#notagainsu

1st #NotAgainSU negotiation: Syverud won’t resign, tuition freeze unlikely

Sarah Lee / Assistant Photo Editor

Chancellor Kent Syverud reaffirmed his stance that no SU officials should resign, despite protesters’ repeated calls for his removal.

#NotAgainSU organizers and Syracuse University administrators sparred about resignations, campus protest policies and prior agreements during a four-hour negotiation session Monday.

#NotAgainSU, a movement led by Black students, has occupied Crouse-Hinds Hall since Feb. 17 to continue its protest of at least 30 racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic incidents that have occurred at or near SU since early November.

Organizers presented Chancellor Kent Syverud with a list of 19 demands in November. He signed 16 as written and revised the remaining three. The movement added 16 demands while occupying Crouse-Hinds, beginning formal negotiations with Syverud and administrators Monday.

During Monday’s negotiation, Amanda Nicholson, interim deputy senior vice president for enrollment and the student experience, apologized to protesters on behalf of SU for the university’s response to the protests.

SU placed more than 30 #NotAgainSU organizers under interim suspension Feb. 18 for occupying Crouse-Hinds past closing. The sanctions were lifted the next day.

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The Department of Public Safety also sealed off the building from Feb. 18 to Feb. 19, preventing outside food and medicine from entering. The university provided lunch and dinner to organizers Feb. 18 and breakfast Feb. 19, reopening the building Feb. 20.

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“What we know is that our current policies on how we work with protests have failed,” Nicholson said. “They don’t work, and we need to come up with something that really does work.”

Nicholson admitted that she and about 10 other officials who all report directly to Syverud made the decision to lock Crouse-Hinds and seal the building off.

“We all messed this up, and I’m sorry,” Nicholson said.

#NotAgainSU continues to call for the resignation of Syverud, DPS Chief Bobby Maldonado, DPS Associate Chief John Sardino and Dolan Evanovich, senior vice president for enrollment and the student experience.

Protesters asked how SU administrators could acknowledge that their response to protests was wrong and simultaneously refuse to resign.

Syverud, who joined the meeting by phone for about 35 minutes, reiterated his belief that no SU officials should resign amid mounting pressure to do so from protesters. He said resignation would not be beneficial for any SU official.

“It is not the case that the standard is perfection of every individual at the university at all times,” Syverud said.

The chancellor was unable to attend the meeting in person. He’s currently traveling to manage the university’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, said Sarah Scalese, senior associate vice president for university communications, in a statement.

One of the students’ demands was for an automatic tuition freeze at the university. Syverud said this will likely not occur. SU’s Board of Trustees controls tuition, Syverud said. He agreed to discuss the demand with trustees, but said he doubts the board would be interested in negotiating tuition.

The Board of Trustees’ Executive Committee was not present at the negotiations either. The university will continue communicating directly with the Board of Trustees Special Committee on University Climate, Diversity and Inclusion to discuss specific considerations that require trustees’ attention, Scalese said.

Syverud said he would alert the trustees to organizers’ frustration about their absence from negotiations.

Administrators at the meeting also expressed confusion about which demands they had previously agreed to.

Marianne Thomson, associate vice president and dean of students, said SU could not promise to create a multicultural living and learning community in each of the university’s residence halls. #NotAgainSU organizers argued that the administration had already agreed to this in November.

The movement’s initial list of demands called for the expansion of multicultural learning communities “to more residence halls on campus,” but did not specify the communities should be located in every dorm.

SU needs to see student interest in more multicultural learning communities before expanding, Thomson said.

“I am confused, and it sounds like you are confused as well, about exactly what was agreed to,” Syverud said. “It sounds like we have to agree to disagree about what was exactly agreed to previously.”

Later in the meeting, SU officials agreed to draft a statement to address #NotAgainSU’s demand that the university acknowledges hate crimes as indicative of systemic and institutional violence rather than individual acts of hatred.

University officials said they would not agree that SU is complicit in white supremacy, as they felt the language may undermine the work of faculty, staff and administrators of color at SU.

“All over the country, universities are doing this very thing and you all are acting like this is some new-fangled idea,” responded professor Jenn Jackson, a faculty member #NotAgainSU requested to be present at the negotiation.

The two sides further disagreed over whether DPS has notified the student body of bias-related incidents reported on campus within two days of a report. The 48-hour notification window was part of the demands Syverud signed in November.

While DPS will continue working to notify students of bias-related incidents, there are exceptions when notifying students would impede an investigation, an administrator said.

DPS will also make its code of conduct available online by the end of the night to meet one of #NotAgainSU’s additional demands, a university official said.

The movement has said it will continue to negotiate with university officials until its demands are met. A second round of negotiations is scheduled for Tuesday at 4 p.m.

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