Syracuse University is making headlines for all the wrong reasons this week. Four students from the upstate New York University have been suspended for being involved in a racially motivated verbal assault directed towards an African-American student last week, according to Syracuse’s Chancellor Kent Syverud. According to the Chancellor’s statement, a total of fourteen individuals were involved in the incident, however, nine weren’t even Syracuse students, but “appropriate discipline” has been taken on all fourteen students involved from their schools.
“The entire case has also been referred to the Onondaga County District Attorney. The New York State Police’s hate crimes task force has been partnering with us and we’re working with the New York State Division of Human Rights on this matter.” Syverud also addressed another incident in his statement involving white supremacist content being Air Dropped to various students in the school’s Bird Library.”To date, law enforcement has not been able to locate a single individual who directly received an Air Drop. Not one. It was apparent that this rumor was probably a hoax, but that reality was not communicated clearly and rapidly enough to get ahead of escalating anxiety.”
This is not the University’s first instance of offensive and racially charged attacks on minority students. In fact, CNN reports that a total of 12 different incidents of racist and anti-semetic graffiti has been found on Syracuse’s campus within the past few years. In Syverud’s address on this issue, he spoke from personal experience of the racially motivated hate that him and his family endured while living in the South; stating that his kids were threatened, their car tires were slashed on multiple occasions, and it even went as far as some racist individuals shooting their family dog.
“This is Syracuse. This is 2019. I do not accept this hatred here and now, this is not who Syracuse is at its best, and is not who we can let ourselves become. We just cannot let our students of color, our Jewish students, our Asian students, or any of our students, faculty and staff, be afraid on this campus because of who they are,” Syverud added.
The students themselves had seemingly had enough of empty promises and lacking policies that haven’t prevented any of the incidents within the past from occurring. In a community forum regarding this issue this past Wednesday, students performed a group walk out after Syverud said he couldn’t promise that the student’s 18 short-term and long-term demands for change would be met right away. While Syverud did state that the demands would need some time, that wasn’t enough for the students, who after enduring 12 separate incidents, have rightfully had enough.
The demands regarded how the University needs to change in regards to how they handle these racial incidents. CNN reports that the demands included required diversity training for all staff members, a new online housing system in which the students could connect with each other and select their roommates based on mutual interests and racial identities. Additionally, the biggest demand called for the creation of a curriculum that would “educate the entire campus on diversity issues, specifically anti-racism being the focus,” the curriculum would also call for the allocation of $1 million for the creation. Compared to the budget a private university has annually and the high tuition price for Syracuse, $1 million really isn’t as large as it seems.
Syverud’s response to these demands in his speech regarding the incidents stated that he couldn’t fully agree to all the terms until he discussed them with the Board of Trustees and gained clarification on certain items. The students, however, felt they were perfectly clear in what they were asking for, igniting a chant of “Sign or Resign” after Syverud’s response. However, Syverud continued in his speech once the student’s exited the forum to protest, stating that he had agreed to most of the demands already and did sign off. He also presented data and information to the remainder of the forum on how the University plans to respond and incorporate the demands into the future curriculum and policy making for the University.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.