Repeated Racism at Syracuse Sparks Protests, Fraternity Suspended
By Jishnu Nair and CitrusTV Staff – (CitrusTV)
Protesters are occupying the Syracuse University Barnes Center after a series of racist and anti-semitic graffiti was written in campus buildings and just outside of the university borders. The protesters, who have labeled themselves #NotAgainSU, are calling on the SU administration to take responsibility for creating an environment that is harmful to minorities and to take steps to improve that environment. The occupation began on Wednesday at around 10:30 a.m. and protesters have been in the building for over 100 hours. Click on the tabs below to read the events of each day:
#NotAgainSU Timeline of Events
- Wednesday, November 6 to Monday, November 11
- Tuesday, November 12
- Wednesday, November 13
- Thursday, November 14
- Friday, November 15
- Saturday, November 16
- Sunday, November 17
- Monday, November 18
- Tuesday, November 19
The first incident of racist graffiti was discovered in the 4th and 6th floors of the Day Hall dormitory between November 6th and 7th, and included language targeting the Black and Asian communities. DPS and university officials met with Day Hall residents on November 7th and November 10th, but did not release an official statement.
A Day Hall resident and freshman, Xyta Vrimjoet, posted an Instagram story detailing the graffiti. After Vrimjoet’s Instagram story gained traction, the university sent out responses through emails from DPS and Vice President for the Student Experience Rob Hradsky. Vrimjoet told CitrusTV News that university officials asked Day Hall residents not to publicize the incident.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also said that he was “disgusted by the recent rash of hateful language” and that state authorities would be assisting in the investigation. Maldonado later confirmed that DPS was working with the Syracuse Police Department and the state police force.
Following the university’s response, the Juvenile Urban Multicultural Program or JUMP held a forum in the Watson Theater for students to voice concerns on Monday night.
Cuomo gave a speech on hate crimes ahead of a pre-planned event in the city of Syracuse, reiterating his earlier call to action. DPS Chief Maldonado later confirmed that the department was working with state police as well as the City of Syracuse Police Department.
The following Tuesday, Chancellor Kent Syverud sent out an email response to the student body. The Residence Hall Association, which advocates for campus residents, held an open forum at Gifford Auditorium. Students at the meeting demanded university officials overhaul curriculum to teach students about respecting and understanding diversity. Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Keith Alford, who was permanently appointed last summer, told CitrusTV in an email that he was “outraged by this reprehensible behavior” and that he was “working intensely” to support those directly impacted by the graffiti.
The Barnes Center sit-in began on Wednesday morning and spread as students continued to find out via social media. The Barnes Center itself opened for the fall 2019 semester as part of the university’s long-term renovation plan.
Syverud, who had been at a lecture in Washington, D.C. earlier in the week, attended the sit-in for a few minutes to speak with protesters and to read their first list of demands, including a call for his resignation if the demands were not met. Syverud received criticism for only appearing for a few minutes. Students asked the chancellor to agree to meet their demands on the spot. Syverud said he would need to speak with staff first. As the chancellor walked out, a student shouted, "So when is our conversation with you. Our real conversation with you. Wow."
The chancellor later emailed out a new approach for how bias incidents are handled, writing that the finalized protocol would be released next week. Other administration officials, including Alford visited the sit-in at the Barnes Center Wednesday afternoon and stayed for nine hours to take questions from students.
Several student organizations released statements or cancelled activities in support of the movement. The SU Student Association emailed out a statement to the student body stating their support, while the Panhellenic Council cancelled its planned Expo so members could join the protestors
Otto’s Army boycotted the Syracuse men’s basketball game against Colgate in the Dome. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim responded to the protests after the game, saying that he believed that Syracuse was a “minority-friendly school.”
“You can’t blame the whole university for what could be the actions of one or two individuals,” said Boeheim. Later on Wednesday afternoon, DPS received a report that graffiti targeting Asian students had been found in a bathroom in the Physics Building. The department released a statement the following morning.
After students were notified of the Physics Building graffiti on Thursday, the Slutzker Center for International Services organized a forum at Gifford Auditorium for Asian students to express their concerns. Slutzker Center Director Juan Tavares moderated the discussion, and Alford and Hradsky both attended. Syverud did not attend, as he was in Rochester for an alumni event. Students at the forum said that they found out about it through friends rather than through university communications. At the forum, Hradsky confirmed that the university’s diversity-focused requirement course, SEM 100, would no longer be used and that replacement courses would be implemented.
At the Barnes Center, protester Kai Wright said that the movement would not accept just spoken promises from university officials.
“For the sake of accountability, we will not recognize our demands as met until we receive these same promises in writing,” Wright said.
On Thursday afternoon, a swastika was found drawn in the snow outside The 505 on Walnut, a luxury apartment complex that serves university students. CitrusTV reporters informed Rob Hradsky and Keith Alford at the forum of the incident, and Alford sent out an email notice shortly afterwards. The director of SU’s Hillel Center, Jillian Juni, called the act “horrific” and maintained that the center stood in solidarity with “Black and Asian allies.” The Syracuse Police Department confirmed that it was investigating what it called an “aggravated harassment incident.” Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh released a statement afterwards, calling the recent instances of racism “vile and appalling” and directing city resources “to do all that we can to stop them.”
On Thursday night, DPS released a statement saying that the department was responding to racist graffiti targeting Asians on Day Hall’s third floor. That same night, protesters voted to spend the night at the Barnes Center. The administration initially warned that continued occupation would result in code of conduct charges, but later told occupants that they would not receive charges if they remained for the night.
It's 1 am in the Barnes Center. This was the original deadline given to get out or face code of conduct sanctions. But that isn't happening as Syracuse University will now let them stay the night penalty-free. The latest from the #NotAgainSU protests: @CitrusTVNews pic.twitter.com/feD1bTgFJC— Ricky ''Reports'' Sayer (@RickyReports) November 15, 2019
The Barnes Center occupation reached its 48th hour on Friday morning. Syverud met with protesters in the center later that afternoon, where he responded to their demands. Syverud told CitrusTV News that he is “committed to working on everything that [he] just described.” The chancellor emailed out a video statement to the entire student body later that afternoon.
"Our University will respond in the future transparently and quickly, and will clearly assert our Orange values of inclusion and of rejecting hate," Syverud said.
Syverud also visited the Hillel Center personally to speak with members of the community. When CitrusTV News asked him about his possible resignation if demands are not met, Syverud declined to comment.
Other visitors to the Barnes Center included Democratic 24th District House Seat Candidate Dana Balter, who formerly taught at the Maxwell School of Public Citizenship. Balter told CitrusTV News that the way society creates change is by “putting ourselves on the line for each other for the things that we believe in.”
“It shouldn’t be up to the students to change them, but unfortunately it is,” Balter said. “These students are setting the example for all of us, and I wanted to be here to show support.”
Several university colleges took action on Friday. The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications led a forum hosted by Hub Brown, the Associate Dean for Research, Creativity, International Initiatives and Diversity. Brown said at the forum that “we treat racism as a difference in opinion, not the social dysfunction it is.” Meanwhile, at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, Dean Gene Anderson tweeted out a list of steps he planned for the school to “foster a diverse and inclusive learning environment.”
“We should all be deeply concerned by the disgusting racist graffiti, symbols and vandalism of the past week,” Anderson wrote. “Such despicable acts have no place on our beautiful campus.”
The #NotAgainSU protesters released an updated list of demands on Friday night, with 18 replacing the previous 10. Several demands were reworded, including the original demands to allow students to select roommates with the same race; that demand was replaced with a call for an updated university-wide housing portal such as My College Roomie or Roomsync.
Since the occupation began, other student groups and off-campus organizations have provided support to the movement. A GoFundMe is running to provide protesters with food and currently raised over $8,000 as of Sunday. Musical organizations such as the Hendricks Chapel Choir and Oy Cappella performed on Thursday night, and Black Lives Matter held teach-ins on Thursday and Friday nights.
On Friday night, the Daily Orange reported that a freshman living in Day Hall had been racially abused from a Day Hall window. Minghao Ai, a Chinese international student, filed a bias incident complaint with DPS. The department did not notify the campus.
New York State Senator Rachel May arrived at the Barnes Center just ahead of its 72nd hour. May was joined by New York State Assemblyman William Magnarelli, who told protestors, "don't let them win." Both officials gave statements of support to the movement and answered questions from individuals, but neither gave specific plans of action on their part.
“I was very glad to get a chance, however brief, to talk with the students of #NotAgainSU.”, said May in a tweet after leaving. “Tired and stressed as they must be, they had profound and important questions and I look forward to coming back for a more in-depth discussion.”
Boeheim visited the Barnes Center to speak with occupants, and said that he supported any student-athlete who supported the protest. Several individuals challenged the coach on the statements he made following Wednesday night’s game. After listening to several remarks, Boeheim said that his statement then was “an overall reaction.”
“This is how you evoke change,” Boeheim said of the protest. “This is the way things do get to change, and I am not saying in any way shape or form that anything is okay.”
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh also visited protestors at the Barnes Center. He told protesters that he wants them to know that Syracuse City Hall stands with them, and he encouraged them to continue engaging in dialogue with the SU administration.
“We know we’ve seen too many incidents like this, throughout this city, throughout this country, and we truly respect all of you for taking a stand against it, and again we stand here with you,” said Walsh.
Also Saturday, The Student Association told CitrusTV News that their cabinet received “hateful emails” from an account called “Inland Waterways Inc.” SA reported the emails to DPS; in a statement, DPS said that email had been forwarded to the Syracuse Police Department, who are currently investigating.
On Saturday afternoon, DPS released an email statement about racist graffiti found in Haven Hall targeting Asian students. The department did not say when the incident was reported. The vandalism was found on the building’s seventh floor, according to Haven Hall staff. The department later increased shuttle services, according to Maldonado.
CitrusTV News learned of a separate incident in Haven Hall where a swastika and male genitalia were drawn in the stairwell. DPS later sent an email detailing the incident; in their statement, DPS said they are currently investigating that incident as well as a second unrelated incident in which a student reportedly yelled a “racial epithet that is derogatory to African Americans” at Sadler Hall.
Before and after of the vandalism in the Haven Residence Hall 7th Floor stairwell. DPS has evaluated the situation and the swastika shown in the below photo has been removed. @CitrusTVNews pic.twitter.com/YzWERmqbnS— Landon Wexler (@landonwexler) November 16, 2019
Otto's Army boycotted the men's basketball game against Seattle once again. Syracuse forward Elijah Hughes tweeted in support of the movement and visited the Barnes Center earlier Saturday. Barnes Center protestors lined the sidewalk on the way to the Dome, chanting "racism lives here, you are complicit" at people walking to the Dome.
According to Syverud’s email, “a generous University donor has offered a reward for evidence that leads to the apprehension of the individual or individuals responsible for these heinous acts.” In a later update from DPS Chief Maldonado, the donor was confirmed to have offered $50,000 as a reward.
New York State Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter spoke to students on Sunday afternoon. Hunter praised the protestors for their initiatives and told them that being able to stand up and speak out was something they would be using throughout life. Hunter told CitrusTV News that she didn't see anything "egregious" about the demands made.
Later, Professor Marsha Weissman spoke at the Barnes Center about the case of Rodney Reed, who faced the death penalty in Texas until yesterday. Reed was granted an indefinite stay of execution by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, but remains incarcerated. Weissman spoke about inequality in the justice system and about her experience at Syracuse University's centennial protests in 1970. She also talked about how the current political climate enabled these events.
"Trump has enabled the snakes to crawl out from under their rocks," Weissman said.
Syverud sent a second video message in partnership with Maldonado, Dean of Students Marianne Thomson and Interim Vice Provost John Liu. Maldonado confirmed that two new shuttles would be added to provide service between College Place, East Neighborhood and South Campus. Maldonado also said DPS officers would now be on 16-hour shifts as opposed to their previous 10-hour rotations. DPS is also increasing property checks.
Thomson said that her team was reviewing the university code of conduct and the residence hall staff training program. Thomson said "it is important that we do this work right and that we do it together, so that all of our students feel valued, welcomed, and respected."
Liu spoke on issues of curriculum, diversity in faculty, diversity training in faculty and the first year experience. He confirmed that SEM 100 in its current form would not return, and asked for the SU community's help in overhauling the first year experience and planning a diversity requirement in the curriculum
Syverud concluded the video by saying "our Orange values are stronger than these shameful acts," citing the "hard, thoughtful, and sincere conversations" the administration had with students, staff and faculty in the past week.
"There's been a lot of activity, and there's a lot more work to do. The plans we will soon be sharing will reflect the hard, thoughtful, and sincere conversations we have collectively been having over the past week with input from many students, faculty, staff, and community members," Syverud said.
As of November 17, 2019, there have been at least 9 incidents of racism communicated through authorities since the previous week on and around Syracuse University campus.
The sixth consecutive day at the Barnes Center protests saw several different academic resources set up inside the center to help students. A small table marked as a writing center and a representative from the College of Arts and Sciences were available for students who were working on homework.
The #NotAgainSU protest invited Chancellor Syverud to read his signed response on Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. at Hendricks Chapel. Syverud told CitrusTV News that he would be "wherever" it was scheduled on Tuesday.
SU football coach Dino Babers spoke on the protest on Monday night following the team's win against Duke. Babers said that the team hasn't talked about it in a "major meeting."
Several New York officials made statements on Monday as well. Representative John Katko said in an email that "the unlawful messages of hate" have no place on campus and that he supported a "full and robust investigation." The 22nd district's Anthony Brindisi, who was elected last year, said "there is no place for racism in this country and it certainly does not belong at a place of higher education like Syracuse University." New York State Senator Anna Kaplan, who represents the Nassau County area, said she was "shocked and dismayed" by the incidents. Kaplan is the parent of a current SU student.
Later on Monday, the Inter-Fraternity Council expelled Alpha Chi Rho from the council for an "indefinite period of time." The council's statement said that the fraternity would never be able to return until the university lifted its derecognition order and the council itself voted unanimously to let Alpha Chi Rho return.
Alpha Chi Rho's national branch later said that they were planning to appeal the decision. Dean of Students Marianne Thomson emailed to clarify what the "suspension of social activities" for fraternities meant.
DPS received a report on Monday night of racist graffiti on the fifth floor of Day Hall, bringing the dormitory's total of reported incidents up to four. The department said in the statement that it was interviewing residents but had no leads.
On Monday night, a white supremacist manifesto written by the Christchurch, New Zealand shooter was AirDropped onto students' iPhones in Bird Library. The manifesto also appeared on Syracuse's GreekRank page. DPS said Tuesday that there was "no specific threat" to Syracuse University, but that the FBI and New York State Police had been notified. The department's language was criticized by some, including Biko Mandela Gray, an assistant professor in the Department of Religion.
DPS received a report a few hours later on Tuesday morning where a naked man "exited his vehicle" in view of students. An Instagram post from a student who saw the person said that he approached them in Walnut Park.
View this post on Instagram
I was walking back from Bird Library in walnut park. This car from the opposite direction pulled up and stopped his car. He got out of his car and shut his car door. HE WAS FULLY NAKED AND STARTED TO WALK TOWARDS ME. I was alone literally nobody else was nearby so I started screaming as loud as I could. I pulled out my phone and started to record him. He ran back to his car started it and drove off then turned back around up Adams street. I started screaming again because it appeared he was coming back. I started to run as fast as I could. Less than a block away a DPS car was parked. He was white around 5’7 aged 20-21 brown curly hair. He had killer eyes. At one point the guy who did this will probably read this post, your attack is fueling the campus to keep protesting. We will not stop until this is a safer place.
Tuesday morning saw the #NotAgainSU movement call for the university to cancel classes across campus. The call was supported by students on social media, as well as the Student Association. Several colleges, including the iSchool, altered procedures to allow students to remotely attend class or to miss class entirely. Many faculty members encouraged students to use any available resources or counseling, and to stay safe.
New York State Troopers were on the scene across campus today. Additionally, DPS increased security measures on campus; patrols were doubled, department cars were stationed "strategically" around campus and walking patrols around residence halls and campus buildings were also increased.
Headline from DPS: "No Direct Threat to Syracuse University"— Ricky ''Reports'' Sayer (@RickyReports) November 19, 2019
DPS says that based on the preliminary information in their investigation into the sharing of a white supremacist manifesto, "there is no appearance of a direct threat."
On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo released a statement condemning racism in Syracuse and across the country, referencing an incident involving the hate group Proud Boys in New York City on Monday. Cuomo also condemned Syverud's handling of the SU case.
Authorities held a press conference in downtown Syracuse on Tuesday afternoon. Syracuse Police Department chief Kenton Buckner confirmed that the department was investigating two cases involving the university: the swastika drawn outside the 505 on Walnut last week, and the manifesto posted online and shared publicly on Monday night. New York State Police also said that their presence on campus was planned as a deterrence measure. "We're hoping that the high visibility of state trooper and DPS workers in and around campus will make the students, faculty, and staff feel safer," said Major Philip Rougeux. The day's major development came Tuesday afternoon as Chancellor Syverud sent a university-wide email containing university responses to individual demands from the #NotAgainSU protestors, who were identified as "Barnes Center protestors," and from other students that the administration spoke to, who were identified as "international students." The university report deemed most of the demands feasible; the full report can be found at the bottom of this article. CitrusTV News spoke to Syverud following the announcement; the chancellor said that he was open to more demands if the ones made were deemed insufficient. He also said that there would be measures to keep the administration accountable for achieving the goals.
The chancellor made a brief appearance at the Barnes Center to inform the protestors that the university had a response to their demands. He told CitrusTV that he believed the response was "sufficient." Later on, the Syracuse University Board of Trustees sent out a statement in support of the chancellor's handling of the situation.
WATCH: CitrusTV News spoke with Chancellor Kent Syverud on recent campus events. Here are his opening remarks: (1/7) pic.twitter.com/NyeL5ONQqz— CitrusTV News (@CitrusTVNews) November 20, 2019
NEW: Board of Trustees issues statement regarding recent campus events. "The Board of Trustees stands behind our Chancellor. We stand with our students. And we stand for what's right." Read the Board of Trustees statement to CitrusTV below. pic.twitter.com/KVfa8fyN5E— CitrusTV News (@CitrusTVNews) November 19, 2019
The #NotAgainSU movement will continue to occupy the Barnes Center until Syverud signs their demands or until November 20 at 5 p.m., at which point they will call for his resignation. Their initial demands were posted on November 15, and the university provided an initial response on November 19, which can be read here:Summary_University_Response
CitrusTV News will continue to provide updates as they arrive. Follow @citrustvnews on all social media to see those updates as they come. Anyone wishing to contact CitrusTV can reach out to those social media platforms, call 315-443-1177, or email the News Director Greg Bradbury at firstname.lastname@example.org