Syracuse University continues to face scrutiny following their sixth reported racist incident on campus since Nov. 7. Now, they are making moves to remedy the grievances, but their genuine concern is questionable, considering it took student intervention to expedite their response.
According to CNY Central, the latest racist incident on-campus involved a Black student reportedly being called the N-word and being verbally harassed by a large group of people on Saturday night. Chancellor Kent Syverud responded to the situation in a letter to the campus community on Sunday. He explains that new evidence suggests that some of the individuals involved in the harassment are fraternity members. The evidence is based on eye witnesses, security camera footage and interviews about the racist incidents on campus.
The national office of the fraternity allegedly involved released a statement saying, “The Fraternity is working with the university to investigate and if confirmed will hold any members accountable. Such loathsome behavior is contrary to Alpha Chi Rho Fraternity principles that aim to cultivate men of word and deed based on character, honor and integrity.”
So far, the Chancellor has suspended all fraternity activities on campus for the remainder of the semester. This is the latest racist incident that has put Syracuse University in the national spotlight. In another incident on Saturday, racist graffiti targeting Asian people was found in Haven Hall. This incident occurred after more racist graffiti was found in a bathroom last Thursday in Day Hall.
The incidents sparked campus-wide outrage, including a Black student-led movement dubbed #NotAgainSU, which calls for transparency and safety for students on campus. The #NotAgainSU slogan could be alluding to another racist debacle Syracuse had back in 2018 when a video leaked of campus fraternity members using racist, homophobic and ableist language in skits.
The groups involved in protest organized a sit-in at Syracuse University’s Barnes Center at the Arch, and issued a list of short-term and long-term demands to the university. Following the sit-in, which began last Wednesday, more racist incidents occurred on campus, including the Black woman being called the N-word, a hateful message toward Asians in the Physics Building bathroom, and a swastika drawn into the snow right outside the campus on Thursday.
Campus officials have tried to respond to a number of the incidents with certain actions, according to CNY Central. Chief of Department of Public Safety, Bobby Maldonado, said a reward of $50,000 will be made available to anyone with information leading to the arrest of the people involved. The reward was made available thanks to a “generous donor,” according to Maldonado.
Maldonado also said that two new shuttles will be added, providing transportation to College Place, the East Neighborhood and South Campus Locations starting Sunday night. Campus officers have also transitioned form 10 to 16-hour shifts, and additional security officers will patrol the campus.
The Dean of Students, Marianne Thompson, said that the university and other faculty members are working to review and amend the student code of conduct, as well as hire a more diverse staff.
“Let me first say, all students on this campus should feel welcomed, valued, and respected. Some of you do not feel that way now and some of you have not felt that way in the past, and this must change”, said Marianne Thompson.
Interim Provost, John Lui, also said that there are four priorities academic affairs are taking on to improve the experience of students on campus. They encompass changes to the curriculum, diversity training, inclusive teaching, and diversifying the faculty as Thompson acknowledged. Lui explained that the faculty will be “part of the solution” and true deadlines will be set moving forward.
Despite this assurance, questions still beg to be answered on how the students — who are the primary victims of these racist attacks — will be supported and how they will play a part in changing campus culture.
After all, they were the ones who helped incite change and held the administration and campus accountable. Including diverse students in the conversation and policy-making will truly prove that the university wants to protect the students on campus. Considering the number of incidents, adding diversity training and inclusive staffing might be a good PR move, but it won’t create a consistent platform for marginalized students to be heard and to implement change.