(After Theta Tau) Syracuse University Petition (#RecognizeUsSU)

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With her kind permission, I am including amazing photographs of  taken by colleague Gail Hamner at the recent town hall meeting to challenge the administration at Syracuse University to take action in the wake of the most recent racism at Theta Tau. You can see the photos here at Affeccognitive: religion, film, affect academia accompanied by her keen remarks framing the issues at stake as they concern the neoliberal university. Hamner’s photographs frame the focus and energy brought by students, primarily students of color at SU. I’m going to post my own remarks in a separate post, but want these photographs to stand on their own with the student petition outlining student demands. I’m assuming the petition is still open. Please note that there is a link here and at the bottom, which anyone can sign, even if you are not associated with SU. Please consider doing so. The students need and deserve our/your support. This is all in the public eye and needs to be kept there for as long as possible. The administration is paying close attention to this event and to the activism surrounding it.

Syracuse University Petition

UPDATE: Signature count as of 10:36 PM EDT on April 26, 2018 is 1,113

April 25, 2018

Re: Theta Tau’s racist, sexist, ableist, anti- semitic traditions, and the perpetual marginalization of students on Syracuse University campus.

The discriminatory and oppressive experiences students of marginalized identities experience at Syracuse University are not isolated. The actions of Theta Tau are a mere manifestation of the systematic roots of white supremacy within college institutions, and they are examples of the toxicity of the oppressive and dominant culture at predominantly white institutions (PWI) across the United States of America. As a result, now that the videos have been released and the Theta Tau chapter of Syracuse University has been expelled from the university, it is imperative to use this platform, attention, time, and space to demand changes that will challenge the complex system of marginalization prevalent throughout our campus community.

We cannot accept band-aid fixes from Syracuse University administration when these issues are so ingrained within our campus culture and identity. We must remain committed to enhancing our campus environment.

We Demand:

  1. A thorough evaluation of Greek life and culture on Syracuse University (SU) Campus. This is to determine the ways in which the racist and sexist practices employed by Syracuse University’s Greek letter organizations deducts from the upliftment of the university campus. This investigation needs to center the voices and experiences of Syracuse University students. So, a thorough survey needs to be provided to the campus body by Fall 2018, where students are allowed to anonymously disclose their sentiments and experiences with relation to Greek life, and the nature of violent traditions such as hazing. The results of these surveys should be shared with the entire student body by October 2018, in addition to the results gathered through the auditing process that has already begun. This will create a campus wide dialogue about how Greek life can be restructured to continue its positive contributions to student life, while synonymously ending its oppressive enactments. This dialogue should lead to concrete implementations during our fall semester of 2018.2. A complete reshaping of “Diversity and Implicit Bias Training” into a required introductory first year course, which replaces the current first year seminars. This should strongly engage faculty from the African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Disability Studies, Hispanic/Latinx Studies, Native American and Indigenous Studies, LGBT Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and other faculty members who engage liberatory discourse to contribute towards its composition. The inclusion of these departments is not just because they incorporate diverse identities among faculty on campus, but because their historical and pedagogical legacy engages American history, particularly regarding systematic oppression. This identifies that one cannot merely be told not to discriminate, and be expected to follow these guidelines, when systems such as white supremacy, patriarchy, and racism are so knitted into the fibers of society. Being that this is an intellectual and academic institution, students and faculty need to be trained to engage oppression as an intellectual discourse to thoroughly understand how it manifests throughout our society and university social climate. This will highlight how we can be better human beings to each other ranging to how we can be better agents for justice throughout our society. This needs not be villainized as any one-sided political agenda, being that it aligns with the identity of our country, The United States of America, as a land of freedom and equal opportunity. Additionally, these departments need to receive more and sufficient resources to make this possible.

 

  1. All professors and teaching assistants must go through a mandatory a “Diversity and Implicit Bias Program” to address the problematic and oppressive conduct against marginalized students by faculty. Professors have been active enactors of micro- and macro-aggressions along with and in addition to students. For example, students have reported being asked invasive discriminatory questions about their race and skin color by faculty. Such aggressions also include the failure of teachers to hold students accountable for oppressive behavior towards other students within the classroom. Additionally, Chancellor Syverud and the Board of Trustees need to also participate in this training, so they can be aware of necessary things to consider when planning ways to serve the entire campus community.

 

  1. Useful responses must be put in place to service individuals who are victims of sexual assault on SU Campus, and to better train the student body so we are not enabling the perpetuation of sexual violence. This includes the replacement of ItsOnUs with a more in depth educational mandatory first year training. ItsOnUs student org production is an ineffective follow up from the online sexual assault training, mainly because issues of assault are engaged as laughing matters. This discourages students from taking their conduct seriously, and enables participation in the sexist culture that taints the Syracuse University community. This helps to explains why sexual assault is such a rampant occurrence on our campus. Additionally, better provisions must be created to employ more Title IX officers and make filing reports of assault an easier and more timely process.

There must be a larger investment into expanding the Counseling center, with more counselors, necessarily including diverse faculty, as well as larger and more inclusive programs. This will undoubtedly serve not just sexual assault victims but will aid the well-being of the entire campus community.

  1. Syracuse University must be accessible to all students, staff, faculty, and community members. This means all campus buildings, such as the LGBT Resource Center, must be made accessible to disabled individuals and to all other marginalized identities. When new buildings, restructuring or construction is planned, accessibility must be a foundational consideration. This also means there needs to be a centralized budget set for students, staff, and faculty to acquire accommodations, such as but not limited to American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART), for meetings and events.
  2. Syracuse University must cluster hire more faculty of marginalized identities, specifically but not only disabled people, people of color, women, people with varying religious beliefs, LGBT+/ queer people, and immigrants. Students have continually shared the rare instances in which they have engaged professors and faculty who identify similarly has resulted in the most meaningful and uplifting experiences. Also, students have shared how detrimental it has been to exist in learning environments where faculty is predominantly white, and often time lacking consideration for their livelihood and perspectives. This has manifested in innumerable instances where professors have been the enactors of racially oppressive violence upon student bodies. In addition to better training current Syracuse University professors, it is necessary to hold professors accountable for the ways they have been discriminating against students throughout the years. This will undoubtedly create a more comfortable campus environment; diverse faculty will attract a diverse student body.A plan to address these demands needs to be disclosed to the SU community and be ready for implementation by September 3, 2018, unless otherwise specified in the individual demand. If our demands are not properly engaged and the new, and necessary developments suggested are not implemented, students will be forced to employ other measures to demand recognition and respect.

These demands were compiled from listening to the concerns of students in public and private discussions. This petition was written by Jo Johnson, with contributions from a number of students—including student activists, independent students, student community groups, and members of the Recognize US movement at Syracuse University.

You don’t have to attend SU to sign the petition, all support is welcomed!

The direct link to this petition is bit.ly/SyracuseUniversityPetition; spread the word! In solidarity with #RecognizeUsSU.

 

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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2 Responses to (After Theta Tau) Syracuse University Petition (#RecognizeUsSU)

  1. Sam says:

    I look at the left today and I see a mirror image of the conservative intolerance I once saw on the right. An intentional pearl clutching inability to distinguish context. A fascination with no-no words that empower them to exact punishment. This idea of original sin in the form of privilege. A whole cosmology with bizarre terms and twisted meanings that exempt them from every being wrong. All you’ve done is twisted Christian ideals into your bizarre ideology. And it’s just so transparently infected with cruelty and a pathetic lust for petty control over others. The kind of merciless cruelty that tells everybody that you should never ever be allowed to run things…

    I mean these kids are down for the count right now. Their academic lives are over. They’ve apologized profusely. What else could you possibly want to exact from them for saying words you don’t agree with in a skit designed to make fun of a conservative member of their group? To what exactly do you imagine that you’re entitled for their poor choice of words which they expressed completely in private in a safe environment where nobody misunderstood them? Want to lead them around with dog leashes and make them lick your boots? What precisely would be sufficient to make you people stop writing think pieces about how oppressed you are?

    This is just ugly and cruel… and it’s a petty power game. And most of the country isn’t playing it. And finds it morally repugnant.

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