For the past three weeks, students have organized to raise awareness to issues facing marginalized groups at Syracuse University. THE General Body, a collective of student organizations, wants to address the administration’s recent changes, including the closure of the Advocacy Center and cuts to a scholarship fund for minority students. This year at SU has been defined by a particularly active participation from student voices. Earlier this semester, groups of students led protests in relation to similar social justice issues.
For 18 days, the group sat, slept, and held meetings in SU’s administration building, Crouse-Hinds, to protest the university’s alleged lack of diversity. THE General Body presented a list of grievances and solutions to Chancellor Kent Syverud and his administration. The students and administration have tried to negotiate the demands, passing the list back and forth. However, THE General Body criticizes the administration for not providing direct answers or a written commitment to their grievances.
The protesters left Crouse-Hinds on Thursday and announced that they will enter the second stage of the Diversity and Transparency (DAT) movement, along with growing support from faculty and alumni. SU departmental faculty have written letters to Syverud and have participated in rallies alongside the students. The group has continued to receive letters in solidarity from organizations and university communities around the country as well, such as the United Healthcare Workers East, Colgate University, and American University.
THE General Body comprised a list of central demands to Syverud and his administration:
-Address a culture of racism, homophobia, and hate speech on campus
-Support diversity and student safety
-Invest in mental health, psychiatric, and sexual assault services for students
-Commit to budget transparency
-Improve accessibility on campus
Here is a quick run-down of the past two weeks of rallies, sit-in, and negotiations at SU:
Monday, Nov. 3: Students gathered on the steps of Hendrick’s Chapel for the Diversity and Transparency (DAT) Rally. After, students marched to the administration building, Crouse-Hinds, handed their list of grievances to a member of Syverud’s administration, and staged a sit-in.
Wednesday, Nov. 5: More than 80 members of THE General Body conducted preliminary negotiations with Chancellor Syverud and Dean Bea González in the Crouse-Hinds lobby.
Thursday, Nov. 6: The Student Association president presented THE General Body’s 46-page list of demands and grievances to SU’s Board of Trustees, asking to meet.
Friday, Nov. 7: Crouse-Hinds hall closed at 5 p.m. for the weekend, but the student protesters remained in the building until Monday. SU’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) enforced strict security, not allowing students to return to building if they chose to leave.
Sunday, Nov. 9: THE General Body met with Vice President and Dean Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz, Associate Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric Spina, and Dean Bea González. Students expressed concern that the availability of decision-making channels are not transparent and do not consider student input. They also discussed the need for the Student Association president capability to email the entire undergraduate student body, the divestment from fossil fuels, student representation on the university’s Fast Forward committees, the Posse program, and increased accessibility on campus.
Monday, Nov. 10: SU’s administration installed a construction fence Monday morning, blocking visibility and access to the sit-in. As THE General Body entered its second week of the sit-in, they also scheduled poetry workshops, teach-ins, teach-outs, and student-led discussions.
Wednesday, Nov. 12: After two days of denied communication with the protesters by the administration, Chancellor Syverud sent a campus-wide email, detailing his final offer: to “move forward” and end the sit-in. However, THE General Body maintained that they will not end the sit-in until a substantial part of their needs are met.
Friday, Nov. 14: THE General Body held a rally followed by a vigil in front of Crouse-Hinds. They gave “testimonies of loved ones who passed due to inadequate mental health services, sexual assault, and feelings of marginalization,” according to THE General Body’s website. As part of the vigil, they posted signs and photos on the construction fence (which were later removed over the weekend by the physical plant workers). Later that day, the administration delivered individually-addressed envelopes containing the student code of conduct and campus disruption policies with highlighted passages to the students in Crouse-Hinds.
Saturday, Nov. 15: The students attempted to meet with tenured Professor of Law, Janis McDonald, for legal counsel. However, DPS denied McDonald access to the building.
Sunday, Nov. 16: Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric Spina sent a campus-wide email, to which THE General Body responded line-by-line.
Monday, Nov. 17: Faculty in support of the DAT movement organized a rally in front of the Hall of Languages.
Tuesday, Nov. 18: Faculty and students marched to Syverud’s house to hand-deliver an invitation for him to engage in more negotiations.
Wednesday, Nov. 19: THE General Body asked Syverud to sign the Good Faith Commitment Contract and demonstrate legal commitment to student needs. He denied the contract.
Thursday, Nov. 20: The students announced the end to the Crouse-Hinds sit-in but also detailed the next stages of the DAT movement. They met with Dean González to discuss their six most urgent demands that Syverud has not addressed in his final response. The protesters carried signs that read, “Coming Back Stronger,” and marched to the steps of Hendrick’s Chapel where the movement began 18 days ago.