Grad school is a tough life. From a heavy workload to the immensity of job hunting, it’s easy to get lost in the stress of coursework. However, one of the most important things I’ve found for my own sanity happens every Monday from 7-9:30 PM. It’s at this time that I join together with countless other students and Syracuse community members in one of the most beautiful venues on campus to create gorgeous music and flex my brain a little outside of the normal academic grind.
The Syracuse community was honored to welcome home Vice President Joe Biden (L ’68) to his alma mater on Thursday, November 12th. Biden spoke on behalf of It’s On Us, a White House public awareness campaign against sexual assault on college campuses.
After more than five hours of standing in line, our group of Maxwell students was thrilled to see Biden in the flesh, standing less than 30 feet away from us. As students of the public affairs school, we were in awe of the Vice President’s resounding presence.
Biden was introduced by Syracuse University music student Samantha Skaller, who shared her personal story on sexual assault and recovery. Biden thanked her for speaking up as an It’s On Us advocate: “every time you repeat it, you have to relive it.” His energy and heartfelt candor on the issue resonated throughout the jam-packed Goldstein Auditorium.
The Vice President shared a story about a young woman from New York City who experienced harassment from her landlord. She was not permitted to move out to a new place of residence, until the landlord offered to meet her in the secluded basement of a bar to sign the agreement. That was when the assault took place. “Sexual assault isn’t about sex, it’s about power,” he said.
He shared how victims are often left feeling ashamed and full of guilt after their assault. They are filled with thoughts of “I should’ve known better” and “I could’ve prevented this.” Victims, mainly women, who are abused by someone they know are less likely to report the incident.
Biden insisted, however, that there must be a change of culture in university communities. He asserted that sexual violence in colleges is no different from any other criminal activity— crime is crime, and when you see it, you speak up. Even if it’s not easy or does not make you a popular person, you should step in and take action.
I was very grateful for the opportunity to see Biden in the flesh and to listen to him speak so candidly and with such conviction. It is humbling to acknowledge that my MPA/MAIR classmates and I roam the buildings and streets that the Vice President of the United States once did. As a student at the School of Citizenship, his message of involvement for the benefit of the common good resonated with me. Biden’s push for ending sexual violence at universities was a call to action for citizen engagement from everyone that was in attendance, and whomever may be reading this blog.
The then-Senator has been a lifelong advocate of ending violence against women, having introduced the Violence Against Women Act in the 1990’s.
The It’s On Us event at Syracuse University comprised the university band, acapella groups, members of Greek life, and other student leaders. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman John Katko, and Mayor Stephanie Miner were in attendance.
Biden ended the event with a call to action for civic responsibility: “It’s on you. It’s on me. It’s on us.”
Click here for more information on the It’s On Us campaign and to take the pledge.
Vice President Biden at the podium in Goldstein.
Vice President Biden taking pictures with students.
Our Maxwell cohort in line waiting outside of Schine.
Photos courtesy of Kurt Fire and Danielle Wohlenberg.
I recently asked friends at other universities if they had ever personally met, and/or spent time with their university president/chancellor; the answer was a resounding “no.”
Last month students in my Public Organization and Management course had an incredibly unique opportunity to spend an entire day with Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud. Chancellor Syverud was kind enough to condense his negotiation class into an eight-hour intensive session, which afforded 68 students immeasurably valuable and applicable skills.
Four students were nominated by their professors to serve as “facilitators” (Professor Mergel kindly nominated me), which entailed assisting Chancellor Syverud with administrative tasks throughout the day. On top of serving as a facilitator, I was randomly selected to publicly negotiate during the final exercise – lucky me, eh?
The suggestions and nuances of negotiation the chancellor provided and exposed are too numerous to list, but by the end of the day (at which point I was in the hot seat negotiating in front of my insanely accomplished peers, professors, and the chancellor himself) my teammate (Eric Horvath) and I were employing them, and apparently with great efficacy. My negotiation team walked away with a deal far better than we expected (though we didn’t let on our perceived weak hand), and the class gave us feedback that we had outperformed the other groups in the simulation.
The tools I found most effective were the “tell me more” questions, which help you overcome the information deficit inherent in a negotiation (the other side does not necessarily want you to know everything). By asking “tell me more” questions we were able to draw out information that gave us a more informed impression of what type of offer would be expected.
Another tool I learned was the importance of repeating back to the other teams what it is I thought I was hearing, for example I would say something to the effect of “my understanding is you want ____, is that correct?” Every response is an opportunity to examine body language, tone, inflection, and other tricks that might give you an indication of where those on the other side of the table are headed and what they really think.
I am very grateful to PAIA Department Chair David Van Slyke for organizing this event. I can speak for the 68 students there and say that Chancellor Syverud did us a great service and honor by spending the day with us, and teaching us some of the skills that have helped him throughout his distinguished career.