This past November, more than 40 students occupied Syracuse University’s administration building to protest the university’s closing of the Advocacy Center – a resources for victims of rape and sexual assault – and number of other issues. The sit-in lasted 18 days and resulted in some significant victories by the students.
According to a November 25 article from the Daily Censored the student coalition, calling themselves THE General Body, achieved a wide range of small but significant victories as a result of the occupation:
On Thursday November 20th, THE General Body, a united front of Syracuse University student groups that has been mobilizing against cuts in a broad range of student services including the Advocacy Center, staff cuts in all non-academic units, a below living wage for 59% of Teaching Assistants, and the new Chancellor’s mysterious but far-reaching“Fast Forward” management initiative (more on this below), ended a sit-in in the lobby of Crouse Hinds Hall, downstairs from SU Chancellor Kent Syverud’s administrative suite. The 18 day sit-in yielded some concessions: the Student Association President can now email the entire student body, Teaching Assistants have secured a 7% pay increase in 2016, the University has postponed their validation of a new Mission and Vision statement, has committed to an immediate search for an Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator, and the Chancellor has added 11 more students to his Fast Forward work groups.
When THE General Body collectively decided to end their occupation days before the Thanksgiving holiday, they claimed that the end of the occupation did not signal the end of their movement; rather, the movement would now advance to “Phase 2.” Vani Kannan a PhD Student, Composition and Cultural Rhetoric and one of THE General Body members who took part in the occupation, put it this way in a November 20th statement:
This is our 18th day in Crouse-Hinds. After this press conference, we will be leaving.
We are leaving with the knowledge that what we are asking the Chancellor to commit to works towards equity, justice, and safety for every person here today and every person not here.
We are moving into phase two of the General Body, starting now. This new phase represents a growing body of students, faculty, staff, and community members who refuse to submit to undemocratic administrative policies that hurt this campus and this community.
We will continue to fight alongside each other despite the forces that are trying to divide us.
When we look back, and look around, we know we are in good company.
Now, today, we are leaving this building, but we are not going anywhere.
True to their word, THE General Body didn’t go anywhere. While many students at Syracuse and around the country were enjoying their semester break, members of THE General Body were busy planning their next move. And that move takes place this weekend.
On Friday January 30th and Saturday January 31st, THE General Body is holding “Teach In to Act Out” at the Community Folk Art Center, down the road from the University. According to program for the event, the weekend will include “panels, workshops, discussions, film screenings, and keynote speakers on the history of student movements, intersectional organizing, university corporatization, resistance skill-building, and art & activism.” In short, THE General Body is serious about doing the kind of work necessary to build a student movement capable of fighting back against the corporatization of higher education at Syracuse and across the country.
We hope to speak to members of THE General Body over the weekend and report back next week about where the movement goes from here.