise to take no retaliatory action against students who are motivated — whatever you may think of the specifics — by idealism and love for this institution. I felt uplifted by your repeated recognition and acknowledgment that the students were participating in a long and honorable history of dissent.

Obviously eventually the students will leave Crouse-Hinds. The question is how and under what terms. There is every reason to believe we can move forward with a respectful negotiation, well mediated. But to act as it seems you have done today — to tell DPS to deny the students access to legal counsel — this is not the way forward. This is the way of intimidation and disrespect and fear and sadness. Please, please do not give in to those sides of institutional life. That will be a choice that will haunt this institution for years to come. Please, please choose the path of love and patience. We can do this together. The students need their legal counsel, and they need mediators. They do not need threats and the denial of access to counsel.

I pray and hope there has been a misundestanding.

Very sincerely,

John Burdick
Professor and Chair
Department of Anthropology​

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Geography Professor Discusses Civil Rights for THE General Body

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Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I am writing with serious disappointment that the students protesting with THE General Body have been denied legal counsel. Given that the administration has publicly indicated they intend to take disciplinary action, the students require advice from legal professionals. Just because Syracuse is a private University does not mean it can deny the students their basic civil rights.

I also find it extremely disingenuous that you publicly laud the students actions and now appear to be subjecting them to disciplinary action. You said in your recent University-wide email, “The past ten days have demonstrated much about the importance of listening to our students and responding to their concerns…I cannot say enough how much I admire and respect the students’ commitment to this University. ” If you believe in the importance of these students expressing their concerns then they must be allowed to protest and sit without fear of retaliation or reprisal from the Administration. The delivery of name-identified legal envelopes to students in the sit in is an obvious and distasteful scare tactic.

It is time for your congenial rhetoric to match your actions. Please do whatever it takes to ensure that these students are given legal counsel and their basic civil rights.

Sincerely,

Matt Huber
Department of Geography
144 Eggers Hall
The Maxwell School
Syracuse University

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School of Education Professor Says THE General Body Provides Hopes for Future of SU

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Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I am writing to express both my concern for our students being locked-in at Crouse-Hinds over the weekend, and my dismay that they are being prevented from obtaining legal support and counsel. I am proud that we have such strong, committed, engaged, and passionate students. They ARE the university!

The students in THE General Body, have given me hope for the future of SU. These students’ actions and efforts stand in stark contrast to other very public, recent “actions” taken by groups of students here (as you might recall here) – the defense of the rampant “party” culture which itself contributes to the cultures of rape, racism, ableism, and sexism that are part of what the THE General Body are standing against.

I am proud that we have students who are committed to improving SU for everyone. I hope you will personally re-engage with our students, allow them access to legal counsel, and protect them from retaliation.

Alan Foley
School of Education

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Writing Instructor Discusses Chancellor’s Bullying Tactics

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Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I join my colleagues in expressing my deep disappointment in your denial of legal counsel to the students sitting in at Crouse Hinds. Even more disturbing and surprising is the fact that you suddenly reneged on your Nov. 14th promise to refrain from taking retaliatory action against them in the first place, especially after you publicly lauded them in a recent e-mail as “admirable” and “committed” members of our university community.

Exerting your power as chancellor in order to silence and remove these students from the administration building is the EASY way to proceed. But such a move will only further alienate the faculty, staff, and the rest of the student body. I want to echo my colleagues in reminding you that our students and faculty look to you as not only the “manager-in-chief” of this university, but also as an ethical role model. To be blunt, your recent actions strike me as bullying tactics and are not the sort of behavior I’d expect from my chancellor. I urge you to allow these students legal counsel and to withdraw the disciplinary action you’ve now strategically taken against individual members of THE General Body.

As you, yourself, expressed in your letter to the entire university on Wednesday night, this is a particularly thoughtful and committed group of students. I stand in solidarity with them on many of the issues they’ve raised, including their opposition to funding cuts for diversity initiatives, inadequate mental health services, the closure of the Advocacy Center, lack of respect for university senate decisions on promotion and tenure, and removal of key language around issues of democracy and community engagement from our university’s mission statement. You’ve emphasized your “good-faith” efforts in negotiating with the students on these issues; I implore you to live up to your own words.

As I’m sure you’re keenly aware, the entire community is watching you. These are the moments that define a career and a life. Please choose your words and actions carefully.

Respectfully yours,

Ivy Kleinbart
Writing Instructor / Writing Program
Faculty Liaison / SU Project Advance
Syracuse University
ikleinba@syr.edu

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Associate Professor of English Discusses Institutional Intimidation at University

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Dear Chancellor Syverud,

I am writing to express my profound concern about what I understand to have transpired at Crouse Hinds today (as reported to faculty by Prof. Janis MacDonald). To deny our students access to direct legal advice after they have been given individual written warnings about potential disciplinary action by the University is a fundamental violation of their basic rights and a severe breach of the values that ground the very idea of a university. To explicitly prohibit any lawyer and/or Law School faculty member from speaking to the students in Crouse Hinds constitutes not just a violation of basic rights but also a form of institutional intimidation towards students engaged in a legitimate, respectful, peaceful and dedicated protest to bring about positive change at our university.

I urge you to reverse the current prohibition and allow students immediate access to direct legal advice from lawyers and faculty who have offered to provide it to them.

Sincerely,

Roger Hallas
Associate Professor of English

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African American Studies Professor Expresses Concern Regarding Denial of Access to Legal Advice for Members of THE General Body

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A very good Saturday evening to you Chancellor Syverud! I am writing to express grave concern regarding a report from Professor Janis L McDonald, indicating that she has been denied access to members of THE General Body who had sought legal advice from her. This is shocking and difficult to understand, especially bearing in mind that you are an attorney yourself and a Professor of Law by profession. Surely, access to legal counsel is one of the most fundamental rights, not only to any member of a society, but certainly, to an accused person – which applies to every member of THE General Body served with a notice last night by Dan French, the University Lawyer. Even sentenced criminals are allowed this right. How much more so should innocent young women and men – our students and wards, to wit – who are only advocating greater justice on a university campus that is supposed to stand for academic justice?

Chancellor, I consider myself a stakeholder in this situation because in my classes I not only encourage students to question, argue, dissent and claim their democratic space in the classroom, the campus and the outside world; but to stand up for what they believe. while adamantly resisting silencing. I feel implicated in what seems to be an attempt to use power in order to intimidate, silence and punish the students, seemingly for having rejected your offers during negotiations. These are our students; our youth and “children.” Should be treating them this way instead of exercising patience and continuing to dialogue with them till negotiations reach a point of mutual acceptability?

Personally, I am very proud of THE General Body and the courage they have shown by “speaking truth to power,” for, their grievances are justified and reflect serious gaps in the administration of justice, equity, equality and inclusion on the SU campus. As someone who was once exiled from my country for advocating democratic rights, I stand with them. Ironically, their basic grievances were a part of the Civil Rights Agenda decades ago and long before they were born. It is sad, especially for those of us who were in that struggle to see the same issues persist in 2014. As the intelligentsia-in-the making, these students should be applauded for realizing that their privileged status calls for responsibility to apply the theories learnt in the classroom towards problem-solving in their communities and world at large. To their credit, they have learnt early enough that the vocation of knowledge is to humanize the world: not to dominate through exclusion and monopoly of power.

As the chief custodian of academic rights and administration of justice on this campus, I humbly urge you to re-open negotiations with THE General Body; re-instate the general immunity you had originally issued till the negotiations are complete; and certainly, to grant our students access to legal counsel.

Thank you and stay well!

Mĩcere Gĩthae Mũgo.
Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence
Department of African American Studies, Syracuse University

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Director of the Latino-Latin American Studies Program: “Do Not Erase What Years of Teaching and Mentoring Have Been Able to Achieve”

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Dear Chancellor Syverud:

For the past two weeks a number of SU students have engaged in a rich and democratic tradition called free speech. As a Berkeley alumna I have been reminded of the now half a century old Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley during the Fall 1964 semester, the first of the 1960s campus student movements to make headlines all over the world. Lasting a little over two months, it ended with the arrest of 773 persons for occupying the administration building, the removal of the campus administration, and a vast enlargement of student rights. In that instance the students used their voices to advance their demands for change and to learn, as newly minted adults, the value of serious and meaningful debate.

Fifty years have elapsed since the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and students continue to fight for fair conditions and reasonable opportunities for all. Following that productive tradition our students have been calling attention to a number of concerns and demands. They have articulated their concerns quite eloquently, and with maturity. As a matter of fact if, as many argue, critical reflection is an extension of “critical thinking”, a process that asks us to think about our practice and ideas, then challenges us to step-back and examine our thinking by asking probing questions, I am proud to say that our students have honored that tradition, one at the core of a liberal arts education.

For over a decade now a great deal has been said about the supposed apathy of our youth. A frequent question is: Why is our generation so willfully ignorant? Many a parent and a teacher or mentor, have repeatedly told young adults: “You need to stand up for what you believe in. How do you expect people to believe in you if you can’t even actively stick up for yourself?” Well, our students have done just that. In so doing they have put their communication skills to work and, yes, they have tweeted, Facebooked, and instant messaged their demands, as part of a generation that has been defined by social networking, but they have also shown the ability to communicate with people face to face, to express those opinions directly to those in power, not just on a blog — to have serious face-to-face conversations with the administration, to express dissatisfaction with something that affects their real life, not secretly tweeting it behind a phone screen. They risk a great deal, and I have never been prouder of them.

This said, I realize the university has rules and regulations and, as a private institution, has to respond to a number of interests. My main concern, my main interest are my students, their safety, and their future, which includes their ability to be heard, to be safe, and to complete their education without sanctions.

I am writing to ask that our students be treated not only with respect, but that what they have risked so much for be seriously taken into account. A university has many missions as a recent newspaper article reminds us: the development of the whole, thinking person, the cultivation of creativity, the maturation of social and cultural sensibilities, and even the increased passion for life, learning and civic engagement of all sorts. Do not penalize or lend lip service to what our students have been risking so much for. Do not erase what years of teaching and mentoring have been able to achieve.

Respectfully,

Myrna García-Calderón
Associate Professor of Spanish and Latin American Literature and Culture
Director of the Latino-Latin American Studies Program

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School of Education Professor Supports Students’ Lawful Right to Nonviolent Protest

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Dear Chancellor Syverud

I am writing as a faculty member with deep concern over the withholding of legal supports & council for our students in THE general body. I see this as an abuse of power, especially troubling as it is being wielded against our own students after a supposedly “good faith” promise of nonretaliation. I use “our” instead of “the” purposely. Our students are exercising their lawful right to nonviolent protest; they have my full support & admiration. The values they are fighting for (inclusion, diversity, & advocacy) have deep roots in this institution & values that I personally share. I hope you will reconsider your actions.

Respectfully submitted,

Beth Ferri
School of Education

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