November 18th, 2014

THE GENERAL BODY, a coalition of student organizations at Syracuse University are beginning the third week of their Sit-In in the lobby of the University’s Crouse College Admissions Building.  The Sit-In began on Monday, November 3rd, immediately following a rally announcing a new coalition called The General Body SU. The  student led coalition was formed in response to the restructuring of the university that is being implemented by the administration under its current chancellor, Kent Syverud. Chancellor’s strategic plan, known as Fast Forward Syracuse, has so far resulted in the closure of a center that provided crucial advocacy services to sexual assault survivors, the cutting of programs for students of color, slashing department and program budgets, the reduction of the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) and the end of Multicultural Spring, which recruited both low income and students of color.

The following journal is from a student activist, Tara Marie (name changed), who was in the Crouse College Admissions Building last Friday, when, after the building was locked down for the weekend with the students inside, a lawyer for the University was admitted to serve papers on the students.  Project Censored will soon present a fuller analysis of Syracuse University’s resistance to the corporatization of Syracuse University, but we thought these images of the Sit-In, along with Tara Marie’s Journal of the events of last weekend, would give a good sense of this exercise in democracy and resistance that is happening right now in Syracuse.

Weekend Solitude

Friday, November 14thThe weekend started with a head count. How many would willingly give up their weekend again? About twenty-five hands warily raise in the air. Some hands belong to those who have faithfully stayed since the protest began. Others, like mine, are new. Settling into the night began with plans for the week ahead, the last week before Thanksgiving break. The constant sound of people networking with faculty and press on the phone; fingers tapping on keyboards typing up press releases, articles, updating social media; and others socializing with each other, always keeping each other updated, fills the space. Like a hive, it’s chaotic, but methodical.

At eight pm, University lawyers (Dan French and Gabe Nugent) came into the lobby, bearing in their hands large envelopes. From the corner I’m sitting in, I watch one of them.  I don’t see who he hands them to, but I see faces of confusion turn to dismay, to rage, as the envelopes are passed around. Approaching the crowd, I notice that each envelope has the full names and ID numbers of the students who decided to stay for the weekend. It becomes clear now that the administration had been tracking our ID ’s to catalog us. Being a part of THE General Body, became surreal when I saw my name printed neatly among the personally addressed letters. We were the victims of a scare tactic that affected everyone. Later, we found various students posting links spreading around Facebook that petitioned to end the protest.

After this, the weekend was a blur of activity.

Saturday, November 15th.

Saturday morning, like furiously working bees, we cleaned up while dancing and singing as we tried to lift our spirits. A lawyer sympathetic to the students arrived to give us legal advice, but was denied access to the building by administration. The fun ended as we sat down to discuss how we could gather support from faculty. The conversation shifted to more serious topics.  Individuals spoke who said they felt excluded, isolated, and unrepresented by the group. I had to step away from the group when the meeting was over.

Although by the time it concluded everyone felt reassured, personally, I had realized for the first time that even among the hyper aware, highly intelligent group of students surrounding me, there were still people who felt hurt by them. I was shocked. It proved to me that our culture is deeply rooted in misunderstanding anyone who does not look the same as us, and there is so much work to be done if this group is a fraction of our university as a whole.

Sunday, November 16th.

Although we were disheartened and exhausted, Sunday came to greet us like a lamb. We spent the day pressing our noses against the glass windows silently thanking faculty who showed up in support. The lawyer who tried to meet with us Saturday sent an email to hundreds of faculty about her experience on Saturday. They responded in outrage that we were denied legal representation. Faculty showed up one after another, attracting local news stations, never leaving the premises to show their solidarity with us. I spent hours with the remaining ten reading the beautiful, auspicious emails that poured in from professors. Our weekend was like the violence of a forest fire: Petrifying, destructive, demoralizing, and yet from the ashes a greater, more beautiful beam of hope pushed us through to see Monday morning more encouraged than we had felt in a week.

That is the last entry we have of Tara Marie’s Journal.  Those who want to know more about the ongoing student action at Syracuse University can visit their website at:

http://thegeneralbody.org/