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SU promenade protesters say money would be better spent elsewhere

Tom Magnarelli
Protesters stand on University Place, the site of the future promenade.

Syracuse University students and faculty are protesting the University Place Promenade project, the first step in a massive renovation worth hundreds of millions of dollars happening on campus. Protesters say the money can be better spent elsewhere.

The promenade project closes down a street used by buses and delivery trucks to create interconnected walkways with multi-level lighting and custom furnishings. Matt Huber, a Geography professor at Syracuse University, said about 10 feet of the promenade project could equal to hiring a full-time staff member. But it comes at a time when Huber said the administration is telling faculty that the university is in a budget emergency and staff members are being offered buyouts.

“That is where our campus and university priorities are based, is doing these types of surface level beautification projects to attract the eyeballs of elite, full tuition paying students while underinvesting and cutting and destroying the actual work and staff and faculty that actually do the nitty-gritty educational mission of this university,” Huber said.

Eileen Schell, a writing professor at the university, said students and faculty were kept out of the decision making process.

“The beautification is second, and should be third, fourth, fifth, and down on the line to education," Schell said. "We’re here because we care about the quality of education.”

Recent graduate Koy Adams said he has been against the closing down of campus resource centers and decisions that he says can happen quickly and with little notice.

“It’s a haunting memory, mainly because this is something that myself and other people have protested against in the past,” Adams said. “It’s just history repeating itself in the most messed up way.”

More than 100 faculty members signed a petition against the promenade in May and a new petition, signed by more than 200 students and community members, was delivered to SU's Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Kevin Quinn. Despite faculty and students saying they have been left out, Quinn said there has been 18 months of outreach on the campus framework renovations.   

“You always learn what you can do better, what you can do different," Quinn said. "We do that every day and we’re going to continue to do that moving forward.”

He said more details on the campus framework will be released later in June. 

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.