By Lisa Dumas
After 10 days of sitting-in at Syracuse University’s Crouse-Hinds Hall, in response to SU Chancellor Kent Syverud’s plan for restructuring the university, student protestors said they’re prepared to stay as long as it takes for the university to meet their demands.
The student-led coalition held a press conference Thursday, where they further addressed the matter.
The group began the protest Nov.3, in response to Syverud’s decision to close a campus advovacy center for sex crime victims, as well as reduce funds for a minority scholarship program at the school.
And, although the university has recently met some of the demands from the students, such as a seven percent raise for graduate student teaching assistants, and a decision to conduct a search for a campus Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator; student negotiator Ben Kuebrich said there are still concerns SU administrators have not yet addressed.
“These things are all important,” the fifth-year graduate student said. “But, they’re all real pretty easy things. The ADA, they’ve already conducted multiple searches, but they haven’t made it enough of a priority to hire an ADA coordinator. And, next year, even with the wage increase, there will be teachers on this campus who still don’t make a living wage. Each one of these things is a small concession. While we’ve made some progress on some of the easy things; we haven’t heard back about scholarship cuts, and we still haven’t heard back about the closing of the advocacy center, and mental health services for students.”
Kuebrich said the coalition considered these matters to be life or death issues for students.
“Mental health services are still at the top of our list,” he stated.
Subsequently, Syverud emailed a response to the group Nov. 12, including an apology for not engaging students in the process of his recent decisions, known as “Fast Forward Syracuse;” but, he said he felt it was time for the university to move forward.
Previously, Syverud had assigned Bea González, dean of University College, to serve as a liaison between him and the coalition.
“The students demanded action and I believe we have responded,” he stated. “…To make significant change, though, we need to move forward. Tonight we responded with our final written response and have informed The General Body that our time must now be spent addressing the needs of the entire student body.”
However, although the students appreciated the apology, Kuebrich said, nonetheless, it wasn’t enough.
“The apology’s great,” he stated. “But, we wanted the apology to be a little more specific. It was like the ‘I’m sorry I hurt your feelings’ type of response.”
Ultimately, Kuebrich said the student group would like to move forward as much as Syverud, but, it would take a face-to-face meeting with either the chancellor, or his staff.
“Tuesday, at noon, Dean González said she would coordinate another meeting time for us,” he stated. “That was 48 hours ago. That’s pretty much a good indication of where we stand with the administration right now. But, we’re prepared to stay here as long as it takes. We’re arguing for an equal, just, and Democratic university.”