Racist Incidents Continue over Weekend at SU; Chancellor Suspends Fraternity, Promises Other Actions

Nov 17, 2019

Chancellor Syverud cancelled all social activities for all fraternities after racist incident on campus linked to one of them. He's also promising more action as racist vandalism and student sit-in continue.
Credit John Smith / WAER News

(UPDATED 11/18 @ 11:30 am; Chancellor, Administration  message below)

The series of racist acts of vandalism and graffiti continued over the weekend at Syracuse University.  Many officials have issued responses to these actions that have drawn student protests and shaken the campus community. 


Syracuse University took its most drastic actions to date after a weekend filled with more incidents of racist vandalism and at least one racially-charged confrontation.  Chancellor Kent Syverud announced he has suspended one fraternity for possible involvement in an incident on-campus Saturday night involving racial epithets that targeted African American students.  (see remarks below)

LATEST ACTIONS & UNIVERSITY RESPONSES

  • Chanceller Syverud closes down a fraternity, reported to be Alpha Chi Rho, for involvement in racist shouting assault.
  • Syverud suspends all social activities of all fraternities for remainder of semester.
  • Public Safety Chief Bobby Maldonado announces $50,000 reward for information leading to arrest of perpetrator(s) of graffiti and other racist vandalism; investigations are continuing.
  • Maldonado announces Public Safety Ofrfciers on 16-hour shifts to increase security, doubling campus patrols.
  • Dean fo Students Marianne Thomson promises review and revision of Student Code of Conduct, hiring practices, and retention to assure diversity.
  • Interim Provost John Liu layed out 4 prioroties after speaking with students, inclduing: curriculum, inclusive teaching, diversity training, and diversifying faculty.

Earlier in the weekend Syverud issued a video message to campus promising to respond to demands of protestors who started a sit in over several incidents of racist graffiti and the forming of a swastika in the snow.  He says he wants to repond assuring the University’s values

“…respecting all people of all backgrounds at all times, in our residence halls, in our classroom buildings, and on our streets.  I cannot promise you that in these fraught times in our country that there will be no more hateful incidents in our community.  But I can promise that our University will respond in the future transparently and quickly, and we’ll clearly assert our Orange values of inclusion and of rejecting hate.”

The weekend saw incidents continue … including several more examples of racist graffiti targeting Asian students, as well as the racist shouting incident.  Syverud says University officials were able to identify suspects through surveillance video and witness interviews as being part of a fraternity and their guests.  He says that has caused him to not only suspend the fraternity, but cancel all other fraternity social events for the rest of the semester. 

Important Update from Chancellor Syverud and University Leaders from Syracuse University on Vimeo.

Students say the campus climate has been shaken.  One Freshman, Vanessa, is finding a different reality than she expected.

“Everybody was saying how inclusive it was, how diverse it was.  That’s something they pride themselves in making sure everyone feels safe and included.  And when I got here I did see that, like I felt like this is a good environment for everybody.  However, as we’ve been here for a while, the whole diversity and inclusion thing is not as concrete as they say it to be.”

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh visited students at the sit-in protest, praising them for standing up for their rights, despite the abhorrent reason they had to do so. 

“But the reasons we’re all together is because we’re not going to stand for the status quo; we’re not going to stand for it to continue to happen.  But this is an ongoing battle.  And unfortunately we know that it’s going to happen again.  But I see the conversations that are happening up here on this campus as a reason to be hopeful that someday maybe we won’t have to deal with this hate and with this evil.”

Students got the support from other groups both on campus and off.  The Sociology faculty sent a message saying they are appalled at the lack of transparency in dealing with racist incidents dating back to the Theta Tau incident last year.  The Syracuse Chapter of the NAACP also says it supports the students staging the Sit-in and planned a visit to the demonstration.

Meanwhile campus public safety officials say they continue to see clues to find out who committed any of the racist acts…and have asked the help of anyone who knows anything to speak out. 

SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY CHANCELLOR KENT SYVERUD ON RECENT RACIST INCIDENT

Last night, one of our African American students reported being subjected to a verbal racial epithet from a group of students and visitors to our campus. The location was on College Place. This report of an affront to our student’s—and our whole community’s—safety and well-being is the latest incident of several against Jews, Asians and African Americans. I am deeply angered by these events, including this latest incident.

All night, University leaders have been addressing these incidents. As to the College Place incident, Department of Public Safety (DPS) Chief Bobby Maldonado and his team have assembled substantial evidence, including security camera video, eyewitness accounts and interviews. The individuals involved have been identified and will be held appropriately accountable to the Code of Student Conduct and to the full extent of the law. We are working with the Syracuse Police Department, and we intend to bring this investigation to a swift and successful conclusion. 

Some of the individuals involved are members and guests of a Syracuse University fraternity. That fraternity has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.   

More importantly, it is my view that the safety and well-being of students on our campus requires stronger steps. As of 4 a.m today, I have directed the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs to suspend all social activities of fraternities on this campus for the remainder of the semester. While only one fraternity may have been involved in this particular incident, given recent history, all fraternities must come together with the University community to reflect upon how to prevent recurrence of such seriously troubling behavior.     

DPS also continues to actively investigate the other incidents, particularly those involving racist graffiti and vandalism. 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.

This story has been edited for copy corrections.