Tag Archives: wearesu

More than Bricks in the Wall

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The upper level administration’s latest tactic: a wall to keep the outside community from connecting with students who are sitting-in. This morning a construction fence was erected outside the windows of Crouse-Hinds Hall, blocking visibility and access for those trying to connect with students staging the sit-in. This will not deter students from sitting until they get a written action plan from the administration. THE General Body  has made tremendous progress in this regard.

The University honors the fall of the Berlin wall then its top level administrators put a fence around student protesters. THE General Body knows historically what these walls mean, they know what side of the fence they are on.

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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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Locked in to Crouse-Hinds Hall, THE General Body Pushes for Policies Protecting Students

PLEASE SPREAD WIDELY

“When we think about it deeply, safety is ultimately one of the major reasons we are doing this sit-in,” says Hasmik Djoulakian, SU sophomore, who has been sitting in at Crouse-Hinds Hall since Monday night. “No one wants to be here with lights on all the time, our movement monitored at all times. But we are here because many of these issues are truly life or death,” she said. “The General Body believes in safety first.”

Students delineate these safety concerns in a 40+-page document. They include the need for adequate mental health services, services for students with disabilities, services for victims of sexual assault, and safety and support for students of color and marginalized students on this campus.

Students Lead Effort to Keep Crouse-Hinds Hall Safe, but Face Challenges from Administration

Students sitting in have led the effort to comply with the university’s rules for their safety. In a walk through Crouse-Hinds Hall with Syracuse University fire inspectors, students were directed to potential fire hazards to make sure to keep themselves, the staff, and the campus safe.

However, regard for safety from the part of the administration remains a huge concern. After a week that saw huge campus and community support for THE General Body, students were locked in Crouse-Hinds Hall for the weekend, allowing little outside communication. Last night, for example, students had to negotiate for almost an hour to allow an outside supporter to drop off food for dinner.

The students have also been given varying rules of safety and despite asking repeatedly, they have not been presented with actual written codes. This has made it difficult for students to learn the safety parameters. For example, students were told they could have signs on 50 percent of the walls. Then, in the middle of the night, officers came by to tell them they needed to tear the signs down. “They change the rules constantly,” said MFA student Becca Glaser. “This puts us in an uncomfortable situation, where we wish to cooperate as best we can to respect fire codes while still maintaining our presence here,” said Glaser.

Students also face challenges from the active presence of DPS officers in Crouse-Hinds. The upper level administration insists that the reason there are seven security guards is for “student safety.” Yet, it is clear that DPS is also engaged in techniques which decrease safety. Students have repeatedly requested that the fire coordinator should survey the building and make sure that being locked in over the weekend does not compromise anyone’s safety. Instead, DPS and fire safety did a walk through during the early hours of the morning, taking pictures of students sleeping without communicating the purpose of the pictures or any further actions that needed to take place on the students’ part to keep safe.

For a good part of the morning, students requesting to meet with the coordinator were told that the coordinator is busy at the Dome with today’s football game. The fire inspector finally stopped by in the early afternoon and told the students they are in compliance.

Students also requested opening a room for study hours which was initially denied. We were told that we would have access to the room today from Dean Bea Gonzalez, the university’s negotiator, but as of 2 p.m. that has not happened. “We are put in a compromising position, between having spaces in order to focus on our school work and making the changes that this campus needs” said Syracuse University junior Kevin Sampaio.

This arbitrary communication along with random check-ins while students are busy doing school work has been extremely taxing on students trying to concentrate on their work. In recognition that this is a sit-in and not an easy process the students have made every attempt to comply, while trying to remain focused on the goals to bring about significant changes.

The Sit-In is a Last Resort

The students who make up THE General Body are some of the most involved students at SU,  and have been trying for months–in some cases years–to work with the upper level administration through existing channels. They participate on Express Yourself workgroups, made attempts to get on Fast Forward committees, and serve as a direct line to the larger student body’s needs and concerns. Realizing the dire nature of the student concerns and the limitations of these existing institutional channels, these students made countless attempts to communicate with the upper level administration to no avail.

“It is important to note that it is only from doing the tactic of the sit-in that we have been able to get the ear of the upper level administration and trustees,” said senior Kimberly E. Powell. “The sit-in is a last recourse.” As the students’ negotiation team works diligently at responding to the administration, the constant distractions and changing rules have made it not only difficult to get results, but made things physically taxing on the students.

“No one likes to sleep on brick floors, but we believe students should be safe on this campus,” said PhD student Yanira Rodríguez.  “We believe these are our rights as students and educators, we believe funding should be redirected to uphold these rights, that they are fundamental to a good education and the health of our campus community,” said Rodríguez.

In an e-mail this morning sent to the campus wide community titled “University Conversations Continue with Student Group,” Gonzalez writes that negotiations have been taking place over the past four days. Conversations continued on Wednesday evening when the Chancellor came to speak to students but actual negotiations did not start until Thursday. However, the administration still has not agreed in writing to address all student concerns. The upper level administration’s first responses were vague and led to only one or two actions and just mostly “considerations.”

In the preliminary negotiations Dean Gonzalez came back with proposals that by Friday had already been overridden. According to the Student Association President Boris Gresely the Board of Trustees voted Friday on what they are now calling a “draft” of the mission and vision statement. They also refused to meet with students.

Incoming demands continue to demonstrate the many unaddressed needs and concerns faced by students, faculty and staff on this campus. This serves as evidence for both the faith the campus community is placing on THE General Body negotiations with administration, and the need for an open channel of communication and flexible negotiation process that can accommodate incoming demands.

 

The General Body Waits for an Administrative Commitment to Addressing Student Concerns

Dean Gonzalez also cited the administration’s willingness to meet and have dialogue as a concession. However, THE General Body staged the sit-in and has been working diligently specifically to move toward a commitment to action. For example, the campus community cannot wait for students to have access to adequate mental health services. During the student demonstration in front of the board of trustees meeting, a reporter discussed his prior coverage of the incidents at Virginia Tech and mentioned how Syracuse University expressed pride for having adequate services in place. Yet, currently there is only one psychiatrist on staff to service 25,000 students, including students at ESF.

The upper level administration has made the same degrees of commitment and effort to address these concerns as those that led to the sit-in. They publicly and verbally say they support the students efforts, set up listening meetings and workgroups but do not take actions toward actual change. Today students have so far met for almost three hours with Dean Gonzalez only to hear that she cannot make any decisions about the issues. This is an indication that there are no “negotiations” taking place as of yet, just merely listening.

Students cannot afford to wait for a huge tragedy to be what leads upper level administration to take these issues seriously. THE General Body understands there have been many incidents already at this level of concern. Some students already feel unsafe and unsupported on this campus. “I support THE General Body’s efforts to get this administration to understand the real discrimination that students of color, especially women, LGBT and the working class, face on this campus and hold administrators accountable to have plans, including faculty and administration training, to truly address these issues so these students can thrive as scholars here,” said Sherri Williams, a PhD candidate at SU.

Unfortunately, communication from the upper level administration subtlely mirrors the kind of unsafe categorization of students that THE General body is mobilizing against. This morning, an email from Dean Bea Gonzalez went out over the University’s news service, which on the one hand praises students efforts and states respect for what they are doing yet suggests students are uncooperative about negotiations. The email also attempts to suggest there is not wide support for THE General Body’s efforts. However, the halls of the administration building have been continuously visited by supporters from throughout the campus and Syracuse community, dropping off food and joining the sit-in during the day. Faculty have also circulated petitions in support of students and conducted teach-ins attended by several hundred students throughout the past five days to help educate the broader community on the significance of these issues.  The sit-in is widely supported, as evidenced by national and local coverage from Democracy Now!, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, Syracuse.com, TWC News, and the Daily Orange, and support petitions circulated by students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members.

“THE general body is here because we have identified numerous problems at SU and are attempting to address them,” said freshman Kristen Koniuch. “We have exhausted all options, and hope that the sit-in, though not the ideal way for anyone, will lead to good outcomes for all,” said Koniuch.

 

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Mobilization for Tonight

Rumors of force being used to remove students from the administration building today (Friday November 7, 2014) by 5:00 p.m, has called for mobilization. We must remind the administration that we will not be forced out of Crouse Hinds without an address to our demands. We will link arms not as individual organizations but as “ONE,” in solidarity for justice.

The sharp words of Tennessee Williams haunt the revolution in us, “Time is the longest distance between two places.” We have stood in the trap of stillness while time has passed us by. Nothing and everything has come of The Student Africana American Society rally since the last time you’ve heard our voice. We are grateful for the subsequent events, the coalition of brothers and sisters; faculty and student; old and young. The voice the campus is hearing now is vulnerable, but strong in its willingness to do whatever to keep the promise of the rally that surrounded the Hanna Strong situation, various program cuts, and an administration that underrepresents a bulk of students. Our promise is a commitment to action, a commitment to go to extreme means to achieve our goal as students.

Our commitment utters the sounds of true diversity in the democratic setting not just in academia, but also in the larger community. As students we are fighting for a legacy of freedom; freedom that will ultimately lead to a unified campus, formed out of our wants and needs and not constructed by distant administration. THE General Body has continued the fight for a harmonious society on the campus of Syracuse University. We embody the idea that Syracuse University and its administration speak so strongly about, diversity. This is the same idea that our administration has attempted to silence. THE General Body has brought together what no administration has. Over 50 student groups and faculty have consolidated to voice their concerns.

That commitment forces us to not only listen in this time of change, but to be heard in this time of stillness. We are the voice of a vulnerable people; the same people who stood behind a podium on September 19, the same people who stood in Crouse Hinds on November 3, and the same people who stand before you. Let us be reminded–if we have not already forgotten—that the commitment to social change is a hard battle. One that calls for an even harder fight. So, we will call upon ultimate resistance and steadfastness. We will not be treated as sheep to the wolves of administration, but rather the shepherds of change to a herd-less university. The student African American Society is merely one interchangeable part to a General Body of one.

– David L. Jackson
Posse Miami 2
School of Education | College of Arts and Science
NAACP| Education and Advocacy
Student African American Society| Public Relations Chair
Project G.R.I.N.D| Co- Founder

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An Update from THE General Body

On Wednesday night, 80 members of THE General Body coalition student group conducted preliminary negotiations with Chancellor Kent Syverud and Dean Bea González in Crouse-Hinds lobby. Following the meeting, Syverud, his executive team, and González met to respond to THE General Body’s 46-page document of grievances and demands, opening up possibilities for next steps.

However, in an e-mail to the entire University community on Thursday evening, Dean González expressed disappointment that negotiations did not move forward in time for today’s Board of Trustees meeting, and stated that next steps are contingent on THE General Body ending the sit-in and vacating Crouse-Hinds Hall.

We share Dean González’s disappointment in this impasse. Although Wednesday’s meeting offered a promising and positive start in negotiations, very few of the grievances and demands were covered in the 90-minute meeting. THE General Body is disappointed that the University expects students to acquiesce to proposals that have no guarantees or timelines.

We remain committed to improving this University and will continue to show our dedication with our sit-in at Crouse-Hinds Hall. Backed by extensive faculty and community support, the sit-in has facilitated teach-ins and dialogue about pressing issues affecting all of us. The significance of the physical space of the sit-in cannot be minimized. This is evident in national coverage from Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Nation, Democracy Now, and local Syracuse news sources including Syracuse.com, TWC News, and the Daily Orange.

Neither González’s e-mail nor the administration’s responses to our demands and grievances adequately address the full scope of the concerns of THE General Body, and fail to adequately respond to urgent student needs. For example, in response to our demand for emergency medical transport for students with mental health disorders, the administration simply restated their existing policy language, ignoring the fact that students are currently suffering from a lack of services despite the existing policies.

In her e-mail to the student body, Dean Gonzales writes, “In making these many commitments, University leadership asked for only one thing from the student group in return—that they commit to depart Crouse-Hinds Hall by tomorrow and return the building to normal operating status moving forward.” But in reality University leadership is asking much more of students. As senior Political Science/Public Policy major Ella Mendonsa remarked, “By not giving us a definitive plan of action to our demands, University leadership is asking us to give up our rights to adequate mental health services, to sexual assault advocacy services, to give up our rights to accessibility on campus for students with disabilities. These are services we shouldn’t have to fight for on this campus.”

We call on the upper-level administration to honor their good faith and respect the negotiation process established during Wednesday’s meeting. We call on the student body, faculty, staff and community members to hold these administrators accountable.

As we stated explicitly in Wednesday’s meeting we want to reiterate that the sit-in will not end without written confirmation that the Chancellor and Dean are willing to commit to a clear timetable for moving forward with each item in our demands document.

Visit THEGeneralBody.org for more information about the sit-in.

Download this document here.

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A Letter From an Alum

Dear Editor:

I had not been aware until recently the radical and wrong-headed decisions of the new Chancellor Kent Syverud’s actions such as the unilateral decision to close the Advocacy Center.

I arrived as a Freshman in the Fall of 1989 and was met with what appeared to be an epidemic of students being raped in the first months of my  tenure at Syracuse. I became active in the very vocal and successful student movement in that era bringing attention to the lack of services and the lax administration response to the problem of rape and sexual assault on the Syracuse campus. In my Junior year at Syracuse I was the President of the student group Students Concerned About Rape Education (SCARED), which was the center of this movement.

One of the most important and lasting accomplishments of that movement was the establishment of the Advocacy Center. This was not an easily won accomplishment either, but was one that was won with the constant pressure of both students and faculty impressing upon the leadership of the University that survivors needed their own space for treatment, counseling, and advocacy. Because of this, Syracuse has been looked at by other schools as a model in how to address student survivors of sexual assault.

Mr. Syverud’s decision to unilaterally destroy The Advocacy Center ostensibly with the goal of saving money and resources, especially when looked at in conjunction with his published vision for the University, causes this proud alumnus to fear for the future of my University. Mr. Syverud is reversing decades of student centered education which has benefited both the students and the greater Syracuse community. His callousness toward the student body and especially the needs of the most vulnerable on his campus shows that he is not the person for this job.

The Chancellor of Syracuse University needs to be a leader. Mr. Syverud appears to nothing more than a manager. It is clear from his actions, the tremendous and awe-inspiring response from the student body to these actions, and the complete inability of Mr. Syverud to address the legitimate concerns of the students and faculty to his decisions that the Trustees of the University made a mistake in hiring him. It is in the best interests of the university that the Trustees admit this mistake and take the actions necessary to rectify it immediately.

Paul J. Ditz
Class of 1993

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