Commencement 2017

Dunn: Top 5 campus protests of the past 4 years

Sam Ogozalek | Asst. News Editor

Protests and demonstrations, such as the die-in to protest police brutality pictured here, have rocked the SU campus over the past four years.

UPDATED: May 10, 2017 at 4:38 p.m.

College campuses are rarely the site of political apathy. And over the past four years, Syracuse University has been no exception. From immigration reform to winter coats, SU students have displayed a propensity for making their voices heard.

While every protest has a cause, only a few have made a lasting impact on the university — and, in some cases, the broader collegiate community.

Determining the top five protests of the past four years is no elementary task. Luckily, with the help of this (completely unscientific) rubric, we can narrow down the list.

The rubric ranks each protest on a 1-10 scale based on four key categories and synthesizes these scores into a single grade out of 40.

Importance: How pressing was the issue?

Scope: How expansive was the protest?

Means: How did the protest go down?

Impact: Do people remember this protest, and did it spur change?

5. Protesting the University Place promenade — May 31, 2016

meeting-w-kq

Rachel Gilbert | Development Editor

Background

Before the construction of the University Place promenade, there was simply a drivable street. The university spent $6 million to transform that road into the promenade.

Importance

SU has taken heat for what many call irresponsible spending. Building a walkway instead of focusing on academic programs seems a bit lavish, and students and faculty felt they were not given the opportunity to oppose the project. Grade: 4/10

Scope

The protest was attended by roughly 45 members of the SU community, including students, alumni and professors. Grade: 4/10

Means

Protesters moved as a unit to symbolize what the price of one foot of construction could otherwise be used for. For example, 4 feet is equal to the yearly salary of one adjunct professor. Grade: 7/10

Impact

The promenade was built in less than a year and the Campus Framework project is still making headway, proving the university is more than willing to prioritize facilities over programs. Grade: 2/10

Overall

The promenade protest was clever and well-attended but it failed to accomplish its mission, partly due to the university’s indifference and partly due to the obscene amount of money SU doles out anyway. Final Grade: 17/40

4. “P*ssy Grabs Back” — Nov. 11, 2016

protest_ogozalek-4

Sam Ogozalek | Asst. News Editor

Background

College students nationwide were vocally disheartened by November’s presidential election, including SU students. SU’s first anti-President Donald Trump protest was held just two days after the election and covered everything from LGBTQ issues to the marginalization of women and people of color.

Importance

Before we realized the new president doesn’t know how to do much of anything, many people were afraid his election would bring stark changes to their lives. The first months of the Trump presidency haven’t been as devastating as expected, but the extent of his changes remains to be seen. Grade: 8/10

Scope

Roughly 150 students and faculty from SU and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry took part in the protest, which was organized via Facebook on fairly short notice. Grade: 5/10

Means

Signs, chants and paint-filled sponges were the mediums of choice for protesters, who marched from Carnegie Library to Marshall Street. The protest covered a lot of ground and lasted until 10:30 p.m. Grade: 5/10

Impact

Although Trump is still president and his policies will likely ostracize many of the people who attended this protest, demonstrations like these give marginalized people an outlet to be heard. Grade: 7/10

Overall

The “P*ssy Grabs Back” protest was well-intentioned and far-reaching, albeit not the most notable Trump-related protest on this list. Final Grade: 25/40

3. March for “sanctuary campus” status — Nov. 16, 2016

Students participate in the Sanctuary Campus rally on Syracuse University's campus on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. The railly was one of many held at Universities around the country. Photo by Wasim Ahmad.

Wasim Ahmad | Staff Photographer

Background

After Trump’s election, SU community members worried about the immigration statuses of international students. They set up a protest to advocate SU being named a sanctuary campus — a place of acceptance of all people, regardless of their immigration status.

Importance

Trump’s travel restrictions would have put many international students at risk of losing their visas if they hailed from one of the countries subject to Trump’s travel ban. Grade: 8/10

Scope

More than 1,000 students and faculty from SU and SUNY-ESF joined the protest, a massive turnout for any event at Syracuse. Grade: 10/10

Means

The event was coordinated with about 80 other universities as a nationwide walkout, meaning that all students left their activities at 3 p.m. to join in the demonstration. Grade: 6/10

Impact

Trump’s travel ban was later condemned by Chancellor Kent Syverud, but he stopped short of declaring SU a sanctuary campus. Syverud has assured students that SU will support undocumented students so long as its support is in line with federal laws. Grade: 7/10

Overall

This was a relatively massive protest that failed to accomplish its goal but was acknowledged by the chancellor. Final Grade: 31/40

2. Promenade die-in — Oct. 5, 2016

protest2_sam-ogozalek_sw

Sam Ogozalek | Asst. News Editor

Background

Police brutality against black Americans is by no means a new problem, but with the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, the general public is more privy to it than ever before. Syracuse itself has been no stranger to police brutality carried out against black Americans.

Importance

Police brutality is a major problem in the Unites States, especially due to the disproportionate number of black citizens victimized by it. While the issue may be an uncomfortable one for some, it needs to be addressed. Grade: 10/10

Scope

More than 200 people participated in the protest on the University Place promenade, which was possibly a symbolic number, referencing the 201 black and brown people killed by police violence as of the day before the protest. Grade: 8/10

Means

Protesters assembled in three lines before lying down in unison to symbolize the lost black and brown lives. After 10 minutes, the students rose, raised their fists in the air and sung a popular Negro spiritual song. Grade: 10/10

Impact

Police brutality is still a problem, but the protest drew attention to the movement in an artful and creative way. Grade: 9/10

Overall

The die-in was one of the most meaningful and creative protests in recent SU history and was truly an unforgettable event. Final Grade: 37/40

1. THE General Body — Nov. 3-20, 2014

Members of THE General Body meet with Chancellor Kent Syverud in the Crouse-Hinds administrative building.

Frankie Prijatel | Senior Staff Photographer

Background

In possibly the defining protest of recent SU history, student group THE General Body rallied against a lack of administrative transparency. The group’s members condemned administrative actions, including the May 2014 closing of the Advocacy Center and the summer 2014 announcement that Posse scholarship funding would be cut.

Importance

THE General Body encompassed a variety of causes. The coalition was buoyed by a shared desire to increase administrative transparency and to give student leadership organizations a more meaningful say in significant university decisions. Grade: 9/10

Scope

Although the protest began with more than 100 participants, only 40 were allowed to camp out for the 18-day sit-in due to fire codes. Grade: 10/10

Means

For 18 days, students occupied the lobby of the Crouse-Hinds building, which houses many administrative offices. They conducted meetings with school officials during this time and did not end the sit-in until they felt their demands had been adequately met. Grade: 10/10

Impact

Members of THE General Body were unrelenting on their demands. The university responded with action, adding new diversity training programs, improving mental health services and making administrative and financial decisions more transparent. Grade: 10/10

Overall

The success and intensity of the demonstration gives this protest a lasting place in Syracuse lore. Final Grade: 39/40

Ryan Dunn is a freshman history major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at rarozenb@syr.edu.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this post, the year in which THE General Body protest took place was misstated. The protest occurred in 2014. The Daily Orange regrets this error.

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