Syracuse University has placed more than 30 students on interim suspension after they began occupying its main administrative building in a protest of on-campus bias incidents over the past several months.
The demonstrators, led by a group of Black students who call their group #NotAgainSU, entered the school’s Crouse-Hinds Hall Monday night (February 17) and refused to leave after the building closed. The site is the location of the offices of Chancellor Kent Syverud and where other administration officials are located.
They were reacting to the university’s response to more than two dozen racist and anti-Semetic occurrences that took place at Syracuse since November, according to the school’s student newspaper The Daily Orange. They are also calling for the resignation of four top SU officials.
In a statement released prior to the protest, #NotAgainSU again called for the resignations of Syverud, Dolan Evanovich, Senior Vice President for Enrollment and the Student Experience, Department of Public Safety Chief Bobby Maldonado, and Associate DPS Chief John Sardino.
"This building houses the enrollment, admissions, and administration offices, which are directly responsible for the systemic problems we gather here to protest," the group’s statement, which they posted on Twitter, read.
In November, #NotAgainSU occupied the Barnes Center on campus for more than a week after racist and anti-Semitic graffiti appeared in several locations on campus. They claim that officials from the university were slow to respond and did not alert students in a timely fashion.
That same month, a white supremacist manifesto that was apparently a copy of the one used by the man who attacked two New Zealand mosques, killing 51 people, was circulated electronically around the university, according to the Associated Press. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for the school’s board of trustees to begin an independent investigation of that and other racial incidents. But also indicated that he had lost faith in Syverud’s handling of the situation.
“Despite his efforts, I do not believe Chancellor Syverud has handled this matter in a way that instills confidence,” said Cuomo.
#NotAgainSU presented Syverud with a list of demands in November with Syverud agreeing to most of them. In December, students present officials with resignation letters for lack of action.
"Syracuse University administration's handling of these crimes has been insensitive, lackadaisical, and an embarrassment. As student protesters, we have repeatedly been told to accept injustice, as it is reflective of 'the real world,'" the statement reads. "In order for systematic change to occur at Syracuse University, they need to be removed immediately."
The school maintains that it has made major efforts toward addressing on campus racial issues including the creation of a Special Committee on University Climate, Diversity and Inclusion that has held more than 20 “dialogue sessions” between students, faculty and staff.
"[Monday], a group of our students began a peaceful demonstration in Crouse-Hinds Hall. For more than nine hours, several University leaders, the two of us included, worked to engage these students in a productive and respectful manner, says a statement issued by Keith A. Alford, Syracuse’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Rob Hradsky, the school’s Vice President for the Student Experience. “However, a continued unwillingness by some to engage constructively, along with changing demands, challenge our collective forward progress.”
The statement says the students were welcome to demonstrate during the 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. hours of operation, and invited to continue overnight at the nearby Bird Library, which is open 24 hours, but declined. Those who did not leave were referred to the administration for violation of the school’s campus disruption policy. No students, the school says, were suspended for protesting.
“Though we continue to support peaceful demonstration and the free and respectful exchange of ideas, at this time, we must enforce established policies that help maintain an environment that fosters sensitivity, understanding and respect for all 22,000 students in our community, as well as our faculty, staff and visitors.”
The demonstrators have remained defiant and are encouraging more people to join them in their protest.
According to WRVO, #NotAgainSU has set a Friday, February 21 deadline for the officials to resign. “Or escalated action will take place.” Exactly what that action would be is unclear.