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SU Chancellor Provides Update as Campus and City Try to Heal After Racist Incidents

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John Marino
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Wikimedia Commons

Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud sent a message to the university community Monday with an update on the work they're trying to accomplish toward campus safety when students return from Thanksgiving Break. 

He's broken it down into three key areas in his message below:

Safety

Overwhelmingly, the chief concern among our campus community is safety. Before fall break began, we increased campus security by:

  • doubling the scale and scope of Department of Public Safety patrols;
  • increasing DPS patrols on and adjacent to campus;
  • enlisting Syracuse Police and New York State Police to assist with patrols on and off campus;
  • adding walking escorts and shuttles; and
  • seeking and receiving the assistance and support of the FBI, New York State Police and others.

When our community returns from fall break, the following additional measures will be in place:

  • immediate deployment of 19 new residential community safety officers spread across multiple residence halls, including but not limited to Day Hall, Flint Hall and the Brewster-Boland-Brockway (BBB) complex; the University will also continue its work to hire 90 residential community safety officers, all of whom will be in place at the start of the spring semester;
  • installation of new security cameras in strategic locations with a focus on stairwells, elevators, exterior locations and common spaces; and
  • DPS officers will continue to work increased shifts while classes are in session, doubling our presence.

Student Well-Being

We recognize this has been a very difficult time for many in our campus community. Therefore, the following enhanced resources are available in support of our students’ well-being:

  • The Barnes Center at The Arch is available 24/7 for support at 315.443.8000.
  • We have doubled the availability of health, wellness and counseling professionals available during drop-in hours at the Barnes Center. Drop-ins are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, located in the counseling suite on the third floor.
  • The following offices remain available for drop-ins and small group discussions, with hours extended to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday:
    • Cultural Centers’ Suite, 548 Bird Library (Office of Multicultural Affairs, Disability Cultural Center and LGBT Resource Center)
    • Center for International Services, 310 Walnut Place
    • Dean of Students Office, 306 Steele Hall (a staff member will be located in the Cultural Centers’ Suite from 5 to 8 p.m.)
  • Monday through Friday the weeks of Dec. 2 and Dec. 9, health promotion staff, including peer educators, will be hosting de-stress activities in Bird Library and other locations across campus.
  • We are expanding hours and offering availability for support in the schools and colleges through partnerships with the School of Social Work, the Department of Psychology and the Hendricks Chapel chaplaincies.
  • Hendricks Chapel chaplains remain available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide comfort and care.

Campus Engagement

Our campus has experienced hateful acts in recent weeks. The fear they have caused has been exacerbated by misinformation and unverified reports. The University must engage with our community in a more timely, effective and transparent manner. As such, the following steps will be in place by Sunday, Dec. 1:

  • Introduce a new Department of Public Safety webpage, aggregating all safety updates on a single platform. This page will be continuously updated and accessible by students, faculty, staff, parents and other community members. Hate speech and other bias-related incidents will be posted to this page within 48 hours but likely much sooner. This page will be the best source of accurate and reliable information moving forward.
  • A new “Campus Commitment” webpage is now live and will feature regular updates about concrete progress toward the commitments made to our community over the last several weeks.
  • Faculty, staff and I are continuing to meet with multiple student groups through fall break. My team and I have begun immediate implementation of many of the recommendations and will be working closely with students to address concerns in a quick and effective manner.

The work outlined above represents progress, but much work remains to be done. I must also respect and thank the hundreds of students, faculty and staff who have contributed to hard work and advanced real progress on these issues in recent years.
We will be reporting further on this most vital work as our full community returns next week.

                                                                               ###

MOVING FORWARD

Syracuse University and even the city of Syracuse are trying to look forward after a series of racist incidents gripped campus for the past two weeks.  But officials acknowledge the difficulty in trying to tackle an ongoing, complicated problem. 

Mayor Ben Walsh has said he’s disgusted by the hateful graffiti and epithets, and acknowledges the concern goes beyond campus.

"This is a painful time for our community, and I'm troubled by it.  I've heard it from people on campus and from people off of campus."

City police have been helping SU Public Safety with the investigation and additional patrols.  Syracuse police have also been directed to investigate an incident that pre-dated all of this that the mayor learned of three weeks after it happened.  City employees discovered a swastika and other anti-semitic graffiti in the parking lot of the Cecile Community center in the Valley on October 30th.  It was immediately removed.  Walsh says they’re working to ensure there’s a standard procedure in place to handle such incidents.

"We know that racist, hateful graffiti is not new to our community or to our country.  Racism is systemic, and it's something we have to address head on.  We want to make sure our policy is clear, that people know exactly what to do when they encounter this.  We should not look away."

Over at SU, the challenges are proving to be much more complicated.  A self-appointed ad-hoc group of students known as not again su has largely led the protest on campus, and made numerous demands.  With no clear leader, it can be difficult to nail down a consistent message.  Dean of students Marianne Thomson says it also doesn’t necessarily speak for all students.

"There isn't one student voice.  Some students feel very strongly about some things, others feel differently about other things.  That goes back to why can't we just go ahead and do it right now because we need to hear that complexity." 

She says group presented its initial list of demands to the administration, and both sides went back and forth to try to arrive at a more thoughtful list.

"I think as we continue to talk, we're going to have more things we have to work on.  This is not a box you check.  We don't do these things and then we're done with diversity and inclusion."

Thomson says she’s impressed that students applied themselves to one of the heaviest issues facing campus…and the world.  Now, she says they’re trying to boil down a complex issue to realistic solutions.