Syracuse University student protesters end sit-in after 18 days

Nov 20, 2014

A group of Syracuse University students upset with several issues at the school surrounding student support services and administrative transparency ended an 18 day sit-in protest Thursday afternoon with several victories to claim.

A few dozen students, calling themselves THE General Body, began an occupation of Crouse-Hinds Hall, the administrative building on campus, on Nov. 3.

The protest was sparked by the university's closure of a sexual assault advocacy center over the summer but grew to be a laundry list of demands. Some were met by Chancellor Kent Syverud, who also formally apologized to the campus.

Thursday afternoon, Dean Bea Gonzalez met with the protesters for the first time in a week, but she told them she was only a liaison and not in a position to submit to the students' remaining demands.

"I can't speak for the chancellor," she told them several time.

After 45 minutes of students listing their remaining grievances to Gonzalez, she left.

Protesters were still calling for several more mental health counselors and another staff psychiatrist to be hired, restoration of cuts to a scholarship program for inner-city children - known as the POSSE Program, implementing recommendations from a work group to improve sexual assault services and more transparency during university budgeting.

No progress was made toward any of those requests Thursday, in a meeting that was more spectacle than negotiation. 

Syracuse University student Yanira Rodriguez, left, speaks to Dean Bea Gonzalez Thursday.
Credit Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Perhaps realizing the university would not be making any more concessions, the students announced they were ending their occupation and left the building around 2:45, But they vowed to continue pressing the university for more change.

The victories they can claim after their sit-in and several negotiations with the administration:

  • A seven percent raise for teaching assistants
  • Commitment to hire a disability services coordinator
  • The ability for the Student Association president to email the entire student body
  • Increase to the number of students the chancellor's work groups
  • Hire a psychiatric nurse
  • Apology for the way cuts were made to the POSSE Program and how the sexual assault advocacy center was closed

"Although we are leaving this space, it does not mean this fight is over," said senior Colton Jones. "Actually it's just begun."

The sit-in had begun to wear on the school. It garnered support from faculty, national media attention and racked up a hefty price tag, mostly through overtime for public safety officers.

Chancellor Kent Syverud issued a statement Thursday evening that says, in part:

I have learned much through this process and appreciate how committed these students are to making our University better. I want the University community to know I remain fully committed to continuing these conversations and working to make Syracuse University the kind of campus where everyone feels welcome and respected.