Tag Archives: transparency

GSO Censures the Administration for Changes to Health Care Plan

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April 2, 2015
Graduate Student Organization
216 Bowne Hall

Dear Chancellor Syverud:
On April 1st, 2015 the Senate of the Graduate Student Organization voted unanimously to censure the university leadership for its actions surrounding the recently announced changes to student health insurance. The Senate is appalled at the lack of transparency leading up to this decision, particularly the lack of announcements to those it would impact as the requirements and plans were being constructed.

Additionally, the Senate is outraged that this decision process, one that materially affects students in a substantial manner, did not involve students prior to when a final decision was reached. The GSO insists the University include students in university policymaking, particularly when it impacts students to a large degree.

The Senate calls for all graduate teaching, research, and other assistants employed by the University to remain eligible for the employee health insurance plans, as they have been in this and past years. We censure the university leadership for moving to take this benefit away from all graduate assistants. The GSO is committed to maintaining employee insurance plan eligibility for all these students, regardless of degree type or other categorization. Graduate teaching, research, and other assistants are core to the
instructional and research mission at Syracuse University, comprising up to one-third of the full-time equivalent instructional personnel. The university devalues and demeans the work these students perform by not recognizing them as eligible for employee health benefits. The current plan also presents severe cost increases and an unacceptably unclear benefits picture if it were to go forward, including questions about dental coverage and a total lack of vision coverage. The university needs to send a clear message that it will not diminish the insurance benefits to these students.

The Senate is alarmed at the substantial confusion and cost increases for international students that the new health insurance requirement has created and censures the university leadership for its role in creating this confusion and cost increase. Students across the university are still awaiting a complete plan description, full justifications for the move away from the HTH insurance plans, and a full explanation of the necessity to raise costs for most international students by approximately $700 annually. International students require further information concerning how the new Aetna Student Health Plan will interface with their requirements as international students studying in the US. The GSO insists this information be made public and no further actions are to be taken to implement this plan without GSO Senate input.
Graduate Student Organization Senate

PDF of letter available here.

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THE GENERAL BODY ENDS 18 DAY SIT-IN WITH A GROWING BASE OF FACULTY, ALUMNI, STUDENT, AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT

ending sit in

Today at 1:30 pm in Crouse-Hinds Hall, THE General Body met with Dean Bea Gonzalez to discuss six urgent student needs that Chancellor Syverud had refused to acknowledge in his “final response” last week. Chancellor Syverud had been personally invited to attend by a delegation of faculty supporters, who delivered an invitation to his home two days ago. He appointed Dean Bea Gonzalez–the former “liaison” between the administration and THE General Body–to go in his place.

During the 1:30pm meeting, it quickly became clear that Chancellor Syverud did not enable his representative to make any decisions on his behalf. “I am not here to speak for the Chancellor,” she said in response to THE General Body’s  six needs. Before the meeting, the Chancellor had received the six synthesized university community needs as a Good Faith Commitment Contract. “From day one this sit-in has asked for commitments from Chancellor Syverud on crucial student needs. I find it unreasonable and irresponsible that the Chancellor would send someone without the power to make any commitments on day 18,” said Ben Kuebrich.

Dean Gonzalez expressed a desire to return to negotiations, but when pressed, was unable to clarify what that would entail in light of Chancellor Syverud’s  “final response.”

After the meeting, THE General Body held a press conference, where senior Colton Jones announced that the sit-in would be ending that afternoon. The decision to end the sit-in follows a growth in campus pressure on the Chancellor to commit to addressing urgent student needs. Over the past week, faculty, alumni, staff, community groups, and campus organizations have written letters to the Chancellor urging him to sign a written commitment to address student needs. These letters also urge the Chancellor to sign a non-retaliation agreement, which would protect students, faculty, staff, and others involved in the sit-in from facing punitive action.

THE General Body ended the sit-in on a strong note, with a clear sense of support from the campus.  “We decided to end the sit-in on our own terms,” said undergraduate student Angelina Vargas. In addition to statements of support from alumni, students, and faculty, THE General Body has received solidarity statements from 1199SEIU, a coalition of Syracuse community groups, Adjuncts United, and Cold Case Justice Initiative and Democratizing Knowledge, among others.

At the press conference, available as audio here, PhD student Tessa Brown reviewed the sit-in’s achievements and how far THE General Body has come. Vani Kannan, PhD Student, discussed the future of the movement. Law school professor Paula Johnson also spoke, expressing her respect and admiration for the students of THE General Body, her belief that they have changed campus for the better, and her commitment on behalf of the faculty to stand with them as the movement continues into next semester.

Following the press conference, students clapped, hugged, gathered their belongings, and exited the building. Carrying signs that read ‘Coming Back Stronger,” they marched with a delegation of faculty and staff up to Hendricks Chapel, where DAT Rally was held nearly three weeks ago. After saying final goodbyes, many students returned to Crouse-Hinds to clean the building.

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Cold Case Justice Initiative and the Democratizing Project Support THE General Body, Demand a Transparent and Accountable University

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Dear Chancellor Kent Syverud,

The Cold Case Justice Initiative and the Democratizing Project at Syracuse University are in full support of the actions taken by the student-led organization called THE General Body (TGB). We have followed and participated in the student sit-ins over the past two- weeks and the negotiations that have occurred, and urge you to continue to work with TGB in meeting their needs.

We also write to register our strong objections to the administration’s handling of the legitimate concerns the students have raised and object to the intensifying acts of intimidation, harassment, and threats that have been waged against them. Members of THE General Body are not our enemies; they are our integral members of our community and they deserve our respect and support. We thus condemn their treatment in the strongest possible terms.

The students who have organized the sit-ins and articulated university needs are the best Syracuse University has to offer. Their level of commitment and enthusiasm in improving the educational landscape and environment of Syracuse University is evident. Although they have been harassed, intimidated, and targeted by DPS, they have remained steadfast. These students must not be penalized for their grievances and actions, but rather, the university must actively work with them in solving the deep-seated issues which they have brought to the fore and that have long affected our University.

The events that have transpired this semester present us with many challenges but also offer us educational opportunities and avenues for change. Considering the political and social climate in many colleges and universities across the country, the needs expressed by our students are not unreasonable. In fact, students are only seeking what a world- class University should already provide: a conducive learning environment that is racially and ethnically diverse, free of discriminatory practices, cognizant of students’ needs, considerate of the changing student demographics, and supportive of student health and well-being overall.

The students have called for transparency and meaningful participation in the decision- making at the University. These demands concern all constituencies at Syracuse University and reverberate into the surrounding community. We call on you to return to the negotiating table with the students. There can be no final word on these matters until there is consensus by the SU community on the issues the students have raised and which impact all of us: students, faculty, and staff who call Syracuse University our home.

While the sit-in might seem a distraction to the daily operations of the University, let us remind you that some of the best changes in American higher education have been the direct result of student discontent and organizing. We thus urge you to reassure us, as well as THE General Body, that you will continue to meet with them and not penalize, threaten, or punish them for their important contributions to our university community.

TGB is the conscience of this university. As members of Syracuse University, we also speak in support of the students’ integral efforts. Together with TGB, we therefore demand a university that is transparent, accountable, and most of all, respectful of every member’s basic civil rights and civil liberties.

Sincerely,

Cold Case Justice Initiative

Democratizing Knowledge Project

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