On Campus

Rally on International Women’s Day calls for Syverud to protect undocumented students on campus

Colin Davy | Asst. Photo Editor

Dana Cloud, professor of communication and rhetorical studies, said she sees the current women's movement as a new wave in historic women's labor protests.

Under somber and cloudy skies, members of the Syracuse University community spoke out Wednesday against Chancellor Kent Syverud’s reluctance to declare a “sanctuary campus” and called on him to protect his students.

The speeches, given on the Quad by demonstrators, were part of the Women’s Day Sanctuary Campus Rally organized by the SU and State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry Coalition for Justice on Wednesday afternoon. The rally was part of the International Women’s Strike movement that took place across the United States on International Women’s Day. Numerous groups, including the Women’s March on Washington, organized protests to coincide with the day that honors female protesters who sparked the Russian Revolution.

Like the national movement, members of the rally on the Quad Wednesday called for change on a variety of issues, including reproductive rights and disability rights, but primarily focused on formally naming SU a sanctuary campus.

Demonstrators said they needed to fight for women’s and immigrant’s rights, which they said were inextricably connected.

“I truly hope that the next time we get an email from the chancellor about sanctuary campus, I hope it’s clear what we mean to this campus,” said Janet Flores, a first-generation Mexican American, to a cheering crowd. Flores is a geography major and member of the student group Xicanxs Empowering Xicanxs.

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As the megaphone was passed from one person to another, it became clear that the crowd of about 100 supported the different speakers’ goals. Scattered throughout the attentive audience were splashes of red, the color of the national Women’s Strike. Some wrapped red bands around their arms with the Women’s Strike logo, which had been distributed in part by the department of Women’s and Gender Studies.

The department closed their offices at noon “in solidarity with other women protesting the misogynist, racist, xenophobic, ableist and elitist US regime,” according to an email sent to the Women’s and Gender Studies student listserv. Multiple classes taught by the department at the time of the event were also cancelled.

Numerous speakers at the rally, who stood on a bench and used a megaphone so their voices could be heard throughout the Quad, called out Syverud for failing to declare SU a sanctuary campus. They said the university’s connection to the city, which has declared itself a sanctuary city, means it’s necessary to show the administration cares about all of its students.

Hasmik Djoulakian, another SU student, said she was concerned about Syverud’s position on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council, something that drew a lot of boos from the crowd and a sharp spike of anger.

Katherine Sotelo, a former The Daily Orange digital design editor and a member of Xicanxs Empowering Xicanxs, discussed her Mexican heritage and how her grandmother, the first of the women in her family to live in the U.S., was sold into prostitution at age 9 by Sotelo’s great grandfather.

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Three generations later, Sotelo said she’s worked hard to be able to attend SU.

Vanessa Lora, a junior film major who attended the rally, said Sotelo’s speech in particular resonated with her, specifically the part about her grandmother’s experience with sex trafficking.

Syverud needs to declare SU a sanctuary campus, Lora said, because there are many students who feel unsafe in the current political environment, adding that it’s his job to make them feel secure on campus.

Flores, an earlier speaker, also said she was unsure about what she called Syverud’s lack of concern for undocumented students and students from the six countries that will soon be banned from issuing U.S. visas.

Citing an email from Syverud to the student body about the passing of his dog, Lucky, earlier this year, Flores issued Syverud a question.

“What would it take for them to mean to you what Lucky did?” Flores asked.

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