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Chancellor Syverud Addresses Wednesday’s University Senate Meeting
Chancellor Kent Syverud discussed several issues at Wednesday’s meeting of the University Senate, the last of the 2018-19 academic year. He addressed the incident involving the Theta Tau fraternity; two new initiatives within Invest Syracuse; the University’s relationship with the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry; and sexual harassment policies.
Also in his remarks, Chancellor Syverud recognized students Dina Eldawy and Crystal Letona on their selection as Truman Scholars and Anthony So on his selection as a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow. He also recognized Professor Emeritus Donald Siegel on his election as president of the Geological Society of America.
The Chancellor’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, appear below:
I thank all Senators for your hard work this academic year. Serving on the University Senate is just one of your many responsibilities. I appreciate the time you dedicate to shared governance and wish you well as we head into the final weeks before Commencement.
I had four or five matters I planned to briefly discuss today, but first, in light of recent events, we first need to address an incident we at the University learned about this morning.
I have watched part of the videos from Theta Tau. I am shaken and deeply disturbed by what is on them, as I would hope anyone in our community would be. I believe I described the videos accurately in the message I sent out earlier today: this is racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, and ableist, by which I mean hostile to people with disabilities. The fraternity has been suspended and appropriate proceedings have been commenced, which will proceed fairly and appropriately.
We took these steps promptly after learning about the conduct and the video this morning. Before communicating with the University community, I sought counsel from Senate leadership, faculty leaders, student leaders, and the Diversity and Inclusion Council.
This afternoon, I attended a meeting for the community overseen by Hendricks Chapel and its dean. I learned a lot about next steps at that meeting. I have also asked that today all members of our community receive information about resources available to address concerns and impact of this incident.
I have asked the agenda committee and the Senate committee chairs for further counsel going forward. I want you to know that, of the dozens of faculty, staff, students, and alumni I have spoken with today, there has been uniform agreement that this conduct is antithetical to our values as a University. There has been uniform agreement that we have a lot of work to do right now if we care about those values. There has been uniform agreement about the importance to reaffirm who we are as a University. Who we are as a university is that we are an inclusive student-focused research university that fosters a richly diverse and inclusive community of learning and opportunity. That is from our vision and our mission that we all participated in adopting. I believe we need to stick to it, whatever happens on this campus or in the world. That is the vital thing to address today.
Without diminishing that, I do also call your attention to some other announcements.
Please join me in celebrating a tremendous achievement by two of our students. Syracuse University this year has not one – but two Truman Scholars this year. Dina Eldawy and Crystal Letona.
Eldawy is an international relations and citizenship and civic engagement major in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School. Letona, is a communications and rhetorical studies major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts and a policy studies major in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School.
Only 11 Syracuse University students before them have received this prestigious scholarship.
The Truman Scholarship is awarded nationally to approximately 55-65 college juniors each year in recognition of community service, academic accomplishment and commitment to a career in public service. This year, more than 750 students were nominated by schools and colleges from around the country. Recipients receive $30,000 to fund up to three years of graduate education leading to a career in public service.
Also today, it was announced that one of the nation’s 30 Paul and Daisy Soros fellows will be Anthony So, who is pursuing a MFA in fiction at Syracuse. Only 11 universities other than Syracuse have Soros fellows for 2018.
I also congratulate Don Siegel, emeritus professor of Earth sciences, who has just been elected president of the Geological Society of America, which has 25,000 members and is one of the highest honors in the discipline.
Invest Syracuse News
I want to share two pieces of Invest Syracuse news.
First: As you may recall, during my Winter Message in January, I said we must work to ensure certain priority elements of the Academic Strategic Plan be implemented before the end of the semester.
Of course, two of those priority areas are advancing innovation and discovery and enhancing the student experience.
Today, I am pleased to announce – as part of the $100 million Invest Syracuse initiative – the creation of a new Center for Undergraduate Research. The center will focus on creating and sustaining a culture of inquiry among our undergraduate students. I thank all the students, academic staff, and faculty who have brought this vision to make this happen.
This is the result of collective efforts by multiple constituents—including the Student Association, the University Senate Research Committee and the Renée Crown University Honors Program. This will quadruple the funding for undergraduate research and will benefit thousands of students starting in just a few months.
The goal of this group’s work is to strengthen, centralize, coordinate and expand capacity for undergraduate research and train faculty mentors.
Thanks to the leadership of Cathryn Newton, Special Advisor to the Chancellor and Provost for Faculty Engagement, the best ideas of students, faculty and staff were brought together to create this new and exciting center.
There is evidence that this kind of commitment to undergraduate research will help us recruit, retain and graduate a more diverse and talented student body, and prepare them for post-graduate success.
The Center will report to both Provost Wheatly and Vice President for Research John Liu. It is a vital step in supporting a more expansive and interdisciplinary research enterprise across the university.
The second Invest Syracuse announcement is this: The Counseling Center, the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Education and Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics are launching a new initiative that will significantly expand counseling services for students. It will also provide professional experience for our graduate students in the health profession fields.
Through Invest Syracuse funds, the Counseling Center is in the process of hiring a training director. The new director will provide clinical supervision and oversee a team of graduate student trainees and behavioral health interns. These interns will represent several academic programs, including clinical psychology, school psychology, counselor education, social work, and marriage and family therapy.
The graduate student trainees will provide individual counseling, assist with group therapy, and lead educational programming to expand the capacity and reach of the Counseling Center.
The behavioral health interns will work closely with Health Services and the social work students will work closely with the Office of Health Promotion. Together, they will support efforts to expand outreach and education about holistic health and wellness topics.
We will announce more details on both new Invest Syracuse initiatives in the coming week. I look forward to updating you on the launch and funding for the new Center for Undergraduate Research and encourage your engagement.
SUNY ESF Update
At our last Senate meeting, I briefly discussed our relationship with SUNY ESF. As you may recall, ESF recently announced a long-range plan that includes an increase in undergraduate enrollment from approximately 2,000 to 3,000.
In addition, ESF plans to create a general education college that would begin providing general education instruction, eliminating the need for Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences to provide such instruction.
Both aspects of this plan have significant implications for Syracuse University and our existing services agreement with SUNY ESF.
I discussed this plan and other issues in a meeting with the Chancellor of the SUNY schools, Kristina Johnson, earlier this month. I have also corresponded on these issues with ESF President Quentin Wheeler. We all agree that our institutions have enjoyed a positive and productive relationship, and we desire to continue to have a positive and productive relationship as our institutions evolve.
Currently Syracuse University provides many services to ESF beyond instructional services including but not limited to:
- instruction-related disability services;
- the majority of SUNY-ESF co-curricular services;
- the vast majority of recreation services for both students and faculty and staff; and
- virtually all campus IT services.
The recent announcements signal ESF’s intent to evolve the substance and character of the longstanding relationship between our two institutions.
Accordingly, last Monday Syracuse University formally notified ESF of our intent to renegotiate the current services agreements over the next 24 months, after which time the current agreements will expire.
ESF leadership has designated Vice President and CFO Joseph Rufo as the point of contact with whom members of my executive team can begin discussions about the next phase of our partnership with ESF. I look forward to working with Vice President Rufo, Provost Wheatly and others as we cooperatively plan the course of our two institutions.
Sexual Harassment Policies
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I want to acknowledge the work of the group from the Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Professional Ethics Committee and the Committee on Women’s Concerns. They have been hard at work reviewing the University’s policy on faculty-student relationships and I understand they will present their recommendations today.
I have read both of the committee reports that were distributed to the Senate last Thursday. I am pleased to see that both committees have recommended substantive changes to the faculty manual that I think are critical to fostering an appropriate learning environment for our undergraduate students.
I thank the committees’ members for giving their attention to this important matter, and expect their work on other policy issues will continue into next semester.
I look forward to the conversation we will have today around this very important issue.
That is my report today. Thank you.