Dear Students, Faculty and Staff: I had hoped my first communication with the campus community would be to share positive news. Sadly though, I am writing with the most difficult news to share—the passing of one of our students. We…
Chancellor Discusses Coronavirus Preparedness, Progress on Campus Commitments
Chancellor Kent Syverud delivered the following remarks to the University Senate on Jan. 29, 2020, in Maxwell Auditorium:
Thank you, Marcelle, and thank you always at this meeting for reminding us who we are. I am thankful for that.
This is John Liu’s first Senate meeting actually in office as interim provost and Ramesh Raina’s first senate meeting as interim vice president for research. I want to formally thank them for serving. This is the first meeting since Rajiv Dewan became dean of the iSchool, and I would like to recognize him.
We have a full agenda, and I’ll be brief. We have an honorary degree committee report at the end of the meeting, and I urge senators to remain for that report. Other attendees will be excused.
I want to thank several committees for their work. It is a lot of work. I want thank the AFTPE Committee for its work all year on revising section 4.1 of the faculty manual while also handling a substantial caseload. I also thank the Curriculum and Budget committees for their thorough reports.
I want to speak today about our university and the coronavirus. And I want to address hateful incidents on our campus and progress on those.
Before I do those two things, I ask that we take a moment to remember two students that we have lost since we last met, and one student who is missing.
Clement Sutter, a first-year student in the College of Arts and Sciences, passed away earlier this month while in London during the break. Jared Fearby, a senior in the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, passed away in an accident in upstate New York during the break. Our whole community extends condolences to the families and friends of Clement and Jared.
And Allan Gonzalez, a senior in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, has been missing since Jan. 18. According to the Syracuse Police, there is video evidence of him falling into Onondaga Creek just after 3 a.m. on the 19th. We are deeply concerned about his well-being and concerned for his family.
Clement and Jared, along with all members of our community that we have lost in the last year—faculty, staff, students and retirees—will be remembered in our Annual Service of Commemoration in Hendricks Chapel at 4 p.m. on March 10.
On the coronavirus: Many people at our university, working with our partners at ESF and Upstate, have been carefully monitoring, preparing and taking steps in connection with the coronavirus outbreak that has centered in Wuhan and Hubei province, People’s Republic of China. I draw your attention to the repeat communications you should all be receiving from Dr. Karen Nardella from Health Services and other University leaders concerning this situation.
I want to emphasize that we have been working and obtaining counsel with health authorities throughout this process, including our Onondaga County Health Department, New York State officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevenion. No case of coronavirus has been identified at Syracuse University or in Onondaga County, and there’s no one that I am aware of here that is currently being tested or awaiting test results. I just want to say that again: No case of coronavirus has been identified at Syracuse University or in Onondaga County, and there’s no one that I am aware of here who is currently being tested or awaiting test results. The vast majority of our community members returned from China more than two weeks ago for the start of our classes Jan. 13.
That said, we are taking this very seriously, and there is still a lot we do not know—no one knows with certainty—about this virus. We do know that there are confirmed cases in other parts of the United States and in Canada, and that many of our peer universities have cancelled classes in China, suspended programs and courses in China, or have announced new restrictions on travel to China. Those institutions include Duke, NYU, ASU, Northwestern, Texas A&M and the University of Michigan.
Many people have asked me and others here what they can or should be doing in the face of this situation. In addition to the advice from Dr. Nardella and health authorities, I would make five points today quickly.
First, I remind you that we have many students, and community members, here from China, including some from the Wuhan area and from Hubei province. Please imagine the stress and anxiety that they are feeling here for family and friends. I ask, in the spirit of what Marcell said, I ask all of us to be understanding and supportive of our students in this tough time. They are Orange, and your extra kindness and effort for them right now I am sure would be much appreciated.
Second, I reiterate the key portions of the health advice you have received, including in flyers, on door handles over the weekend and in communications that have gone also to parents. Those most at risk are those who have been in Wuhan in the last 14 days or who have had close contact with someone like that. Students exhibiting any of the symptoms should call the Barnes Center at the Arch at 443.8000 and then follow the instructions health professionals there give you. Faculty and staff should contact a primary care physician immediately.
Third, I ask everyone in our community who still has not been vaccinated for the flu this season to very seriously consider doing so NOW. Go to the Barnes Center or to your doctor. We have supplies of the flu vaccine in stock at the Barnes Center. While this flu vaccine will not protect against the coronavirus, if you get vaccinated today then within two weeks it is highly likely to prevent you showing symptoms that could be confused with the virus and could distract attention that our health care system may need to be devoted to this situation. If you have not been vaccinated, I encourage you to do so.
Fourth, you received a communication very recently from Steve Bennett, Tony Callisto and Karen Nardella regarding travel to China. I ask that all in our community heed it. Please avoid non-essential travel to China. If you do conclude that you will so travel, you should be prepared for a possibility, just a possibility—not a probability but a possibility—that you will have difficulty returning and that when you return you may be subject to a period of quarantine. I encourage all of us to follow the advice of Dr. Nardella, Steve Bennett and Tony Callisto to use the expedited travel registry if you are travelling abroad. This will be a vital tool for the University to help you should this situation evolve in light of State Department and CDC warnings. We need to know where you are.
Fifth, there is a group of our faculty, staff and students who are raising funds to send medical supplies and other support to Wuhan. I encourage you to support this effort, and we will distribute information about how to contribute via SU News shortly.
Turning to our campus commitments. First of all, it is important to say that we continue to discover vandalism and graffiti containing hate speech. In two of the cases, we are not sure when they occurred—they may have occurred over the break or even last semester and we are investigating them. In the third, we have identified the person responsible and have referred them to the student conduct process.
These incidents are hurtful, harmful and disruptive to our community. I call your attention to the message this afternoon from Rob Hradsky regarding the student conduct process for these cases. As a community, I think we need to continue to send a strong message that this behavior is contrary to our values and unwelcome on our campus.
Damon Williams, a member of the Independent Advisory Panel, has been on campus in advance of two important meetings that are coming up. He is meeting with leadership and students to map out what engagement will look like both for the Board of Trustees Special Committee on Campus Climate, Diversity and Inclusion and the Independent Advisory Panel.
The board committee has already met twice and is makings plans to be on campus in the middle of February. The Independent Advisory Panel members will be here in late February for additional engagement with key stakeholders.
Finally, I want to finish by highlighting a few recent awards.
Congratulations to Shobha Bhatia, professor of civil and environmental engineering, who has been recognized as a “Geolegend” by the Geo-Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers, one of only 35 civil engineers in the United States to receive this accolade. She received this recognition for her internationally recognized research in soil dynamics and the application of geosynthetic and natural materials in engineering projects.
Alumna Kishauna Solijour is the first Syracuse University graduate to accept The Council of Graduate Schools/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award, which she won in Humanities and Fine Arts. Her dissertation: “Beyond the Banlieue: French Postcolonial Migration & the Politics of a Sub-Saharan Identity.” This thesis has already redefined the way historians view the contributions of African migrants to French culture and society in the last half century.
Finally, I want to congratulate Melissa Green, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, who was recently named an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
I will take questions after Provost John Liu’s remarks.