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businessinsider - 19 days ago

Syracuse students have been besieged by racist attacks, and more than a dozen told us they re scared and angry with the school s tepid response

Protests erupted at Syracuse University earlier this month after a rash of racist incidents at the upstate New York campus. Insider spoke to more than 15 students about the issue, and while most said they were indeed scared, their main issue was how the administration was addressing their concerns. Visit Insider s homepage for more stories. SYRACUSE, New York A virus has been spreading across the Syracuse University campus. It started on November 8, when students living on the sixth floor of Day Hall woke up to see the N-word scrawled on the mirror of their bathroom. A few days later, a student looked out the window of their off-campus apartment building and saw a swastika drawn in the fresh snow. That same day, someone wrote glory hole fer Asians next to a small divot in the wall of the physics building. At least a dozen racist incidents have been reported on the upstate New York campus since that first morning at Day Hall two weeks ago, culminating in a group of people hurling racial slurs at a black woman as she walked by a fraternity on November 16. Insider spoke to more than 15 students on campus, and while many said the recent racist attacks and derogatory graffiti have left them unsettled, they don t really think a racist is on the loose. Their biggest gripe is with how the administration has addressed their concerns. And many are upset with what they see as a disturbing trend in how Chancellor Kent Syverud handles racist incidents on campus. Student protesters called for 19 demands. When those were largely met, they started calling for the chancellor s resignation. A protest movement sprouted in reaction to the events, calling themselves #NotAgainSU. The group staged a sit-in at the Barnes Center last week, and said they wouldn t leave until the chancellor agreed to their list of 19 demands. The movement garnered widespread support. A GoFundMe for the group raised more than $20,000 before it was closed down two days ago. When Insider visited their sit-in, there were stacks upon stacks of donated bottled water in one corner, and in another, enough junk food to give multiple people a heart attack. After the students occupied the space for a week, the chancellor agreed to sign a slightly edited list of their demands, but they said that wasn t enough. While they ended their occupation, they are now calling for Syverud to resign. A troubling history of racist incidents on campus The recent string of events didn t happen in a vacuum. A series of high-profile racial issues have plagued the campus since Syverud took over as chancellor in January 2014. That month, black and Latino students held multiple demonstrations over the decision to cut scholarships for minorities. In 2018, 15 members of Theta Tau, a professional fraternity on campus, were suspended after video emerged of brothers performing offensive skits derogatory to multiple groups, including gays and Jews. Tensions spiked again last winter, when three students of color were attacked by a group of four white people outside a off-campus house party in February. Syracuse Police said the fight did not appear to be racially motivated, but two of the students involved said one of the white attackers had used the N-word. A month later, student newspaper The Daily Orange reported about a professor and students casually using the N-word multiple times during lectures at the school s Madrid outpost. While these incidents may paint the school in a negative light when considered together, many of the students Insider spoke to said they didn t think the school had a bigger race problem than any other predominantly white school. I would say that maybe the university doesn t deal with racial issues as well as it could, but I wouldn t say it has a race problem, a freshman who asked only to be identified by his fist name, Austin, told Insider. Austin, who is black, said that diversity played a role in his decision to go to Syracuse. I wanted to go somewhere where I had people that look like me, but I also didn t want to just surround myself with that and get stuck in my comfort zone, Austin said, adding that he hasn t personally experienced any racism since starting at the school a few months ago. An unsettling feeling on campus While most of the students Insider spoke to said they didn t think there a serious threat to the school, the graffiti still made them feel a little unsafe. Many students asked to remain anonymous because tensions are high, and they fear speaking out could result in physical harm. The campus was also eerily quiet when Insider visited, with the bars empty on a Thursday night and many students seen walking on the streets with their suitcases, going home early for Thanksgiving break. Many professors had canceled classes, and the administration didn t seem like it was enforcing a strict attendance policy after the rash of racist incidents and unrest, so many students took the opportunity to leave early. One junior said he was most concerned about a racist manifesto that was posted on GreekRank.com. (Initial reports said a manifesto was AirDropped to students at the library, but the chancellor said they were not able to substantiate that rumor.) While the university says it was not a direct threat, it felt like one and one that you couldn t easily protect people against because all it takes is just one person to do something terrible, the junior, who is a white male, told Insider. He added: Even though I m not the one who s facing the direct discrimination, I still feel very uncomfortable on campus. If someone was actually crazy enough to do something like that, I don t think they d really pick me out of the crowd like, Oh wait, no, not him. They re getting very bold No one believed that there was one person behind all the racist graffiti. Lauren McLean, a 19-year-old architecture student, said she thought the graffiti was the result of multiple people becoming emboldened by the administration s inaction. They see it as an opportunity to be able to do the same thing, or to say their opinions out loud on a wall because there are no repercussions, McLean said. They re getting very bold now. What the students were most passionate about though was the feeling that the administration wasn t taking the incidents seriously, especially in light of some of the other past racial issues the campus has faced. I think for me personally after the Theta Tau situation that I felt like Syracuse wanted to keep a better image of diversity in the public eye. So I felt like they tried to do their best to be more diverse, but I feel like it was very forced, one female student, who is a member of the ASIA club, told Insider. I feel like the university response is a little slow, but I understand it s very hard to find the person that at least did the graffiti because there s no surveillance cameras and it s just writing, she added. But then again, I feel like they should be more present in keeping us updated. Students are frustrated by the administration s slow response Many were upset that it took so long to learn about the first racist graffiti. It wasn t until four days later that a campus-wide email was sent out about the discovery. Some suspected that the administration was trying to keep the situation quiet due to a big fundraising event that happened a day after the Day Hall incident. Many on campus were here when the Theta Tau incident happened, and saw the recent graffiti as evidence that the chancellor didn t adequately address the toxic culture. It definitely makes me feel unsafe, but more than anything, it makes me feel uncomfortable because it s the lack of action that s been taken, sophomore Danielle Nimako, 19, told Insider. It ll get violent Another student who asked to remain anonymous, who is a leader of an Asian group on campus, said he thinks tensions will continue to escalate even when students get back from Thanksgiving break. I think the next step is it s going to get violent and that s because the school has not done anything literally. Someone s going to say the wrong thing to the wrong person ... it ll get violent, the student said. Both the chancellor and the PR director of the #NotAgainSU movement declined to be interview for this story. Read more: Anti-racist protesters at Syracuse University brought the chancellor to his knees, but now they want his head A white supremacist manifesto was AirDropped to students phones during late night studying at Syracuse University, according to campus security Syracuse University has suspended all fraternity activities for the rest of the semester after a black student said a group of students accosted her and called her a racial slur Join the conversation about this story NOW WATCH: Taylor Swift is the world s highest-paid celebrity. Here s how she makes and spends her $360 million.


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