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Chancellor Syverud Addresses University Senate, Announces Lifted Suspensions
Chancellor Kent Syverud delivered the following remarks to the University Senate on Feb. 19, 2020, in Maxwell Auditorium:
Thank you, Professor Haddix.
We are on the edge right now. Our University needs to step back from the edge so we can continue the productive ongoing work to address issues of diversity, inclusion and safety that has been happening since November.
We need to step back from that edge. I want to direct that first step back right now.
Our students, 23 of them, are protesting inside Crouse-Hinds Hall. They are our students. They are protesting because of incidents of racism and anti-Semitism and hate. They are angry about those incidents and are frustrated that perpetrators have not all been found and punished. Meanwhile, they feel that they are being punished for protesting this and other things.
I’m angry and frustrated about this as well. Some perpetrators have, in fact, been found and punished, including with suspensions, including this semester, but people don’t know that because our student conduct process has been kept so confidential. Nevertheless, I believe it is also true that at the least one and maybe more of the perpetrators are still out there in our community.
Some of the students in Crouse-Hinds Hall are seniors. We should all want them to be able to go to class and to graduate. I want that. I want us all to remember that as our starting point.
These students are afraid they will be arrested and forced out of the building. They have suspension dangling over them. They are concerned about being fed.
Enough. I am not going to let students be arrested and forced out of Crouse-Hinds Hall. The building is now closed. The students now there can stay there. I have directed arrangements for ensuring they are fed and cared for.
I am also directing that interim suspension be lifted and the suspension procedure be stopped while we all step back.
I am doing these things because I have been listening to many people in the last 24 hours, including many senators, many students, many faculty and many alumni. You don’t all agree. That is an understatement. This is Syracuse. But after thinking hard about the many differing opinions that have been advanced to me in various ways, I have concluded that we can move forward productively by starting with compassion for our students and with de-escalation. I am taking these first steps. I hope that all of us, and all in our community, will model this as well. If we don’t do this, all the real progress on these issues that this University has made since November, and that has to continue, is in jeopardy.
There has been progress since November. The steps so many have helped take are documented on syracuse.edu/commitments and shared regularly via many channels. We are fighting incidents of hate that are now becoming common on many campuses around our country.
Our students at Syracuse have the right of free speech and protest. That right doesn’t mean that students can without consequences protest anywhere at any time in ways that seriously disrupt the learning and other necessary activity of other students and our community. It is also true that occupying a building after closing hours is disruptive, and has been in Crouse-Hinds Hall. In the past, I have used every ounce of my discretion under the non-disruption policy to accommodate peaceful protest. I have done that, particularly where there were very serious concerns of students and our University community and a need for space and time to have safe and productive dialogue about solutions.
My discretion is not unlimited. It is not unconstrained. It can’t continue forever. At some point, it is true that violation of the disruption policy has to have consequences that should be managed through the Code of Student Conduct. We are not at that point now. I believe we should give more time to this process.
Members of the Special Committee of our Board of Trustees were on campus last week. They conducted twenty sessions with concerned students, faculty and members of the campus community. They heard a lot that they will address in their report later this semester, including about campus safety, residence life, communications, curriculum and the very different experiences people have here based on who they are. This week, members of the Independent Advisory Panel are on our campus and also listening widely to our community. They are national experts on diversity, inclusion and safety. They have already been helpful.
We need to learn from this process and act to implement the commitments and the recommendations that come from all this work. I ask that we all step back and take a deep breath, in ways I have mentioned and in other ways, and work to make this University better for all of us, and especially for our students.
Having said and directed this now and today, I have two more mundane but related points to report on now. First, one of our commitments relates to our curriculum for all undergraduate students related to diversity and inclusion.
Later in this meeting, you’ll hear two reports from two ad hoc committees who have been working on how to engage our undergraduate students in discussions of identity, equity and inclusion in the classroom. These are important steps forward. In particular, the development of a new, more extensive, better first-year seminar class to replace SEM 100 is an important priority for this University. We have promised this to our students. We—and when I say we, I include our faculty in each school and college, our deans and our senate—have to deliver on this.
Second, I have heard many concerns about space assignments on campus, including for those who have been particularly targeted by recent hateful actions. Getting appropriate spaces for our students of color, including Greek organizations, and our indigenous students, is an urgent priority that is being worked on intensely by many students, faculty and staff, including Pete Sala.
The good news here is that additional spaces are becoming available to work with. We are in the midst of a “great shuffle” on our central campus.
The great shuffle is made possible by the opening of the Barnes Center, the National Veterans Resource Center (NVRC) and ultimately the Schine renovation.
It is a domino effect. It has to be managed thoughtfully. As one space opens up, we are able to make additional moves that benefit our students and academic focus and take into account recent concerns. For example:
- Because the counseling services moved to the Barnes Center, we could move Alumni Engagement into the counseling center building.
- Then, we moved Institutional Assessment (that’s Jerry Edmonds’ team) into the space that Alumni Engagement vacated in the Goldstein Alumni and Faculty Center.
- This, along with the relocation of some key student services to the Henry Center Complex, allowed us to move Keith Alford’s team into Steele Hall. We can also move HEOP and Student Support Services out of the basement of the School of Education, where they have been for a long time. We need in that process to make sure that they can maintain their historic ties with the School of Education.
- The shuffle also enables the Office of Research and the Graduate School to have space in Lyman Hall, the Maxwell School to get needed nearby space in Steele, which allows student services to be expanded.
- It enables Falk College to expand student service and other space vacated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF).
These are just some of the pieces of the shuffle, but the key takeaway is that we are following the Campus Framework while also prioritizing academics and students on central campus. I promised our indigenous students, our Native American students, that they do not have to move from 113 Euclid until we find better space that they agree on. I am meeting with them again next week. We also promised that we would prioritize space for multicultural Greek organizations and have identified some options and are reviewing them with student leadership.
We are focused on using space in the heart of campus to address the promises we made to our students and our academic needs.
I know that it is February and it is gray, and I know that the last 48 hours have been tough. We can face tough things here. We are doing hard things now. In just about 10 days the Dome will close. This will end an era where every heavy snowfall has been a safety hazard to our staff. We have had to put our staff on the roof to shovel snow off the Dome to prevent that collapse. I’m grateful that this time is ending. It involves sacrifices in the next six months, including moving many events—including Commencement. If we can face that hard thing, I think we can all take a deep breath and remember we are here because of our students, first and foremost, and they want us to get diversity and inclusion right on this campus.
I’d be even more grateful if we all take a deep breath and step back to do that. Thank you. I will take questions after the Provost’s report.