“Young People These Days”

Dear Orange Friends:

Earlier this summer I was on a flight and the middle-aged woman next to me spent most of the time lamenting “young people these days.” I don’t talk much on planes, and I spent the flight trying to come up with a rejoinder that would not simply prolong the complaint. I wish I could have seen into the future and told her about two experiences I had just this week.

The first was a visit to the final summer presentations of the McNair scholars. The McNair program is named in honor of Ronald McNair, the second African American to fly in space, who was killed in the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. The program supports undergraduate students who are first-generation college students with financial need or members of a group that is traditionally underrepresented in graduate education. The program rigorously prepares them to conduct research and advance to graduate schools.

What I saw in the Shemin Auditorium at the Shaffer Art Building that day were students who had worked their hearts out all summer to learn how to do meaningful research to help others, and who were aiming high.

The second was a visit on Saturday to the Ensley Indoor Practice Facility to watch our men’s soccer team in a spirited scrimmage against the University of New Hampshire. There I learned about the teamwork displayed by some of our student-athletes earlier that day. The athletics department had held a massive “yard sale” of surplus clothing and equipment in Manley Field House that day, where thousands of Syracuse fans had waited in great heat and long lines to shop. As the sale was drawing to a close, large numbers of leftover cleats had to be packed up as well as over 100 tables and racks to be taken down. The athletics department staff, from top to bottom, looked truly worn out and was still finishing up the sale. At the same time, thunderstorms caused abrupt cancellation of the practice of our field hockey team and the team came into Manley from the canceled practice. The women of our field hockey team—many of whom I watched win a national championship against North Carolina in the fall—then joined the staff and offered to help get the packing done. Every young lady on that team rolled up her sleeves, packed cleats, and cleaned up tables until Manley Field House was empty. They completed it in about one frenzied hour, which was greatly appreciated by the staff.

Next time someone rolls his eyes to you about “young people these days,” I hope you will smile and remember the Syracuse McNair scholars and the Syracuse field hockey team. By my lights, Syracuse young people these days are doing just fine.


Kent Syverud
Chancellor Kent Syverud