#NotAgainSU rejects chancellor’s response to demands

#NotAgainSU rejects SU's response, reoccupies Barnes

A contentious forum at Hendricks Chapel pits #NotAgainSU supporters against Chancellor Kent Syverud and his administration.
Published: November 20, 2019
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Students stand in solidarity with the #NotAgainSU organizers with their fists in the air.

Chanting could be heard across campus as #NotAgainSU activists marched into Hendricks Chapel.

After one week of protesting in the Barnes Center, the students arranged to meet Chancellor Kent Syverud Wednesday night in a forum at the chapel. It started out tense, and ended with students marching out of the forum, to the chancellor’s house and then reoccupying the Barnes Center.

“We fully reject the Chancellor’s response to our demands,” a student organizer said in an opening statement, setting the tone for the evening.

The organizer said that the #NotAgainSU movement maintains their promise not to stop protesting until every demand is met in the exact language used in the document submitted to the chancellor days ago. If the chancellor refuses to sign the exact requests, they will call for his resignation, as well as the resignations of Department of Public Safety Chief Bobby Maldonado and Vice President of Student Experiences Dolan Evanovich.

The same student organizer, who was not named, said that he is standing in Hendrick’s Chapel with a “heavy heart” because it was reminiscent of the forum held in the same space after the a racist skit by members of the Theta Tau fraternity became public near the end of the Spring 2018 semester. He reminded the audience of other similar incidents on campus, citing #NotAgainSU as only the latest movement.

He listed off several others, including the 2014 General Body sit-in, racial epithets used in classrooms in Madrid and the Ackerman assault which occurred last semester, accusing Maldonado of covering up the hate crime.

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Indigenous women open the evening’s forum with an acknowledgement of the Onondaga, whose land the university stands on, in their native language.

The statements were met with yells and hollers from the hundreds assembled for the forum. The organizer speaking at the podium laughed.

“We’re just getting started,” he said.

A racist manifesto posted earlier this week to a Greek life web forum, the speaker said, compromised the mental health of “hundreds if not thousands” of students, with many missing classes and fleeing campus because of what they perceived as a threat.

“We will not be silenced,” he said. “We will not allow the administration to pacify us without the full endorsements of demands in the exact language they’ve been presented in.”

He said any administrative response to their movement, and others, has been “legalistic” and “sterile” and further proves a “consistent mishandling” of hate-driven incidents on campus. He also blamed the chancellor for the shortcomings of the administration.

He asked the standing-room only audience — with more outside the Hendricks doors huddled around a laptop to view the live-stream of the event — if anyone had ever experienced the excellent quality of education and service the university’s mission statement promises.

“Not me!” shouted an audience member.

It’s a representation of an ongoing trend, the organizer said, in which the university sacrifices education for “corporate and private interests,” prompting raucous applause.

Students stream back into the Barnes Center after walking out of Hendricks Chapel and marching to the chancellor's house.

Once the noise settled, the three organizers that stood at the podium raised their arms in unison, fists clenched.

“Power to the people,” the organizer said.

It was met with a standing ovation, applause and cheering. “Sign or resign,” people chanted, referring to their demand that Syverud sign their demands or resign from the university.

The chancellor then took the podium.

The audience shifted to the edge of their seats in anticipation, waiting to hear if the Chancellor would meet their demands word for word.

“That was hard to listen too. I’ve heard what has been said,” he began. “But I do not agree with what I have heard.”

Murmurs filled the air, continuing even after he said he “agreed with much of it,” in reference to the protesters’ list of demands. Syverud continued by saying that what the students have been through is not what the university aspires to be. But he also said he believes the university has made a lot of progress since 2015, which was met with laughter and boos.

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Student organizers of #NotAgainSU display black power fists during a public forum at Hendricks Chapel on Nov. 20, 2019.

During the open forum, one activist proposed that the chancellor, as well as the Board of Trustees, sit down with student organizers and workshop a plan they can all agree on.

He also suggested a change in the curriculum, which included adding a liberal arts core curriculum which would ensure all students take classes about social issues, so that “no one can feign ignorance.”

John Liu, interim Provost, responded that the administration has limitations and cannot make institutional changes overnight.

When the next student speaker asked if the chancellor would sign the demands, he again said “No.”

Students stood up, zipped their coats, collected their belongings and began to walk out, chanting , “sign or resign.” Hendrick’s Chapel was suddenly half empty.

The protestors accumulated outside the chapel and then began their march to the chancellor’s house, were they came together as a collective, hoisting signs in the air and chanting through megaphones.

The chants included “sign or resign,” “cops and Kent go hand in hand” and “Jewish students matter.”

The surrounding streets were closed to traffic as the sea of protestors grew. Then, the chancellor decided to meet them at the Barnes Center. They began to walk back.

As they marched, they chatted amongst themselves, some in disbelief that people had the privilege to leave campus early, others angry that people were going to the basketball game.

Upon their arrival at the Barnes Center, they streamed through the glass doors and flooded the lobby where they will continue their protest until the chancellor meets every single one of their demands.