Everything That Happened at DAT Rally
Since I last wrote about the #Rally4Consent, a lot has happened at Syracuse University, including rallies, protests, and all kinds of wonderful activism. Recently, a coalition called THE General Body formed as a united front of student organizations at SU with the goal of educating and informing other students and the administration about the grievances and problems that students of various socio-economic class, disability, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, and race experience on a day to day basis.
And today, these efforts came together in one big rally. As a member of THE General Body and a supporter for all the causes involved, I attended and took part in the action — here's what happened.
2 to 3 pm: The pre-rally begins with music and poetry performances on the steps of Hendricks Chapel. A crowd begins to gather. We hug, we sing, we chant, we listen. There are some awesome banners already hanging up with messages like, "Is this a school or a corporation?"
3 pm: I use this time to create my sign. I wrote "Consent is worth fighting for." Because, for me, this movement is addressing the fact that a lot of changes have been made to campus without student input.
3:15 pm: Hasmik Djoulakian reads a poem directed to Chancellor Kent Syverud.
3:30 pm: The rally begins and Colton "CJ" Jones Jr. gets the crowd pumped up with a chant: "The people united will never be defeated."
3:32: Farrell Greenwall Brenner is the first speaker. She talks about the idea behind THE General Body and how our various issues are interconnected due to a lack of respect for diversity and transparency from the SU administration.
3:31 pm: Farrell then talks about the closure of the Advocacy Center, which served as a resource to survivors of sexual assault, as well as a community working toward sexual assault prevention. She says that without the center, there is a loss of community, collectivity, and representation.
3:32 pm: There are a lot of great signs in the crowd, many of them focusing on the university's "Fast Forward" vision and "Kent's corporate university."
3:36 pm: Mali Golomb-Leavitt, president of mental health advocacy group Active Minds, speaks on how the university is shrinking psychiatric and mental health services and treatment.
3:38 pm: Mali reads quotes from students about issues accessing mental health support at SU/ESF. The crowd boos loudly when hearing a quote about a student who was turned away from the counseling center despite being suicidal.
3:42 pm: The crowd grows with students, faculty, and community members.
3:44 pm: CJ and Tulipe Hosenn lead the crowd in another chant. "We will not let you wreck SU."
3:46 pm: Up next is Demarquez "Black" Grissom to speak on the POSSE program. He discusses the program as both a resource and community, and says, "I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for POSSE."
3:48 pm: He continues on how POSSE is, "a merit scholarship, not a minority scholarship." This scholarship program has recently been cut down.
3:51 pm: Now, we hear from Dan Hernandez, who is also the Speaker of the House of the Student Association, SU's student government. He talks about how this is a time of major change at SU and that we, as students, must be a part of it. The university's mission is changing to one that does not incorporate community.
3:57: We do another chant. This one, "Ain't no power like the power of the people 'cause the power of the people don't stop."
3:58 pm: Next is Mara Sapon-Shevin, professor of Inclusive Education.
4:00 pm: She calls out the administration to an Islamaophobic comment made by General Dempsey here, last week. She also calls on the faculty and administration for better diversity education.
4:05 pm: Koy Adams speaks on the issues and lack of support from the administration facing the LGBT community at SU. He references feminist scholars like Audre Lorde, which the crowd loves (myself included).
4:10 pm: Yanira Rodriguez speaks to recognize the faculty support that this movement has received. It really does mean a lot that not only are we a movement of students, but of staff and professors, as well.
4:12 pm: African American Studies professor Linda Carty and Woman's and Gender Studies professor Chandra Mohanty are up next and are met with a big round of applause.
4:14 pm: Some words from Professor Carty: "The institution is going backwards... Cutting POSSE programs is profoundly racist and classist... The intent is to build a white upper-class university."
4:27 pm: Ben Kuebrich closes the rally and informs the group of our next action — we will march to Crouse-Hinds Hall, home to administrative offices including Academic Affairs, Admissions, the Chancellor’s Office, and the Provost’s Office, to present them with our 43-page document of grievances and demands.
4:29: We begin to march to the administration's building, and of course chant along the way.
4:32 pm: We are here! And we are 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. They tell us the chancellor is not in town because he is in New York City meeting with alumni ($$$). Things get tense when we are told we cannot enter the (public) building and discover the doors are locked. See video:
4:39 pm: After much confrontation with French, some chanting, and a roundabout entry, we are inside, and members of THE General Body announce that we will sit in the lobby of the administration building until Chancellor Syverud makes a public and written statement to the SU/ESF community committing to a plan of action that addresses each item listed in the grievances and demands document and agreeing to the deadlines the document has laid forth.
4:42 pm: Ben and CJ explain some of the ground rules that the group decided on for the sit-in.
4:50 pm: Students settle in and regroup about the next move.
4:58 pm: Administrators really, really want to meet with some (not all) students to talk about things. There seems to be some surprise upon learning there are classrooms in the building. See video:
5 pm: Someone says this it is a fire hazard to students to be spread out onto the next floor. The area becomes even more crowded now with students leaving/entering class in the same building, administrators, security guards (some in street clothing), and a dog — and I am not kidding about the dog.
5:05 pm: Students start to hang our banners and signs in the area.
5:10 pm: Some students go into a classroom with the following administration: Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric Spina, Dean of Student Affairs Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz, Director of Athletics Daryl Gross (because... sports?), General Counsel for SU Daniel French, and Department of Public Safety Associate Chief John Sardino.
5:12 pm: This isn't over, however, as a student points out that none of the staff in that room can enact change in the way Chancellor Kent and the Board of Trustees can. Students continue to sit in Crouse-Hinds Hall and will continue to do so until the chancellor publicly commits to a plan of action that addresses the grievances and demands.