THE General Body marks 12th day of sit-in with rally, vigil focused on mental health resources

Protesters covered the fence around Crouse-Hinds Hall with signs identifying loved ones who have died due to a lack of support.

THE General Body stepped out on the 12th day of their sit-in, staging a silent protest took place outside Chancellor Kent Syverud’s house at 12:30 p.m. and a rally and subsequent vigil at 2 p.m.

Their actions follow a Thursday afternoon press conference outside of Hall of Languages, in which THE General Body members affirmed they would continue their sit-in despite receipt of the administration’s final response to their list of demands. Syverud sent this response to Syracuse University community via email on Wednesday night. Members of THE General Body said the response was inadequate, particularly referring to areas such as mental health resources during the press conference, and said they are prepared to continue their sit-in through Thanksgiving.

Friday’s 2 p.m. rally and vigil were particularly organized to recognize those who have died or committed suicide as a result of insufficient mental health or sexual assault resources, psychology senior Colton Jones told the approximately 40 individuals who huddled against the wind and snow on the steps in front of Hall of Languages. Improvements in such resources at SU are among THE General Body’s demands, which they say have not been adequately addressed by the administration.

With no organized speakers or speeches, the early minutes of the rally were more generally filled with lively call-and-response chants and a few songs led by individual protesters. Shortly before the group marched back to Crouse-Hinds Hall, the informal rally turned briefly to mental health resources on campus.

“The lack of mental health services is an emergency,” said Derek Ford, a graduate student in the School of Education, likening it to a shooter on campus in the sense that both deserve an immediate response.

Mental health resources, and loved ones who have lost lives in want of them, became a more dominant topic at the approximately 2:40 p.m. vigil outside Crouse-Hinds. Here, protesters taped signs to the fence erected surrounding the building. Among the signs were names and photographs of individuals have who have died.

Passing out colorful flowers to those who had walked from the rally to the vigil, THE General Body members shared stories and memories of their deceased loved ones. Emma Edwards, a geography and policy studies senior and member of THE General Body, shared a letter from the parents of Emma Wozny, an SU student who died during the fall 2013 semester. In the letter, Wozny’s parents wrote that they believed their daughter had been misdiagnosed while seeking help for anxiety and eating disorders on campus.

Two other students shared stories about loved ones with no affiliation  to SU who had committed suicide, drawing attention more generally to the importance of recognizing mental health resources. 

THE General Body has maintained a sit-in at the lobby of Crouse-Hinds since Monday, Nov. 3, following a Diversity and Transparency Rally at Hendricks Chapel. Back-and-forth negotiations between THE General Body and the administration regarding their more than 40-page list of demands and grievances continued through this week, until Syverud on Wednesday offered his final response and encouraged the protesters to instead work collaboratively with the Student Association and the Graduate Student Organization. 

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