Marissa Willingham, Manager of the Intercultural Collective in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and The Rev. Brian Konkol, Ph.D., Dean of Hendricks Chapel, were interviewed on Spectrum News about the Dr. King Celebration. The event is taking place virtually on…
Chancellor: University, student leaders partner to address diversity, safety and South Campus challenges, opportunities
Chancellor: University, student leaders partner to address diversity, safety and South Campus challenges, opportunitiesFebruary 01, 2007Matthew R. Snydermrsnyder@syr.edu
Last night at the inaugural Student Leaders Summit, Syracuse University Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor met with nearly 150 of the University’s top student leaders, keynoting a wide-ranging conversation designed to raise students’ awareness of major issues in the student body and encourage collaborations involving student leaders.
At the event, which was organized by the Student Association, Cantor spoke to students about issues of diversity, safety and South Campus living, and introduced a number of new initiatives designed in collaboration with student leaders to improve all students’ experience at SU. These issues were identified in a recent survey of more than 500 student leaders.
Following her remarks, students participated in an evening of roundtable discussions, which included Division of Student Affairs staff members as facilitators and listeners. The results of the evening’s discussions will be used to inform future University initiatives.
Cantor also unveiled details on several new initiatives and asked student leaders to fully participate with the University in the development and implementation of each. They include:
- In the area of diversity, SU will expand mentoring programs for first-year students of color.
- In the area of safety, SU will expand students’ transportation options, enhance lighting and other security features on and near campus and seek collaborative resolution of community safety issues.
- On South Campus, SU will introduce a number of new programs and offerings designed to align South Campus students’ experience with that of their North Campus peers.
Student Association President Ryan Kelly, responding to Chancellor Cantor’s remarks, says that the summit was “a great opportunity for campus leaders to come together to address key issues and to continue the Student Association’s mission. The Student Association will examine the results from the Leadership Summit and draft legislation that will begin the process of addressing these issues.”
“In my time as Chancellor, I have been delighted to see a new group of thoughtful leaders stepping forward to lead our student organizations,” says Cantor. “These students are willing to engage with one another across organizational boundaries, and I encourage all student leaders to consider the example set by the Student Association and other student leaders in taking communal responsibility for issues affecting all members of the University community. I am proud to work with them to actualize the ways in which Scholarship in Action can benefit all students.”
According to Cantor, SU is increasingly “hot” in terms of diversity, with rapid growth in the number of students of color, cutting-edge programs such as Intergroup Dialogues and recent accolades including the Advocate’s naming of SU as one of the top 100 universities for LGBT concerns. However, says Cantor, students can be true assets and leaders in identifying ways that different groups and organizations on campus can better interrelate.
Cantor pledged to continue the University’s commitment to existing programs, and announced an expansion and new staff position for the Office of Multicultural Affairs’ successful WellsLink Program, which has achieved 98 percent first- to second-year retention rates by structuring opportunities for upper-division students to mentor first-year students of color in making academic and social transitions.
Cantor also called for students to work together to lead the student body into enhanced intergroup interactions. Citing the Intergroup Dialogues Program and student organization activities, she asked students to come forward with new ideas for better relations, and to engage their fellow students in participating in existing programs.
In light of continued concern about student safety, Cantor encouraged students to familiarize themselves with the safety advice and crime statistics available on the Department of Public Safety’s Web site, http://publicsafety.syr.edu, and to educate fellow students about responsible safety as a member of the University community.
“I share your and the University community’s concerns about safety, and we see this as a top priority. We will take every effort we can to ensure student safety, and we need students’ cooperation and creativity as well,” says Cantor. She hailed the work of the Department of Public Safety, which recently completed its transition to Peace Officer Status and provided additional diversity training to its officers via the Office of Student Life and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and outlined several new security enhancements currently underway across campus, including reviews of campus and nearby neighborhoods’ lighting; a University-wide task force on transportation, which by March 1 will recommend new ways of moving students around the University area; a new security steering committee, which is reviewing best practices in electronic surveillance; and DPS’ continued commitment to its community policing model, in which officers build healthy, non-crisis relationships with community members.
Cantor also noted that students have a role in the responsibility for community safety, and encouraged student leaders to partner with the Office of Student Life to create a new liaison program, wherein students work directly with DPS staff to brief them on current issues and educate them on student lifestyles, cultures and traditions.
In her discussion of South Campus issues, Cantor acknowledged that South Campus has provided the University with flexible housing and learning space for more than a half century, dating back to the University’s successful post-World War II efforts to host thousands of veterans studying under the auspices of the GI Bill. Now, as SU enjoys increasing popularity among prospective students and increases its efforts to reach out to traditionally underrepresented groups of students, South Campus has become an important part of the housing mix for first-year students, and Cantor praised University and student entities including the Office of Residence Life and the South Campus Organization for Programming Excellence (SCOPE) for building a strong sense of community there.
Cantor acknowledged student concerns, and agreed with students that more work is needed. While the University is exploring several options for improving its mix of housing stock, including a planned residence hall on Comstock Ave., Cantor promised the group that she will continue to pay close attention to near-term issues of regularizing South Campus students’ experience and long-term opportunities for the University to make large-scale improvements in all students’ housing experience.
Several of the near-term South Campus initiatives the Chancellor announced that will take effect during the coming year:
- A new express bus line between South and North campuses, which will go into service following a dialogue with student leaders about the appropriate routes, stops and scheduling for an express bus line.
- Expansion of Goldstein Student Center hours to 2 a.m., a pilot program that began in December and will continue through the spring.
- Further review of the South Campus and North Campus dining experiences.
- Expansion of the Orange Night Live performing-arts program to provide additional high-quality cultural experiences at South Campus.
- Pursuit of new social and educational programs in the Goldstein Student Center, Skybarn and Tennity Ice Skating Pavilion.
- New staff positions focused on South Campus, including:
- Effective immediately, Jennifer Bevilaqua, currently assistant director in the Office of Student Life, will be promoted to the position of assistant director and manager of South Campus programming. She will manage the development of student organization programming at South Campus in collaboration with the Office of Residence Life and the Student Centers and Programming Services Office.
- In the fall, Student Centers and Programming Services and the Office of Student Life will hire a new supervisor of facilities and technical services, and a coordinator of programming, respectively, for South Campus.
- New floodlights on Slocum Heights apartments; 14 new lightpoles near Slocum Heights and Chinook Drive; six new lightpoles along Skytop Rd.; four new emergency blue-light call boxes; and continued work with experts to enhance the community’s sense of security.
- The re-assignment of Department of Public Safety Officer C.J. McCurty to South Campus, where he will focus on crime prevention education and problem-solving across the University community, with a focus on South Campus. McCurty will be part of a more visible DPS presence in Goldstein Student Center as DPS reaffirms its commitment to community policing.
- Academic Affairs has committed to offering more academic support on South Campus, especially writing and math tutoring provided at the Goldstein Student Center. This will be available to all students, with a focus on first-year students.
- The University Librarian and Dean of Libraries, Suzanne Thorin, will examine the feasibility of offering online research tools and the online materials request process for South Campus students, with corresponding next-business-day delivery.
Cantor made it clear that students will be expected to play leadership roles in all of these areas of improvement, either by offering constructive advice and ideas to staff, or by helping to educate other students about expanded academic and social opportunities available on South Campus. She also called for students to share their ideas freely at the Student Leadership Summit, and to be outspoken in sharing their ideas with the administration in the future.
“Students have demonstrated their commitment to providing opportunities for mentoring interaction among students; the administration must make a matching commitment through its programs,” says Cantor. “As we fulfill that commitment, we hope to further the learning mission of the University by encouraging students to view this as a practicum in how highly motivated, thoughtful student leaders can bring about social justice by coming together to take responsibility for a common cause. By offering their excellent ideas, providing the strongest support to their peers and engaging with difficult issues in collaboration with the University, these student leaders are embodying Scholarship in Action’s role in empowerment and education.”