Tensions have been high at Syracuse University after a spree of racist and bigoted incidents that included a group verbally attacking a black student walking home with racist insults and someone allegedly AirDropping a white supremacist's manifesto to students in the school's library.
Students have reported a disturbing sense of unease and fear on campus, and over the last two weeks, there have been at least 12 separate alleged "racist incidents." Many students, especially students of color, say they are scared to go to class or be on campus.
Here's a breakdown of what's going on, what the administration is doing, and how the students are mobilizing to combat it themselves.
What happened and when did it start?
The first reported incident occurred on November 7 in Day Hall, a freshman dormitory, where people graffitied racist and bigoted slurs targeting black and Asian people on the walls. Since then, there have been multiple reports of racist graffiti in the physics building and several dorms, and anti-Semitic graffiti and a swastika were found drawn in a snowbank.
On November 16, a student walking home was screamed at by a group of fourteen people, who yelled racist insults at her, according to Syracuse's Department of Public Safety. As of Thursday, CNN reports that four Syracuse students who were part of the verbal attack were suspended. (The other 10 people were students from other schools. CNN says their schools have been notified, but it's unclear what punishment, if any, they've faced.)
On November 18, a white supremacy manifesto was published to the Syracuse University page of Greekrank.com. It was the same manifesto used by the gunman in the Christchurch New Zealand shooting. The Greekrank post got 40 likes before it was taken down, but the manifesto was also allegedly AirDropped to students in Bird Library that same night.
As of this week, the FBI has joined the investigation into the racism at the school.
How are students responding?
Jane Ciminera, 20, a student at Syracuse University, told Cosmopolitan that there's been a lack of communication between the administration and the student body over the manifesto. “Before they said anything to students, they literally talked to Channel 9 News and told them they were investigating an active shooter, but didn’t say anything to the student body, so that was terrifying," she said.
This just in: The Department of Public Safety at Syracuse University tells NewsChannel 9 that they are actively investigating a white-supremacist manifesto post made on an online Greek life discussion board last night.— NewsChannel 9 (@NewsChannel9) November 19, 2019
Students say they have been receiving most of their information via social media, student organizations, and publications rather than from administration. #NotAgainSU, a student-led movement on campus, also organized a sit-in and sleep-in at the gym on campus. The sit-in has lasted 8 days.
What exactly is "#NotAgainSU"?
In light of the recent graffiti and manifesto surfacing, students have mobilized around the hashtag #NotAgainSU.
People started saying "not again” because this isn't the first time Syracuse has dealt with verbal racist attacks. Back in 2018, a video was released by The Daily Orange of Theta Tau fraternity members using racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, and ableist slurs. Theta Tau was expelled from campus along with some of its members.
Feryal Nawaz is part of the PR committee at #NotAgainSU and spoke to Cosmo about what's happening more recently. “As a person of color, my friends and I are all really just in a state of shock. It almost feels like Syracuse University will never be the same after this, as we know it. I feel disheartened and saddened by the lack of care and proactiveness from administration.”
The organizers of #NotAgainSU created a Google Doc with issues they want addressed by the Syracuse administration. One example is the expulsion of any and all perpetrators involved.
How is Syracuse responding and have they said anything about #NotAgainSU?
As of Thursday, the university has suspended the four people who verbally assaulted the Syracuse student walking home. Chancellor Kent Syverud said the reports of the white supremacist material being AirDropped to students is "probably a hoax."
"To date, law enforcement has not been able to locate a single individual who directly received an AirDrop. Not one," Syverud said. "It was apparent that this rumor was probably a hoax, but that reality was not communicated clearly and rapidly enough to get ahead of escalating anxiety."
Some students disagree with the hoax theory. Syracuse student Noel Ben Salem told Cosmo that she was in Bird Library when people were receiving the AirDrop. "I personally did not get AirDropped the manifesto, but there were people next to me in the library that said to me that they were AirDropped it," she said.
After Bel Salem left the library, she told Cosmo that she was flashed outside the library in Walnut Park by a white man. "He was completely naked, no shirt, no underwear, nothing." says Bel Salem. "He looked like a Syracuse student. He was white, really skinny, and he had brown curly hair and more one the young side in his early 20s."
Prior to November 20, students said there hadn't been much direct response from the school or the school's Department of Public Safety (DPS). Syverud addressed the issues via email on Tuesday, about 12 hours after the first alleged manifesto incident. In an email, he listed how the school will take action moving forward, including offering "additional resources" to students.
Chancellor Syverud then hosted a forum for students on November 20 to address student concerns. He reportedly wrote a "revised" list of demands to sign, but in response, students participated in a "walk out" and marched to the chancellor's house shouting, "sign or resign."
On November 21, the chancellor sent out an email to Syracuse students sharing that he has indeed signed and agreed to 16 out of the 19 demands from the students.
Here is Syracuse's latest statement, sent to Cosmopolitan:
Dear Members of the Syracuse University Community:
In response to real concerns raised by members of our community, the leadership team and I have worked in good faith—to support the thoughtful, forward-thinking and constructive solutions offered by many of our students.
That is why, a short time ago, after meeting with small groups of students, I signed the recommendations presented by international students and the students peacefully protesting. Of the 19 recommendations made by student protestors, I have agreed to 16 as written; I have suggested minor revisions to the other three for them to consider. These revisions are required to comply with law or because of the need for Board of Trustees approval. Later this morning, I will meet with Jewish students, and I am confident we will make good progress together.
Implementing these recommendations is the right thing to do. They will make our community stronger.
Chancellor Kent Syverud
Syracuse University has also canceled all social activities for fraternities and sororities for the rest of the semester
Before this happened, DPS initially released a statement via email that there was “no direct threat” to students and classes were still on.
Students claim DPS allegedly initially removed flyers in support of #NotAgainSU from dorms and discouraged students from posting images of the graffiti on social media.
“After the first Day Hall incident there were officers telling students living in the building to not take photos, to not post anything, just to, from a certain standpoint, cover themselves.” added Jane Ciminera.
Whiteness sees a white supremacist manifesto and sees “no direct threat.” #NotAgainSU— Biko Mandela Gray (@BikoMandelaGray) November 19, 2019
Didn't reports say this was all a fraternity-specific issue?
According to the students, that's not exactly true. Despite reports that these events were specific to Greek life, students have been very vocal in claiming this is not a Greek life issue, but a student body issue.
“I would just urge national media, I know this story is getting a lot of attention, to pay attention to things other than Greek life. Yes, that is a huge part of where these racial incidents occur, but this is happening in dormitories, this is happening in the physics building, this is happening everywhere," said Chandler Plante, the executive web director of Jerk Magazine, a student-run publication. "This is so much broader than what coverage is making it seen and we really need to acknowledge that.”
"It is at the institution level, it’s not just Greek life." says Sam Berlin, the editor-in-chief of Jerk Magazine. "I’m not supporting the actions of Greek life but I definitely think that the chancellor is using Greek life as a scape goat by suspending all Greek life activities. I think he is using that to save face when it’s really so much deeper than that."
What happens now?
Syracuse classes are still on, though absences are excused and students say many professors have canceled their lectures. Additionally, many students have left campus early before fall break begins on November 23.
“If you think about it, by not canceling class but saying 'if anyone doesn’t feel safe you don’t have to come,' of course the white people are going to feel safer than the people of color going to class” Berlin told Cosmo. “My classes have just been the white kids. It’s not equal opportunity if half the kids can’t go to class.”
Others have begun to weigh in.
Governor Cuomo said that "despite his efforts," Syracuse's chancellor has not handled the matter "in a way that instills confidence." Cuomo has ordered an instillation of a monitor to investigate the crimes.
The recent hateful acts at @SyracuseU are disturbing, not only to the campus community, but to all NYers.— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) November 19, 2019
I'm calling on the Board of Trustees to immediately bring in a monitor to investigate this surge of hate crimes.
This bigotry must be handled strongly, swiftly, and justly. pic.twitter.com/beROds1ViN
The Syracuse University basketball team wore #NotAgainSU shirts on TV on November 20 to show their support.
Joe Biden, a Syracuse University Law School alum, said he is "deeply disturbed" by the incidents occurring on campus.
I am deeply disturbed by the news coming out of my law school alma mater, Syracuse University. We are truly in a battle for the soul of this nation, and it requires all of us to stand up together as a country against racism and bigotry. We must give hate no safe harbor. https://t.co/m6BNczblXY— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 20, 2019
Gabrielle Union has also weighed in.
This is terrifying and not getting nearly enough attention. Absolutely terrifying!! These students are being terrorized and their safety is clearly not a priority https://t.co/rhbo4WBMWY— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) November 19, 2019
Where can I get more info?
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