Under the new leadership of Chancellor Kent Syverud, Syracuse University is initiating several changes, which have been made public through two "memos." Most of the changes involve the creation of even more high-paid administrative positions. But in the second memo, released to the public on May 30, Syverud informed students, faculty and staff at Syracuse University that the administration is shutting down The Advocacy Center. The memo--which, to repeat, was sent on May 30--stated that The Advocacy Center would be closed on June 4! This is an attempt to push through an unpopular, backwards change during a time when students are not even on campus. The timing and pace of the closure prohibits any democratic discussion and student input from taking place; it is intended to prevent any resistance.
This is unacceptable. It is undemocratic and it amounts to an attack on our campus community, and on women in particular.
The Advocacy Center provides crucial services for victims of sexual assault on campus, helping them to become survivors. According to their website, "If you or someone you know have experienced any form of interpersonal violence, such as nonconsensual touching, rape, sexual abuse, voyeurism, sexual harassment, stalking, cyber-harassment or relationship abuse, or have had an encounter that made you uncomfortable, the Advocacy Center is here to provide information, support and assistance."
Syverud's memo couched the closure as part of a "restructuring" and "streamlining" of services. Under the new structure, victims of sexual assault will report to the Counseling Center. But there is a big difference between a counselor and an advocate. The Counseling Center provides counseling, which is an important service, but they are already overworked. Many people have to wait weeks before they can get an appointment with a counselor. Victims need counselors, but they also need advocates to help them fight for justice.
Fortunately, students and other members of the SU community are fighting back. A petition has started circulating that already has over 1,000 signatures. Additionally, allies have started a blog with information about the movement to #BringBackTheAC.
We are calling on the university to halt any action against The Advocacy Center immediately. No changes should be implemented until there is time for an open and democratic campus-wide discussion. We are also strongly encouraging our members and supporters to sign and share the petition. And feel free to send the Chancellor an e-mail.