nagorny's Blog

Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric Spina to step down at end of year, pursue university presidency position

Liz Liddy, dean of the School of Information Studies, will step up as interim provost effective Jan. 1.

Syracuse University’s vice chancellor and provost, Eric Spina, will step down at the end of 2014, according to a Dec. 5 SU News Release.

Spina, who has held the position under two chancellors since 2006, will return to the faculty as a Trustee Professor while he begins to seriously pursue a university presidency position, according to the release. Liz Liddy, dean of the School of Information Studies, will assume his position as interim vice chancellor and provost starting Jan. 1, 2015.

“I care deeply about this University, and at this time believe I owe it to the campus community to step aside before I begin my earnest search for a presidency position,” Spina said in the release.

Beginning his career at SU as a faculty member in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, Spina has been at SU for 26 years. He has served as the chair of the department of mechanical, aerospace and manufacturing engineering; dean of the engineering college; vice chancellor and provost; and interim chancellor and president in 2013 after then-Chancellor Nancy Cantor stepped down.

“Eric has devoted more than 25 years of his life to Syracuse, as a teacher, as a dean, as vice chancellor and provost, and the University is a better place because of it,” Chancellor Kent Syverud said in the release.

Chancellor commits to meeting with THE General Body

Bea Gonzalez, Syverud's liaison to the student coalition, with meet with THE General Body at 1:30 p.m.

Chancellor Kent Syverud has agreed to meet with THE General Body again, according to a letter sent to the student coalition on Wednesday.

Syverud sent a final response regarding negotiations with the group on Wednesday, Nov. 12 in an email to the SU community. In this, he encouraged THE General Body to move forward by working collaboratively with existing student governing bodies such as the Student Association and the Graduation Student Organization. THE General Body, calling the written response inadequate, continued its sit-in. It is now in its 17th day.

On Tuesday, THE General Body invited Syverud to continue conversations, according to a Nov. 19 SU News release. Syverud’s plans to meet with THE General Body again come in response to this invitation.

Bea Gonzalez, dean of University College and Syverud’s liaison to THE General Body, will meet with the group at 1:30 p.m., according to Syverud’s letter. Syverud himself will not be on campus Thursday or Friday. 

Monday rally addresses weekend delivery of student code of conduct to sit-in participants

Several professors spoke in support of the organization and its goals during the rally.

In a noon rally at the Remembrance Wall in front of Hall of Languages, students in THE General Body reaffirmed their commitment to their 14-day sit-in of Crouse-Hinds Hall.

In addition to raising again several of the points they say the administration inadequately addressed in its final response to negotiations — an end to hate speech and a commitment to diversity on campus, for example — members of THE General Body and its supporters also specifically addressed the delivery of the student code of conduct to students who spent the weekend in Crouse-Hinds.

No plans to initiate code of conduct charges against sit-in participants are currently in place, according to a Sunday email to the SU community from Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric Spina, and no students have specifically been asked to leave the building. But SU’s Office of the General Counsel did on Friday provide students in Crouse-Hinds a highlighted copy of the code, indicating which provisions could apply to those taking part in the sit-in.

Particularly contentious regarding this has been the decision to deny an SU law professor access to the building when she went to offer legal counsel on Saturday. Paula Johnson, an SU law professor and co-director of the Cold Case Justice Initiative, addressed this aspect in a speech at the rally.

“There is no excuse for what happened,” Johnson said, likening the situation to a medical emergency that would have necessitated immediate access to the building. “This was a legal emergency.”

Spina, in his email, said the professor, Janis McDonald, was denied entry due to rules regarding the closure of the building during the weekends. Students are allowed to leave at any time during the weekend, but no one is permitted to enter the building again until 7 a.m. on Monday. And as students have full access to phones, computers and university Wi-Fi, he added, they can maintain communication with anyone they choose, including legal advisors.

Monday’s rally was marked by a significant non-student presence, drawing faculty and Syracuse community members who helped pack the sidewalk area near the Remembrance Wall with opened umbrellas. Following a weekend in which multiple letters from SU professors supporting THE General Body were posted to the organization’s website, professors in particular were among the rally’s speakers on Monday.

“I stand with THE General Body, and so do many of the faculty standing out there in the rain,” Johnson said.

Don Mitchell, a geography professor, likewise spoke in support of THE General Body.

“This is university is at a crossroads, and we owe THE General Body for pointing out exactly where it is,” Mitchell said. “They’re point to the pressure points where we can make change.” 

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. 

Administration offers final written response to demands of THE General Body, apology for Advocacy Center closure

In an email to the SU community, Chancellor Kent Syverud said effective change will require moving forward.

The Syracuse University administration on Wednesday night offered its final written response to the demands of THE General Body, a coalition of student groups that has staged a sit-in in Crouse-Hinds Hall since Monday, Nov. 3.

The administration had provided three previous written responses to THE General Body’s evolving list of demands. In an email to the SU community, Chancellor Kent Syverud said that Wednesday’s response would be the last. To make significant change, he wrote, the community must move forward.

“To do this best, I believe we and THE General Body should work collaboratively with the duly elected representatives and governing bodies that are currently in place, including the Student Association and the Graduate Student Organization, to bring continued action and resolution to these concerns,” Syverud wrote. “I look forward to being an active participant in this process.”

Closing his email, Syverud additionally offered an apology to those negatively affected by his decision to close the Advocacy Center and cut funding of the Posse Program. An apology regarding the Advocacy Center was one of THE General Body’s demands.

Key points from the administration’s final response include the following:

  • Regarding a non-retaliation agreement, the adminsitration wrote that participation in THE General Body activities will not result in disciplinary action for students. Going forward, however, anyone who violates a university policy will be subject to the appropriate sanctions.
  • Regarding the university’s mission and vision statement, a one-month period for additional feedback from the campus community will be opened.
  • Regarding the closure of the Advocacy Center, a sexual violence, prevention, education and advocacy workgroup has been charged with looking for gaps in on-campus services. This group will reveal findings early in the spring 2015 semester.
  • Regarding cuts to the Posse Program, the response document included a letter sent to SU Posse Scholars from the Posse Foundation President and Founder Deborah Bial. Bial praised Scholars for their activism, but advised them to return to class and trust Syverud and herself to find the best balance for Posse and SU.

The full 54-page document is available online

Forty students to remain in Crouse-Hinds Hall through weekend

Doors to the building closed at 5 p.m., and will unlock at 7 a.m. Monday.

Forty students will remain in the lobby Crouse-Hinds Hall this weekend, continuing the sit-in that began after the Diversity and Transparency Rally on Monday afternoon.

Doors to the building were locked at 5 p.m., while an atmosphere of song and celebration continued in the building’s lobby. Members of THE General Body sang lyrics describing their rally on the Quad and subsequent protest movements. The repeated refrain was: “You can’t stop the revolution.”

Laura Cohen, a magazine journalism and women and gender studies senior, said the 40 students who will stay have committed to remaining in the building between 5 p.m. on Friday and 7 a.m. on Monday. These students will be allowed to leave the building during the weekend, but locked doors will prevent them from returning to the building until Monday morning.

The crowd began to decrease in number after 5 p.m., but had still not shrunk to its maximum of 40 people by 5:20 p.m. 

THE General Body stages rally outside Board of Trustees meeting inside Sheraton Hotel

On Friday morning, students maintained they would stay until they receive a written commitment from the administration to address concerns.

Photo: Georgie SilvaroleTHE General Body staged a rally outside the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel and Conference Center on Friday morning, holding signs and speaking with press as the SU Board of Trustees met inside the building.

The administration on Thursday had offered THE General Body a direct meeting with members of the Board of Trustees, on the condition that the students vacate Crouse-Hinds Hall by Friday. Tied to this proposal was an offer to postpone voting on the university’s new mission and vision statement, which is set for vote this weekend. THE General Body declined to accept these proposals and instead pushed their sit-in on to Friday.

Tara Tolton, a communication and rhetorical studies freshman, said some members of THE General Body walked from Crouse-Hinds to the Sheraton around 8:15 a.m.  on Friday. Other members maintained the group’s presence in the building lobby, which they have occupied since a Monday afternoon rally on the Quad.

Tolton said the Friday morning rally was intended to raise awareness of the movement to the public in general and to the Board of Trustees specifically. It ended around 9:30 a.m., she said, at which point the protesters felt they had made their point clear to the media.

Emma Edwards, a geography and policy studies senior, said THE General Body would continue their sit-in until the administration commits to a plan of action agreed upon by both parties.

On Friday morning the group was planning a formal response to the administration’s written response to their own list of demands. The administrative response was included in a Thursday evening email from Bea Gonzalez, liaison to the THE General Body for Chancellor Kent Syverud. 

“The concessions they have offered are definitely not adequate, so we’re staying, “ Edwards said.

“We have no problem staying here.” 

Failure to reach agreement between students, administration leads to fourth night of sit-in

THE General Body declined the administration's proposals, which were contingent on them vacating Crouse-Hinds by Friday.

The Crouse-Hinds Hall sit-in continued into its fourth night on Thursday, after students and administration failed to reach an agreement during the day.

The administration compiled a list of responses and proposals following 90-minute negotiations on Wednesday evening, said Bea Gonzalez, whom Chancellor Kent Syverud appointed as his liaison to THE General Body, in a Thursday email to the university community. Gonzalez, who is also dean of University College, delivered these responses and proposals to the students in the Crouse-Hinds lobby on Thursday morning.

According to Gonzalez’s email, the following proposals were offered in exchange for THE General Body’s agreement to vacate Crouse-Hinds Hall by Friday morning:


  • The Syracuse University Board of Trustees would invite additional campus comment before deciding on the new mission and vision statement. Student representatives would be able to meet with the Board of Trustees on Saturday.
  • The administration would sign a non-retaliation commitment that would apply to students participating in the sit-in.
  • The university would expedite a search for an Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator.
  • Provost Eric Spina and Senior Vice President Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz would meet with THE General Body on Thursday to go through their 43-page list of demands in detail.


In addition to these specific proposals, Gonzalez said, the administration agreed to continue discussions on the sexual assault resources on campus, funding for mental health programs and a commitment to the Posse scholarship program.

However, she said, this agreement did not come to fruition. THE General Body voted on Thursday afternoon to request written responses to their demands rather than meet with Spina and Kantrowitz.

The administration complied with the request for a written response on Thursday evening.

Ben Kuebrich, a graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences and member of THE General Body, said in an email that he was glad the organization had begun to make some progress in negotiating with the administration. But he said THE General Body has no plans to end the sit-in, as the administration has requested.

“With so many important grievances yet to address, it would be irresponsible for us to end the sit in now,” he said. “We are working for an inclusive, democratic, just university. We can't stop until we achieve it.”

Kuebrich said he was disappointed that the Board of Trustees is making the postponement of the mission and vision statement contingent on the end of the sit-in.

THE General Body was identifying on Thursday night what exactly it would take to the end the sit-in, he said, and hopes to have a clear response by Friday. 

Valerie Crowder contributed reporting to this story. 

DPS searches for person who vandalized ceramic turtle outside South Campus childcare center

The turtle was installed during the 2000-2001 school year.

Department of Public Safety officials are looking for the person who tipped over a large ceramic turtle outside of the Early Education and Childcare Center on South Campus this weekend.

James Hill, a detective with DPS, said the department is still reviewing security tapes for the weekend. They have a few leads regarding who overturned the turtle, breaking off a couple of its ceramic legs in the process, he said. Whether the situation is handled by the city or the university will depend on at how much the damage is assessed.

Holley Benjamin, director of the childcare center, said the turtle — dubbed “Mort” — is not repairable. “I have a box on my desk with the pieces,” she said. “We’re trying to figure out whether we can do a new ceramic project with the shell or whether we want to do something new.”

Mort was installed in during the 2000-2001 school year, she said, as part of a year-long collaboration with the nonprofit Jewonio School. The project, which also included the installation of the mosaic mural at the entrance of the childcare center, was funded with a New York Foundation of the Arts grant. 

“It’s a huge piece of history,” she said.

When entering the building, she said, children would regularly climb on top of Mort, who got his name from the actual pet turtle that lives in the center. The children immediately noticed on Monday morning that Mort was overturned and in pieces.

After filing a report with DPS, Benjamin said she and a co-worker were able to flip the approximately 200-pound turtle. She said she’s unsure what they will do to replace the turtle, but hopes that they can use pieces of its shell in a new project.

Prompted by viral video, campus forum to draw wide variety of students together for open discussion

The Syracuse University chapter of the NAACP will hold a forum Friday in Grant Auditorium at 1 p.m.

Organizers of the Friday’s campus forum are anticipating a diverse audience for their open discussion on issues of race and identity on Syracuse University’s campus

The forum, organized by the Syracuse University of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, comes in response to an Instagram video that went viral this weekend. In the video, SU soccer player Hanna Strong uses racist and homophobic slurs. Its spread on social media prompted students to organize a same-day meeting on Saturday, when early plans for a better organized follow-up forum also began to take shape, said Danielle Reed, an African American studies and Spanish junior who participated.

This follow-up forum will take place in Grant Auditorium on Friday, Sept. 12 between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. In addition to the viral video, Reed said organizers will raise issues such as the ongoing events in Ferguson, Mo. The intent is to prompt an open and educated conversation about issues that especially affect underrepresented students on campus.

Although the initial meeting — organized through social media in the course of about two hours — brought primarily underrepresented students to Goldstein Student Center on South Campus, Reed said, earlier planning and a push to reach out to other demographics among students is expected to broaden Friday’s participants both in number and experience.

“I’m trying to go above and beyond and really reach out and make it impossible for other organizations to ignore our invitation,” said Reed, who is involved in the planning as part of NAACP’s executive board. “Even if we have to go door to door on frat row, they will know this event is happening.”

The Graduate Student Association, for example, has encouraged participation in the forum in an emailed statement to members. Likewise, Pride Union executive board members said representatives from their organizations will also attend.

Pride Union has also been raising awareness this week for the homophobic aspect of the viral video, said Ian Schenk, Pride Union’s secretary and a paper engineering junior at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. They’ve been promoting a hashtag on Twitter, #OutspokenSU, to specifically address the queer perspective of the video and to complement the NAACP’s promoted hashtag, #SpeakUpSU.

“They’re both equally important issues, and it’s important the campus pays attention to both,” Schenk said, referring to racial and identity issues raised by the video. He added, “We want to take the focus away from her and bring it back to the language that’s used every day.”

Molly Mendenhall, Pride Union’s president and a women’s and gender studies senior, said she hoped the video would prompt a policy change at the university. Currently, she said, hate speech is not covered in the student handbook.

The video brought pre-existing issues on campus into open discussion, said Anju Franklin, president of the Student African American Society, and it’s important that this momentum holds. “We’re hoping that this isn’t a fad,” she said.

Franklin, who is a biology and African American studies senior, said students began spreading a hashtag, #ITooAmSU, to continue the momentum throughout the week. Through their Tweets, she said, participants highlight diversity on campus and combat the perception that underrepresentated students are all on scholarships, for example. "We deserve to be here as much as anybody else," she said.

Through the hashtag campaign, she said, alumni are learning about the current campus climate and becoming involved. Because Coming Back Together, SU’s annual reunion for Black and Latino alumni, falls next weekend, Franklin said she hoped to pull alumni into the momentum as well.

“A lot of people have a lot of passion right now to keep this going,” she said.