Chancellor Kent Syverud:
A broad coalition of Syracuse University students, with support from faculty, alumni, parents and community members, has launched a well-organized movement.
They have essentially called for the university to create policies and take actions to make the university more diverse, democratic, safe and responsive to students.
This coalition – which represents a cross-section of gender, racial and class interests – has done an impressive job. It has done a fine job of educating the public about the issues and their grievances; it has compiled research to support student grievances, and crafted a list of demands with timelines ins 43-page document. It has attracted national news coverage along with the support of parents, alumni, faculty, and community members; they’ve organized protests and demonstrations culminating with the current sit-in in the Crouse-Hinds Administration building.
In response to these developments, what have you, the university administration done? You’ve participated in a long and protracted series of negotiations and issued a “final” statement that fails to adequately address students’ concerns and proposed reforms.
As you know, Thanksgiving break, exams, and Christmas break rapidly approach. By failing to move more assertively in negotiations with students, and neglecting to address their grievances and reforms, you are facilitating extended and heightened resistance from The General Body coalition and their supporters.
Chancellor Syverud, will you as representative of Syracuse University act decisively and collaboratively to make SU an example of inclusion, safety, and diversity, or will you choose the weak and dangerous path of continuing to stall progress, engage in piecemeal negotiations, or play power games with students, who (with no disrespect to the Board of Trustees), are the true power of the university?
Behind door #2 are mass student arrests, possible acts of anti-student brutality/persecution, continued bad press and loss revenue in the form of significantly decreased admissions, and alumni donations.
Behind door #1 is renewed cooperation, faith and harmony on the SU campus, SU distinguishing itself as a beacon of democratic leadership, inclusion, and increased student, community, parent and alumni support and morale.
Bring closure to these negotiations. Allow students to fully engage their studies and research. Allow yourself and your peers to rest comfortably while focusing on attracting funding and support to make Syracuse University one of the finest research institutions in the nation. Agree to The General Body demands in principle, then modify timetables and discuss logistics as needed with input from students and administrators.
The students are righteously indignant, and rightly so.They envision a university responsive to all and responsible for all. The world beyond campus sees this and supports them. They are unstoppable. But you on the other hand, are not. The university cannot exist without every student enrolled. But it can exist without YOU. And if you fail to take these students seriously, it most likely will. Play ball in good faith Chancellor. Define and solidify your legacy. Don’t tarnish or compromise it. Do the right thing. Agree to the General Body demands, NOW!
-Syracuse University class of ’91
-Editor-in-Chief, The Black Voice, 1987
-SAS President, 1988-1990
Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he published “The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook,” a leadership and organizing manual for Black Student Unions on college campuses. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, Huffington Post Live, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.”
Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Currently, he lives in New York City and in addition to speaking and writing, provides consultation in the areas of activism and community organizing.