University Senate

Wheatly addresses undocumented students, Koch Foundation during University Senate open forum

Sam Ogozalek | Asst. News Editor

Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly announced an the creation of an ad hoc committee on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals/Undocumented students during a University Senate open forum.

Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly during a University Senate open forum on Wednesday announced the creation of an ad hoc committee on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals/Undocumented students.

Wheatly also fielded questions on President Donald Trump’s immigration ban, the Koch Foundation and budgetary concerns on Wednesday during the current administration’s first University Senate open forum.

The ad hoc committee aims to “prevent all members of the community from physical harm, discrimination and intimidation.” The committee will review what SU is currently doing to support affected students, explore current best practices in the colleges and identify how SU can do better in that realm. The committee will be co-chaired by Jennifer Matthews, director of international admissions, and Michele Sipley, director of financial aid.

Membership of this committee is still being finalized and will be announced shortly.

Can Isik, the agenda committee chair, opened the Wednesday meeting in Maxwell Auditorium with a statement commending that this abandoned practice had been brought back to life. The forum is meant to provide senators and non-senators the chance to ask the administration questions about SU initiatives, and the state of the university.

An open forum is required by University Senate bylaws to occur every year, but the practice stopped without warning a few years ago.

Wheatly began the meeting with a 10-minute report before turning the floor over for questions. The meeting lasted just over an hour, and many attendees left before the meeting ended.

Chancellor Kent Syverud was traveling on university business, but he had Wheatly read a statement that condemned President Trump’s executive order on immigration.

“To be clear, this university simply cannot support or abide by any policy that discriminates against, or makes a preference for, one person over the other based on religion, national origin or other inherent characteristics. Any such policy is wrong and antithetical to the constitution of the United States of America and the values of this university,” Syverud said in the statement.

The statement received a round of applause from those in attendance.

In addition to the statement, Wheatly said the Academic Affairs Committee has formed a subcommittee that has drafted a proposal for “pathways to degree completion for students affected by the U.S. immigration policies.” She expects further discussion of the proposal in the “very near future.”

Wheatly said SU was committed to aiding its student and faculty in the “uncertain times” that have occurred since Trump took office, and that SU is committed to providing resources to best guide faculty, staff and students. She pointed to Tuesday’s immigration open house at the Slutzker Center for International Services, which provided legal counsel and aid to about two dozen international student as an example of that commitment.

In her opening statements, Wheatly also touched briefly on a recent grant acquired by the Martin J. Whitman School of Management from the Koch Foundation that created academic freedom concerns among SU faculty. In the past, Koch gifts to universities have often come with strings attached.

“To be clear each grant has been fully vetted to ensure the university, the research and the faculty are protected from any conflicts or concerning partnerships,” Wheatly said. “… I want to say here that, unequivocally, Syracuse University is committed to advancing and protecting the fundamental ideals of academic freedom.”

During the open forum, Senate members pushed Wheatly on those statements. Members were not only concerned with the strings that might be attached, but also the outside perspective of taking grants from controversial foundations.

Senate members also voiced budgetary concerns, and asked Wheatly several questions about the faculty buyout, the Faculty Salary Review Committee and the Bain Report.

The Provost said the Faculty Salary Review Committee has met weekly this semester, and she expects that the committee will release salary data as soon as they can. She asked the attendees to continue to be patient, and to let the committee “do its work.” It’s a request Wheatly asked Senate committee members to consider at January’s meeting, after the Senate questioned her about the committee’s work and transparency.

Members of the Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee said there’s still financial information from the buyout that they are seeking from the administration, and much of the forum was spent noting concerns with the Bain Report, and the buyout’s lingering effects.

Other business:

  • Wheatly said the Internationalization Council has identified specific resources and support that will provide international students with a better experience on campus.
  • SU has solidified a search committee for the position Vice President of Research, and the names will be announced on Friday, Wheatly announced.
  • Middle States Day of Campus Conversation will take place April 18.
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