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Syracuse Students Protest Racist Messages Found On Campus, Administration's Response

SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) - Syracuse University officials have promised action in the wake of criticism of the school’s response following the discovery of racist graffiti in a residence hall last week.

Nearly 200 students Wednesday crammed into the small entryway of the Barnes Center at Archbold Gymnasium with a list of nine demands. They are calling for short- and long-term changes that speak to the roots of the vandalism at Day Hall last week, as well as investments in programs that deal with diversity and racism.

University officials listened to complaints and answered questions for several hours Wednesday, and promised action on a number of things, including a diversity curriculum and the expulsion of any students involved in the vandalism. It reminded protester Jett Cloud, a senior, of administration responses in the past.

"I don’t think anybody I’ve spoken to so far who is invested in the situation has been pleased with it," Cloud said. "But I’ve never seen the school handle a situation where the student body who is affected, the black community in particular, has been particularly positive responding to the way they handle it."

Racist comments directed at black and Asian people were discovered on two floors of Day Hall last week. Students initially were upset that administrators only reached out to students on those two floors about the incident.

Chancellor Kent Syverud briefly met with students, and has promised prompt implementation of a new protocol for how the University responds to bias incidents. The university is also welcoming help in an investigation from the incident from the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force. Gov. Andrew Cuomo condemned the incident in a recent stop in Syracuse.

"Any incident, any incident, 'well it’s just some racist slogan written on a wall.' No. Zero tolerance," Cuomo said.

SU officials have promised to have answers for protesters by November 20. Ultimately, Cloud wants to see more than just a short-term reaction to issues that affect minority students every day.

"I think it’s very important they integrate the campus community here, communities of color, specifically the black community on campus here, into decision making and holding them accountable in the future."

Message from Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud to the campus community Wednesday

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

Just a few hours ago, I returned from Washington, D.C., where I was speaking with students, faculty and alumni at an event co-sponsored by The Lender Center for Social Justice. I went from the airport to the Barnes Center at The Arch to briefly visit with our students who gathered there in an effort to effect change on issues that are important to our community.

I received from the students a list of short- and long-term recommendations. They are thoughtful and constructive, and our university will be responding. I’ve also received communications from students, faculty and staff. I have asked members of the Student Experience team, including Rob Hradsky, vice president of the student experience, and Marianne Thomson, dean of students, and other staff members, to work closely with our student leaders, student organizations and students from across campus on these issues. Even before that work proceeds, I have requested some immediate actions:

I have asked that there be prompt implementation of a new protocol for how the University responds to bias incidents. It is vital that we simultaneously prioritize caring for students directly impacted, communicating in a timely manner to the campus community, and swiftly investigating the incident. Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Keith Alford, Department of Public Safety (DPS) Chief Bobby Maldonado, and Dean Thomson will finalize this approach by next week.

Many students have raised questions about the current Code of Student Conduct and whether it needs to be revisited and revised, especially as it pertains to bias-related incidents. I have directed Dean Thomson to work with student leaders on this and promptly report any suggested changes.

I remain deeply concerned about what happened at Day Hall and the campus climate issues I have been discussing with students.


Chancellor Kent Syverud