Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud Updates Community on Actions being taken as a result of the Thata Tau Video Incident


In their continuing efforts to manage fallout from the Thata Tau incident, Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud delivered an update to the community Friday, May 4th. Students have been meeting and making demands sighting the Thata Tau situation is part of a broader challenge facing the institution. Syverud’s letter gives details as to what the university is doing in response to an incident that threatened to tarnish the university’s reputation nationwide.

Theta Tau Fraternity house, the name has since been removed.

The video gone viral has footage of fraternity members using racist, sexist, homophobic verbiage in addition to disturbing scenes disparaging the disabled. Syracuse University took swift action suspending and then expelling the fraternity from Syracuse University.   At the time in various meetings university officials listened and promised to address their concerns. The following letter is a description of actions being pursued by Syracuse University, as announced by Chancellor Kent Syverud.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

Over the last two weeks, I have spoken with hundreds of Orange community members, here on campus and beyond. Through campus engagement sessions, small meetings and one-on-one conversations, students, faculty, staff and alumni have shared their experiences about living, learning and working at Syracuse University.

In various forums, I have promised regular updates to the community about the work that needs to progress this summer. Today I write to update you on these critical areas: the student conduct process, Greek life, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and resources and accessibility.

Student Conduct Process

Within the next week, hearings will get underway for the 18 students currently facing University conduct charges. None of these students will be participating in Commencement or Commencement-related activities next week.

Greek Life

We have completed consultations with colleagues at eight universities across the U.S. to identify best practices surrounding a top-to-bottom review, including processes, programs, services, staffing, policies and culture within Greek Life. A lead candidate to chair the review team has been identified and an agreement is being drafted now. I expect to confirm and announce this appointment by June 1.

College of Engineering and Computer Science

The College of Engineering and Computer Science has continued to facilitate dialogue and solicit feedback among students, faculty and staff through extended open office hours with the dean and department chairs, college meetings, leadership meetings, department meetings, small group discussions, classroom discussions and online venues. The college has decided to administer education for administrators in June, for faculty in August, for staff in fall 2018, and teaching assistants and students in fall 2018 and spring 2019, respectively.

The college is forming a diversity council, reviewing curricular practices and re-examining processes for hiring and promotion. The Engineering and Computer Science faculty passed a resolution committing to participate in training on diversity, inclusion and bias.

The Provost, dean and academic leadership of the College of Engineering and Computer Science are planning concrete steps to address and improve the student culture and experience of all students in the college, with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion as well as overall student success. Our next update will specify the steps and expectations for this process this summer.

Resources & Accessibility

•  Sexual and Relationship Violence: The Title IX office is expanding its staff to add capacity to handle complaints of sexual violence or sexual harassment. The office has so far hired one new equal opportunity Title IX investigator. Searches have now commenced for an additional Title IX investigator, as well as a director of equal opportunity. Target hire dates for the two additional positions is July 1.

 

  • University Conduct Board Transcripts: Transcripts involving cases of sexual and relationship violence before the University Conduct Board will now be available at no charge to involved students.

 

  • Student Services: Dean of Students Robert Hradsky has initiated the hiring process for three new staff members in three areas: the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Resource Center, and programs for international student orientation. All three positions will be filled by August.

 

  • The Counseling Center: Active recruitment is underway for the following positions, which will be filled by August 1:
    o  four additional staff therapists;
    o  a psychiatrist; and
    o  an assistant director/training director to oversee six graduate student trainees and two behavioral health interns from the schools/colleges.

 

  • Bias Reporting: During multiple forums, I heard concerns about the STOP Bias program, which is available to all students, but needs to be understood and embraced widely. A communications plan will be drafted and approved by June 15 to better educate the campus community about how to report any occurrences of bias, discrimination and harassment.

 

  • Space Accessibility: Physical Plant and Campus Planning, Design and Construction are currently making ADA updates in residence halls, academic buildings and other campus facilities. They include updates to Day Hall, the Physics Building, the Regent Theater Complex, Brockway Plaza, the Hall of Languages and Maxwell Auditorium. Updates include improving accessibility in more than 100 student rooms, construction of all-gender-accessible restrooms and new accessible classroom technology. These updates are scheduled for completion by the end of summer.

 

  • Disability Audit: The steering committee tasked with overseeing a comprehensive audit of disability services convened today. The committee is developing a request for proposals (RFP) for an expert consultant to help conduct the audit. The committee is also working to develop the survey that will be shared with campus constituents to determine the scope of the audit. Our next update will specify the timeline for this work.

    Education

  • First-year forums or other introductory courses: I have formally charged Provost Michele Wheatly and our deans with overhauling our first-year forums and new student onboarding approaches. In our next update, Provost Wheatly will provide a report on progress toward that end.

 

  • Faculty resources: Interviews with finalists are underway this week for a founding director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence. We expect to hire this director by June 1. The center will serve as a resource to help our faculty enhance their pedagogical skills, inclusive of cultural competencies.I believe additional areas of opportunity for important improvement include human resources and communications. I expect to provide more detail on these areas in coming weeks.Our next update will come prior to Commencement.Sincerely,Chancellor Kent Syverud