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Chancellor Syverud Addresses Nov. 17 Meeting of the University Senate
In his remarks to the University Senate today, Chancellor Kent Syverud encouraged the campus community to get their flu shot, gave updates on key leadership searches and the DEIA Strategic Plan.
The full text of his remarks is below.
Thank you, Professor Stokes-Rees. I am going to be brief.
We are just going into what has been accurately characterized as the most needed Thanksgiving break in a long time. Today we are exactly one month from the last day of the semester. Just to remind folks as well, there is a significant group of our students who aren’t able to go home for this break. I want to thank everybody who is helping to host the international student Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow night, which is going to be attended by hundreds. I particularly thank the faculty and staff who have agreed to serve as table hosts. I do encourage everyone to get a break next week.
Today I want to update you on influenza and COVID, the status of leadership searches, and progress on the DEIA Strategic Plan.
But first, just to emphasize that it has been an intense semester and a lot happening on campus since the last meeting of the Senate, including some remarkable developments. We had 1,650 alumni join us on campus for Orange Central. It was a real pleasure to present a dazzling array of alumni awards. There were more than 60 programs during the weekend. I know that many faculty and staff helped make these events happen and I am grateful to everyone who helped with that.
We also formally dedicated the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello Building, home of the National Veterans Resource Center. That was followed by a celebration of the 10th year of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. Then last week, for the first time, we held ceremonies recognizing Veterans Day at the NVRC.
And this past Sunday, Syracuse University retired the jersey of Felisha Legette-Jack. Number 33 is the first jersey of a female Syracuse athlete to be retired. It was an extraordinary moment, and we were able to do it with Orange fans looking on. Hopefully the number 33 will come to have meaning that is as important to us in our community as 44 does.
As we enter the last part of the semester, I am reflecting on how different things were a year ago. It’s taken an extraordinary amount of effort by this whole community to make this campus as vibrant as it is. It’s scholarship and activity and life, and considerably more vibrant than almost all of our peers. I’m just grateful. I know how stressful that has been on everybody to pull that off. And I appreciate and ask that we be, as Professor Stokes-Rees noted, aware that as exuberant some seem on the surface, there’s a lot of fragility that needs grace. Particularly at the end of the semester when at times members of our community have things that come crashing down and that grace will be very much appreciated.
COVID and Influenza
Managing COVID effectively has been a critical to making that happen. Last week we saw a small bump in cases, likely from gatherings around Halloween, but there hasn’t been any sustained growth in cases. Active cases on campus have actually stayed very low. Last week marked the seventh consecutive week with a positivity rate of 0.4% or below—last week it was 0.2%. We have provided booster vaccinations for eligible students at the Barnes Center.
While COVID numbers remain low, what we are seeing is a rise in cases of the flu. We are requiring the vaccine of all students, faculty and staff who do not have a medical or religious exemption. It’s critically important that everyone do their part to lessen the impact of flu. The Barnes Center has been holding vaccination clinics and is still open for appointments. So, anyone who is not vaccinated for the flu, there’s every indication that, unlike last year when flu was at an historic low because of COVID precautions, this year is going to be a challenging year for the flu. So, I urge you if you have not already done so to be vaccinated.
Turning to the two key leadership searches underway, I have charged the committee leading the search for the next associate vice president and chief of campus safety and emergency management services.
The committee includes an undergraduate, graduate and law student representative and two faculty members. Thanks to Andrew Saluti from VPA and Brice Nordquist from arts and sciences for agreeing to serve. I’m grateful to Bobby Maldonado for delaying his retirement and to Allen Groves for chairing the search. We have retained Spelman Johnson to help us identify candidates.
We are also working to address the vacancy left by Keith Alford’s departure. The search committee for the vice president for diversity and inclusion has been charged. It includes broad representation from staff who serve multicultural, LGBTQ, international and undocumented students and the disability community. It also includes undergraduate and graduate student representatives. Thanks to faculty representatives Suzette Melendez from law, Gladys McCormick from Maxwell and Christopher Hamilton from Newhouse for serving on this committee. We have partnered with the search firm of WittKieffer to conduct a national search. Our goal is to have a new leader in place in the spring.
DEIA Strategic Plan
Turning to the DEIA Strategic plan, for which the new vice president will be charged with leading implementation, the interim leadership team has extended the deadline for feedback on the draft plan. The deadline has been extended from Nov. 15 to Dec. 3. They have also created an option for groups who have discussed the plan to submit their collective feedback. Anyone can provide feedback through the link in the message received earlier this week or by emailing DEIAPlan@syr.edu
Thank you, and I will take questions after Provost Ritter’s remarks.