University Senate

Syverud defends a delay in the university’s response to Trump’s travel ban

Frankie Prijatel | Senior Staff Photographer

Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud acknowledged that there was a delay in the university's response to condemn President Donald Trump's executive order on travel ban during University Senate meeting.

The Syracuse University Senate passed a formal resolution Wednesday declaring its collective opposition to United States President Donald Trump’s executive order that attempts to ban travel from seven majority Muslim countries.

The Senate’s resolution regarding Trump’s executive order will serve as the latest in a string of statements and comments made by SU faculty and officials on the travel ban. Previously, SU community members signed two petitions calling on Chancellor Kent Syverud to oppose the ban, and Syverud condemned the ban during last week’s Senate Open Forum through a statement.

Syverud reaffirmed his previous statement on the ban in his approximately six-minute address to the Senate. He said he has been “very focused on getting to 2020,” which many members of the Senate laughed at, but Syverud said he wasn’t joking.

“Seriously, I have been thinking of where we will be as a university, and as a nation in 2020,” Syverud said. “I have been very focused on the fact that we are in a marathon and not in a sprint.”

But Syverud was questioned by Jude Lewis, associate professor of studio arts, who said the chancellor took too long to release a statement on the ban, something she said created a climate of anxiety for SU community members affected by the ban.

It wasn’t the only time during the meeting that a senator clashed with Syverud.

For the second consecutive meeting, Syverud and Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly took seats without opening up the floor for questions after they finished their addresses, and Can Isik, the agenda committee chair, tried to move onto the next task on the agenda. Both times, members of the Senate responded with raised voices to ask questions and comment on the administrators’ addresses.

Lewis used the forum to criticize what she saw as “very tepid” responses from the chancellor’s office. She said there’s been speculation about the lateness of the statement in the absence of any public explanation. This speculation, senate members said, related to SU’s ties to veteran initiatives. Senators said they were concerned that SU officials had been nervous about speaking out against the ban as a result.

Syverud said that, as a lawyer, he wanted time to read and understand the language in the executive order, which he called “quite difficult.”

He denied the speculation that SU is compromised in any way by its current and future partnerships with veteran initiatives.

Syverud was appointed to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council by former President Barack Obama in October, and he said his membership on that council also delayed the response, because the dual role of chancellor and council member requires “more caution.” He said he will continue to evaluate his role on that council, and “will evaluate it” as time goes on.

He acknowledged that there was a delay in this decision, but he wants to take “exquisite care” in every decision he makes in uncertain political times. Syverud said he wants to be faster in the future, while maintaining that care.

There was little discussion from the Senate floor on the executive order resolution before the vote, when 91.3 percent voted in favor of the resolution. For the first time, the Senate used a digital clicker to vote that protects the identity of the voter. Votes for, against and abstaining are displayed as percentages on the three screens in the auditorium.

Trump signed the executive order banning travel from Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, Libya and Yemen for 90 days and banning refugees from entering the country for 120 days late January. Last week, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement of the travel ban, upholding an earlier decision made by a federal judge in Seattle.

The Senate’s resolution states that, in addition to opposing the ban, the Senate has a “collective aspiration” to do what it can to protect the SU community from “anti-immigrant, anti-refugee and anti-Muslim actions that the federal government may take, or legislation it may enact, in the days to come.”

Wheatly spoke briefly, addressing many of the same issues as she did at the Senate’s open forum last week and at the first Senate meeting in January. She provided few updates and used many of the same phrases she’s used in the past in regards to the Internalization Council, the search for the dean of the Martin J. Whitman School of Management and Middle States Day.

She worked to clarify the difference between the Campus Framework Advisory Group and the newly created Campus Facilities Advisory Board. The Campus Framework is intended as a guideline for the future of SU’s physical campus. The Campus Facilities Advisory Board assesses all academic and non-academic investments within the Campus Framework plan.

A motion to update language in SU’s Faculty Manual was referred back to the committee after a short debate about the proposal. Currently, the Faculty Manual states that when denied tenure by SU, every faculty member has the right to appeal that decision “on the basis of a procedural violation.”

The proposed language changes to the Faculty Manual aimed to inform faculty of the procedures for an appeal and the assumptions that come with filing an appeal, but was ultimately deemed unclear.

The Committee on Budget and Fiscal Affairs gave a report on academic spending, and broke down whether spending decisions were made by the central administration or individual schools.

Other business:

  • The next Campus Framework open forum will be held on Feb. 28 and will be open to the SU community to share new developments and to receive feedback.
  • Syverud asked the Senate to create a committee to plan the Sesquicentennial for the 150-year anniversary in 2020.
  • Syverud said he would announce members of the ad-hoc committee on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals next week.
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