#NotAgainSU Here’s What You Need to Know

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2020 at 12:45 am by

By Jishnu Nair and CitrusTV Staff

SYRACUSE, N.Y.– Syracuse University offered the #NotAgainSU movement an ultimatum on Tuesday night: sign a letter, lift suspensions of protesting students, and never violate a university policy again, or remain suspended, unable to access food and at risk of harsher punishment. 

The Black student-led movement chose not to sign, and to continue their occupation.

#NotAgainSU, a group of students protesting what they describe as a culture of white supremacy on the SU campus, have occupied the Crouse-Hinds academic building on Waverly Avenue starting on Monday.

The movement released a new list of 18 demands on Tuesday, as well as calls for the resignation of Chancellor Kent Syverud, Senior Vice President for Enrollment and the Student Experience Dolan Evanovich, Department of Public Safety Chief Robert Maldonado, and DPS Deputy Chief John Sardino. The movement previously occupied the Barnes Center for eight days in November 2019. 

Who’s protesting and why?

According to an opening statement released by #NotAgainSU, the organization describes themselves as “persistent in establishing a student experience centered around equity and support.” In November they described themselves as a “Black-led student movement.”

The organization said that Monday’s occupation was not in response to select incidents of racism but rather in response to an “institutional enabling of white supremacy.” #NotAgainSU is accusing the university of complacency in the spreading of white nationalistic ideology on campus.

The movement went public in November after a series of hate crimes and bias incidents including racist and anti-Semitic graffiti in university buildings. 

#NotAgainSU has maintained a policy of anonymity for individuals taking part in the movement.

Syracuse students occupying Crouse-Hinds Hall

How has the university responded to protests?

The university has taken action against protestors by delivering notices of disruption policy to the students in Crouse-Hinds, and then suspending the occupants on an interim basis for failing to vacate the building. The university will give the students a full campus judicial process.

As of Tuesday night, 38 protesters have been given at least an interim suspension. Eight of the suspended students were not at the sit-in. On Tuesday, the university delivered an ultimatum letter: students could sign and have suspensions lifted, but never violate a disciplinary policy again. 

The ultimatum notice given to students on Tuesday night

According to the university’s disciplinary policy, an interim suspension prevents students from being in university buildings other than their own dormitory and dining centers without office approval. Students and staff criticized the university announcement that no students were suspended for protesting on social media.

DPS officers have prevented supporters from entering Crouse-Hinds to deliver food supplies to the occupants. The university maintains that they are not starving students due to the fact that protestors can leave at any time. #NotAgainSU accused a DPS officer of physically restraining students on Monday.

On Tuesday afternoon, a DPS officer was filmed searching and confiscating food from protesters inside Crouse-Hinds. He said that he did not know who gave him the order to confiscate food, but that it was not Bobby Maldonado. Later on Tuesday, students were able to use vending machines inside Crouse-Hinds.

SU administration remained in the upper floors of Crouse-Hinds and occasionally came to speak to protesters. University officials said they offered dinner to students, but protestors inside said the meal was only offered if they were open to negotiating an exit from the building.

Classes in Crouse-Hinds, which also serves as the university’s admissions office, have been relocated. University tours will not pass through the building; protestors on Monday held signs saying “Ask your tour guides why we are protesting.”

What are protestors asking for?

The list of demands released on Monday encompass policy and financial changes. Several demands return from the list of demands sent to the university in November. The most updated list of demands was posted on #NotAgainSU’s Instagram on Tuesday afternoon.

A significant new demand is the disarming of DPS officers. BuzzFeed News reported that in 2015 over 4,000 armed campus police forces operated at public and private post-secondary schools. 

#NotAgainSU also demanded a freeze in tuition hikes. According to a 2018 report in the Daily Orange, Syracuse University joined Ivy League schools with an expected tuition cost of over $70,000 per year. The increases originated from the Invest Syracuse initiative intended to restructure the university.

Returning demands from the fall protests include a change to the university’s diversity course, SEM 100. #NotAgainSU said that the course should focus on how systems of oppression are established.

Another returning demand is the call for need-based and culturally-based scholarships. The university’s signed demands include “allocating funds to support current students of color in alleviating financial burdens,” but there is no initiative to support future students.

Have there been university policy changes or communication before these protests?

The chancellor signed off on demands that #NotAgainSU gave them on November 21, 2019, with the caveat that some demands needed approval from the board of trustees. However, the #NotAgainSU movement said afterwards that the students who were with Syverud did not represent the movement and that not all of the demands had been satisfied.

In December, the board of trustees created an independent advisory panel to assess and recommend policies and programs that fostered diversity on campus. A week before the Crouse-Hinds occupation began, the Daily Orange reported that #NotAgainSU met with the university board of trustees. 

What happens next?

The organization will occupy Crouse-Hinds Hall until Friday, February 21. Friday is also their deadline for Syverud, Sardino, Maldonado, and Evanovich to resign. 

According to the disruption policy handed out to protesters, Syracuse reserves the right to eject dissenting students from university facilities after notifying them. The university has not taken this action as of Tuesday morning.

Syracuse Police were seen driving around campus on Tuesday night.