“Their demands are our demands.”
“Their demands are our demands.”
Graduate student workers are currently on strike, and will continue to withhold labor until the demands of the Black student-led movement #NotAgainSU have been met.
“Their demands are our demands,” said one graduate student at the forum hosted by Peter Vanable, dean of the Graduate School, and Interim Provost John Liu.
Tensions were high as graduate student workers and faculty allies gathered in the HBC Gifford Auditorium Monday evening to discuss the university’s response to the protest.
Some graduate students articulated their distrust of the administration and their disdain for the treatment of their colleagues and students, specifically the ones, they argue, who were starved and traumatized by the university’s administration last week in the lobby of Crouse-Hinds Hall.
Dean Vanable began the forum by reading the university’s traditional land acknowledgment, acknowledging the Onondaga Nation and the Haudenosaunee, the indigenous peoples on whose ancestral lands the university stands upon.
During the meeting, two indigenous graduate students spoke in their native languages, adding that the land acknowledgement the administration reads at all university events is empty because the university lacks indigenous student representation, especially at the doctoral candidate level.
Graduate students were quick to correct Vanable when he called the document calling for the strike a petition, which was followed by student laborers emphasizing the disrespect in that remark. The students also promised to continue withholding labor to demand change and stand in solidarity with #NotAgainSU.
Jonathan Chau, one of the #NotAgainSU student protestors who has been sitting-in since last Monday came to the forum and addressed Vanable directly.
“Please stop denying what they’re doing,” Chau said, regarding the strike. “You’re not protecting them, they’re protecting us.”
Other students took the microphone and voiced concern over the location and timing of the forum, asking why it wasn’t held in Crouse Hinds, which is what one student called “the physical representation of white supremacy on campus.” In addition, others asked why the graduate students were separated from the faculty for the conversation.
Another student noted that the five o’clock start time was in the middle of most graduate classes, and other graduate allies who are scholars or international students couldn’t afford to miss class because of their positions.
Vanable emphasized that the administration wanted to hear remarks from the students to know how to handle student protests better. The graduate students fought back against the remark and called for action, with one saying, “I don’t want to have to keep protesting every semester.”
The graduate student workers called for no more problematic emails that contain unnecessary acknowledgements and apologies. Instead, they demanded action. They said they want an email stating that there will not be repercussions against graduate workers for the strike.
Vanable and Liu spent most of the 50 minute meeting nodding along to students who voiced their concerns.
One graduate student took the microphone and said, “They’re not taking notes. No pen, no paper, no nothing. This is also labor. We’re still doing labor. I thought we were on strike, y’all, for #NotAgainSU in solidarity so, let’s get the f— out of here.”
The graduate students then silently processed out of the auditorium.
Provost Liu made some closing remarks to a mostly empty auditorium saying, “We have a lot of work ahead of us. We will work together to make improvements.”
One of the last remarks made before they graduate student workers filed out lingered in the air. She said, “I don’t know what this administration is capable of next.”
#NotAgainSU has gained wide spread support as parents of the protesters sent a letter to the Chancellor expressing their concerns with the administration and the safety of their children. They described the actions taken by DPS as “dangerous and deplorable.”
Parents requested that the absences of their children from class be excused and that counseling services be offered to the students in Crouse-Hinds Hall. “As a result of the treatment of our students, they are experiencing real palpable fear and psychological stress,” the letter read.
On Saturday students from SUNY Oswego and SUNY Binghamton came to Crouse-Hinds Hall to participate in the protest by sleeping over into Sunday morning.
The students were members of the Frances Beal Society, a grassroots organization working towards liberation for marginalized communities and Divest Bing, a Student-powered prison, military tech, and fossil fuel divestment campaign at SUNY Binghamton.
Jelani Cobb, a staff writer at The New Yorker and journalism professor at Columbia, showed his support for the protesters in a Tweet, saying he won’t be used as a window dressing.
I think it’s important for me to express my support for the #NotAgainSU students. I spoke here 2 wks ago & will not have my talk serve as progressive window dressing for a school that turns around and suspends students for protesting campus racism. @SyracuseU #solidarity
— jelani cobb (@jelani9) February 23, 2020
Cobb spoke in Hendricks Chapel on Feb. 11 as part the University Lectures series.
#NotAgainSU also reopened their GoFundMe “for legal and family expenses” Monday morning. Since it’s original creation on Nov. 13, they have raised over $20,000.
Monday morning, day seven of the #NotAgainSU occupation of Crouds-Hinds Hall, #NotAgainSU shared their new demands via Instagram. The movement is calling for a tuition freeze, more funding and support to be added to programs supporting black and multicultural students on campus and DPS officers to be disarmed.
At 7:45 a.m. Chancellor Kent Syverud issued a statement to the university community via email outlining the university’s response to the events of last week’s protest and plans going forward. The message did not directly address last week’s demands of a meeting between the protestors and board of trustees before April and an investigation into DPS Deputy Chief John Sardino.
At 9 a.m. #NotAgainSU responded with new demands, emphasizing that “accessibility is paramount” for all students.
First, #NotAgainSU is demanding that tuition cost be frozen at $52,210 USD per year. This amount is the total tuition cost for students enrolled in the university after the Fall 2018 semester.
“Students should not have to drop out or take a leave of absence because the increasing cost of this university,” said the post. The original list of demands stated that, “Any increase in tuition should be due to adjustment for inflation, not for reinvestment into the University.”
The added demands also emphasize that Department of Public Safety Peace Officers will not be armed. This demand comes highly contested after protestors last week witnessed DPS Chief John Sardino reach for his waistband during crowd control outside Crouse-Hinds when food was being denied to protestors. #NotAgainSU says that in the instance that armed officers be needed, Syracuse Police Department should be dispatched.
The demands also call for the university to reinstate the POSSE Foundation program for Los Angeles and Atlanta, as well as continue and increase funds for the Miami program. The program lost funds in 2014, and THE General Body criticized the university for that decision during their 18 day sit-in of Crouse-Hinds Hall.
The increased funding request was also raised for the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), Student Support Services (SSS) and Our Time Has Come Scholarship, all of which support students of color. And the call for free printing and laundry services would alleviate this additional financial burden for students, said #NotAgainSU.
Finally, the movement calls for the housing selection process to prioritize students with disabilities saying, “Students in ODS should be able to rank their preferences for the type of room and/or specific halls.”
The university is tracking the progress of the demands met and signed by Chancellor Syrverud from last semester’s mediation, under the office of diversity and inclusion website.
On the seventh day of the Crouse-Hinds protest, Chancellor Syverud sent out a campus-wide email apologizing for the events of last week and outlining his next steps. Administration allowed protestors to remain in the building throughout the weekend and all suspensions issued last week were revoked.
“I am not proud of how last week’s events involving student protesters in Crouse-Hinds Hall were handled,” Syverud wrote in his letter. “I take responsibility and apologize to the students—especially those misidentified in suspension letters sent out.”
Syrverud apologized to the university community for distracting from the progress that has been made and clarified all suspensions were lifted. However, #NotAgainSU protestors have reported the suspensions have not been expunged from their records.
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For the student protesters inside Crouse-Hinds, our interim suspensions have not been expunged. To clarify, these suspensions are still on our records and not fully “lifted.“ Our student conduct proceedings are also suspended, leading to uncertainty about the future. These student conduct proceedings can resume at any moment. Our suspensions still remain on our transcripts. #NotAgainSU #NotAgainSUspended #FreeCrouse
Syverud detailed the university’s next immediate steps toward meeting #NotAgainSU demands, which included the enlistment of former United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who will lead an independent review of the Department of Public Safety.
“I believe this review is necessary given that concerns have been raised through several channels about how DPS engages with our community and how it has managed various interactions with students, including protestors,” said Syverud in his email.
Syverud has also called for an independent review of Student Experience functions. This effort will be led by a different investigator that was not announced in the email.
Lastly, Syverud expressed faculty and deans will be more involved with the oversight of protests as well as the university’s response. New protocols will be outlined by Interim Provost John Liu alongside deans and faculty across the university.
“Our university is making progress on many fronts—including on the many Campus Commitments, and in identifying, and holding responsible, three students for hateful acts so far,” wrote Syverud.