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Education

Student Protests and Sit-in Might Last Through Thanksgiving at Syracuse University

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UPDATE:  Students plan protest at Chancellor's residence; 2:00 p.m. rally on campus; 2:45 vigil with speakers, singers, poets and testimonies.

 

A group of Syracuse University organizations is vowing to continue protesting even though Chancellor Kent Syverud says he has given final written response.  The General Body has been participating in a sit in and has held rallies for 10 days now. Members of the group say they’re pleased the administration has acknowledged many of their grievances, but add that some of their largest concerns haven’t been adequately addressed.  For example, student Laura Cohen says the closing of the support center for victims of sexual assault is still a sore spot.

“The fact of the matter is we still do not have a safe space on this campus for survivors of sexual assault or a place where a caring community of individuals can convene to work together toward prevention.  We’ve asked for the administration’s commitment to being a worldwide leader in addressing and ending sexual assault.  At a time when universities across the nation are opening centers like the advocacy center, S-U has closed ours.”

Clearly, we have not solved issues of transparency, diversity, or democracy on campus, which THE General Body continues to fight for. THE General Body remains committed to moving forward on this process and needs cooperation from administration. We realize the list of grievances and needs is long – this only reflects the magnitude of ongoing problems that have yet to be adequately addressed.

(Full Response letter Below)

In his letter to the University community, Chancellor Syverud apologized for the poor handling of the center’s closure, but otherwise has not indicated he would reverse the decision.  He’s advising The General Body to work with elected student representatives and governing organizations to resolve their problems from this point forward.

“I was trying to encourage us to pursue a different process to reach resolution.  One that included the democratically elected student body, including the G-S-O (Graduate Student Organization) and the undergraduate student assembly.”

Syverud says the administration now wants to focus on the needs of the entire student body. The General Body says they will continue protesting until all of their demands have been met. 

THE GENERAL BODY RESPONDS TO CHANCELLOR SYVERUD'S FINAL STATEMENT

Dear Chancellor Syverud and Upper Level Administration,

At the end of Monday night’s meeting, Dean Gonzalez and Dean Kantrowitz committed to
having a meeting time scheduled with THE General Body by noon on Tuesday. It has been 52
hours since the administration made that commitment, which remains unfulfilled.
 
On Tuesday afternoon we received an email from Dean Gonzalez, saying that she would get
back to us regarding a meeting time. That commitment remains unfulfilled.
 
We are glad the administration has made some minor concessions, but we see these concessions
as a starting point. For example, the partial apology on the Advocacy Center’s irresponsible
closure is important, but it should not have taken over 8,000 petition signatures, 3 listening
meetings, 2 rallies, and 10 days of a sit-in to achieve this simple and reasonable request. That it
took this long speaks to the ongoing reluctance of the administration to meet the basic needs of
the entire student body, including services for victims of sexual assault, basic mental health
needs, basic accessibility needs, and the commitment in action (not just in words) to supporting
students and faculty of color and other historically marginalized identities on campus.
 
 
We should not need to sit-in to meet the recommended ratio of counselors to students,
determined by the International Association of Counseling Services. We should not need a sit-in
to add hate speech to the student code of conduct, ensuring that we have structures in place to
address racist and homophobic actions on campus. We should not need to sit-in
out of fear, based on the Chancellor’s statements to Inside Higher Ed, that Syracuse University will continue to
move away from programs (like POSSE) that serve inner city leaders and students of color.
 
 
The administration applauds our commitment and leadership while it erects a “construction
fence” to block the sit-in
from view and deploys ten armed DPS officers at a time to guard a
group of students and TAs that have not committed a single offense. We remain committed to
the issues that brought such a diverse group of student leaders together. We are not alone on
these issues, as the recent support of the GSO to many of our core needs attests, and as strong
ongoing support from student organizations and faculty demonstrate.
 
 
Clearly, we have not solved issues of transparency, diversity, or democracy on campus, which
THE General Body continues to fight for. THE General Body remains committed to moving
forward on this process and needs cooperation from administration. We realize the list of
grievances and needs is long – this only reflects the magnitude of ongoing problems that have yet
to be adequately addressed. THE General Body commits to making Syracuse University a more
diverse, inclusive, just, and transparent community. Instead of a “final” response to unfinished
and ongoing problems, we ask for a commitment to meet on our reasonable list of student needs.
 
Sincerely,
THE General Body?