Explainers

Explaining THE General Body’s history and grievances

Frankie Prijatel | Senior Staff Photographer

In November 2014, Chancellor Kent Syverud met with Syracuse University students during THE General Body sit-in to discuss their issues and grievances.

THE General Body, a coalition of more than 50 student organizations at Syracuse University, has been known for its activism on the SU campus since its inception in 2014. Here is an in-depth look at the group, its history and what it’s up to now.

History

During the fall 2014 semester, a number of issues regarding transparency from the SU administration struck a nerve with campus activists.

In October 2014, word was spread about the first TGB meeting, which more than 100 students attended as individuals and as student organization representatives. From there, the group opted for a leaderless coalition dedicated to exposing a wide array of issues on campus while having their diverse voices heard.

Main grievances

As a group, TGB identified major issues within the university and compiled them into a list of Grievances, Needs and Solutions. The 45-page document was originally presented on Nov. 3, 2014, following a Diversity and Transparency (DAT) Rally, planned by TGB, on the steps of Hendricks Chapel. More than 100 members of the SU community attended the rally.

110314_DITRally_FrankiePrijatel_APE1Frankie Prijatel | Senior Staff Photographer

Shortly after, SU administration responded to the document.

The sit-in

What-is-the-general-bodyChloe Meister | Senior Design Editor

Following the DAT Rally, protesters walked to Crouse-Hinds Hall, where the SU administrative offices — including that of Chancellor Kent Syverud — are located, with the goal of delivering their document of grievances and demands. Protesters were met by Kevin Quinn, senior vice president for public affairs; John Sardino, associate chief for the Department of Public Safety; and Daniel French, general counsel for the university, and found that the doors to the building were locked.

Later, protesters found a way to get inside the building and more than 40 students planned to spend the night.

Yanira Rodriguez, one of the rally organizers, said the plan was to stay in the building until Nov. 6, 2014, when the SU Board of Trustees would meet and vote on a new mission and vision statement. She added in an interview with The Daily Orange, “We’re not going away until we get a public statement from the chancellor.”

110414_N_DATrally_ReneeZhou_APE_2 Daily Orange File Photo

The sit-in lasted 18 days, ending on Nov. 20, 2014.

After vacating Crouse-Hinds, Vani Kannan, a doctoral student at SU, told The D.O. that the second phase of the protest will represent the coalition of students, faculty and staff uniting to continue resisting unilateral and undemocratic processes, practices and decisions made by the administration.

“We will not submit,” Kannan said. “Today we’re leaving the building, but we’re not going anywhere.”

Cause and effect

GFX-for-WebChloe Meister | Senior Design Editor

After hearing what students had to say at the DAT Rally and watching their commitment through the sit-in, some SU faculty members expressed their support of TGB.

Here is what a few SU faculty members told The Daily Orange in past interviews:

I think a lot of faculty saw that the students were negotiating with the administration, they were having conversations with the administration and they were staying the course, and I think a lot of faculty grew impressed by the commitment that the students were demonstrating.
Eileen Schell, an associate professor of writing and rhetoric
They sit-in and I stand with them precisely because they are pointing to the exact pressure points in this university where we can make change — change that we need to make. This university is at a crossroads and we owe a deep debt of thank you to THE General Body for pointing to exactly where that crossroads is.
Don Mitchell, a geography professor
They were in many ways putting their education to action in terms of working together and organizing in order to negotiate with the institution to make it a place that was more open and more responsible.
Jessica Posner, a part-time instructor in VPA's School of Art and department of transmedia

Timeline

Here is a timeline of the events that took place during THE General Body’s 18-day sit-in in November 2014.

Now

Jessica Posner, a part-time instructor in the School of Art and the department of transmedia, said she stands by the thought that TGB has changed the campus for the better, starting necessary conversations and making issues more widely known at SU.

“Are we all like, meeting every week and emailing 20 times a day? No, because the time is different; however, I do think that there is an energy on campus that’s present,” Posner told The D.O. in 2015.

110414_N_DATrally_ReneeZhou_APE Daily Orange File Photo

One year after the sit-in, TGB sent a letter to The D.O.

Although TGB has been less publicized as of late, they wrote that they continue to work within their own circles and connections.

“The work hasn’t simply ended because we are no longer in direct communication with the campus at-large,” TGB stated in the letter.

The latest issue the group has tackled is the construction of the University Place promenade. Activists have altered their fall 2014 slogan to fit their current protest, turning “Is this a school or a corporation?” into, “Is this a school or a resort?”

ProtestRachel Gilbert | Feature Editor

TGB created a petition in support of a faculty-developed petition against the promenade. Authors of the document expressed their concern that for a third summer in a row, the input of students, staff and faculty are being left out of major decisions.

Kent Syverud’s first summer as Chancellor included unilaterally closing the Advocacy Center and terminating POSSE scholarship contracts. Summer two included switching TA healthcare without discussion or consultation and pressuring 254 staff to retire. With the apparent money saved, summer three of Chancellor Syverud is leading off with a $6 million dollar beautification project,” TGB wrote in the petition.

TGB held a protest against the construction of the University Place promenade on May 31. Promenade construction began later that same day.

Remaining present on Facebook and Twitter, TGB posts information about activism throughout the Syracuse community, encouraging followers to exercise their voices.

The Daily Orange will continue to update this Explainer as new information about THE General Body is released.

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