Students gathered to advocate for policy reform at Syracuse University.

Courtesy of George Kilpatrick

Students gathered to advocate for policy reform at Syracuse University.

November 22, 2019

Syracuse Students Say #NotAgainSU Amidst Slew of Incendiary Discriminatory Incidents

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#NotAgainSU sat proudly on the backs and chests of some Syracuse basketball players as they warmed up for their game against Cornell University.

At the same time as the game progressed, students in Syracuse were marching to a forum to protest the torrent of injustice that has plagued Syracuse University in the past few weeks.

This recent spate of racist and discriminatory events began on Nov. 7, when students found a series of racial epithets targeting black and Asian people plastered on the mirrors, lights, garbage cans and a bulletin board of the residence hall.

Later, a racial epithet was leveled against an Asian woman, a group of 14 individuals associated with the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity verbally assaulted and accosted a black female student, and a professor received an anonymous email telling her to “get in the oven where you belong.”

A white supremacy manifesto was reportedly AirDropped Monday night which, although widely reported by national media, has been deemed a “hoax” by Kent Syverud, the University chancellor.

“To date, law enforcement has not been able to locate a single individual who directly received an AirDrop. Not one,” Syverud said, according to CNN. “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.”

Such incidents are only a few of the 12 incidents that have resulted on campus since then — prompting droves of students to leave SU for home because of how unsafe they have felt on campus in the spur of the events, The Daily Orange, SU’s student newspaper reported.

“Nobody wants to have to look over their own back on their own campus and not feel safe,” said Kai Morris, a sophomore at SU told The Sun.

As a result of this series of incidents, Syracuse University suspended Theta Tau fraternity for directing racist hate speech against African-Americans and Jewish people. On Sunday, SU also cancelled all of the fraternity social events for the remainder of the semester, following the trend of recent fraternity activities being suspended nationwide, including at Cornell University.

These actions taken by the administration, however, were not enough to pacify neither the students or New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), who criticized Syracuse’s response and called for an investigation into the matter. Federal law enforcement is now investigating who sent the white supremacist manifesto.

Amidst the escalating discriminatory incidents, #NotAgainSU, a student-led movement has emerged as the backbone of student solidarity, released a list of demands for Syverud, the University chancellor to respond to. These demands include holding those involved in the hate crimes accountable for their actions and calls to hire more counselors to represent marginalized members of the community.

At the forum, Syverud said he could not agree to all of the demands word-by-word without consulting other University officials. However, a day later, he announced in a campus-wide Thursday morning that he agreed to 16 of them as written, and suggested rewording the remaining three due to the need for Board of Trustees approval, the Daily Orange reported.

These signed demands, however, were not approved by the #NotAgainSU student movement, according to a livestreamed video on their Instagram account, where they said that the administration has made edits to the demands without consulting the student activists.

“This movement is years in the making and we are here for the long haul,” #NotAgainSU said.

As of now, one student by the name of Kym McGowan has been charged with criminal mischief and making graffiti in support of the student-led protests taking root on SU’s campus.

“I feel like there are bigger concerns than what I did.  With all of these cases of racism and these escalating acts of violence — basically hate crimes — my acts of small vandalism, I feel, was a statement and not the statements they should be focusing on,” McGowan told The Daily Orange.