Syracuse University’s activist group THE General Body (TGB) is staging a sit-in, vowing to stay put until each one of their demands listed in a document spanning more than 40 pages are addressed by Chancellor Kent Syverud.
More than 100 students are taking part in the sit-in, with the group asking participants to post photos of themselves and their reasons for joining the cause. One protestor posted, “Still we sit…Because access to mental health services is a life or death issue.”
Among TGB’s concerns include the closing of the Advocacy Center, a resource for sexual assault victims, as well as the university’s decision to reduce funding for POSSE, a scholarship program for minority students.
Protesters would also like to see mass emails sent from the student body president to the student body in an effort to raise awareness concerning on-campus policy decisions. They would like to see the university discontinue or lessen its investments in fossil fuels; establish a coordinator to help create a more disabled-friendly campus; and increase the number of undergraduate representatives in on-campus committees.
The group is most concerned about the student body being included in the decision making process with Syracuse’s leaders.
“There’s been a lot of decisions made without transparency,” Laura Cohen, a Syracuse senior, told USA Today. “Ever since May with the new chancellor, there have been a lot of closed door decisions, so we decided to form a coalition that united all of the different campaigns and groups that have been affected.
“Am I personally affected by disability and accessibility issues on campus? No. But do I care about making it more accessible for disabled people? Of course. I think that’s just part of being a nice human being,” she said. “We see that these oppressions affect various people, and that’s why we need reform.”
In an email to the campus community, Chancellor-appointed Dean Bea Gonzalez wrote that she appreciates the use of First Amendment rights by TGB.
“I continue to interface with the Chancellor and the students to work through their demands and solutions,” she wrote on Nov. 7. “I look forward to moving to a new stage in the process – one that will allow everyone involved to return to our campus routines.”
A “statement of solidarity” was published by the school’s English department in support of the TGB, and signed by all 14 faculty members.
“We are proud that our students are engaging in direct critical praxis of the type that we analyze and encourage in the critical classroom, and that they are bringing this praxis to bear in university processes and practices where it is so manifestly needed,” it read, “a move that we wholeheartedly encourage and affirm.”
In response to the sit-in, the Chancellor has created a group of University administrators, faculty and staff to work with the students on their list of issues raised. That work began on November 3 when students began the protest, continuing with an almost 2-hour public meeting attended by more than 80 members of TGB to discuss their concerns. At that meeting, the Chancellor stated the university is willing to work with the group to create an effective process to work through all of their concerns.
The group has been sitting on the front steps of Hendricks Chapel for over a week now, and the sit-in continues.