[Marxism] Racist and Anti-Semitic Incidents Are Roiling Syracuse U. Now the Governor Is Stepping In.
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Wed Nov 20 07:16:59 MST 2019
Chronicle of Higher Education
Racist and Anti-Semitic Incidents Are Roiling Syracuse U. Now the
Governor Is Stepping In.
By Sarah Brown NOVEMBER 19, 2019 PREMIUM
Syracuse University has been convulsed by a wave of racist and
anti-Semitic incidents over the past two weeks, leading many students to
fear for their safety, prompting some professors to cancel class, and
touching off investigations by several law-enforcement agencies,
including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The incidents have also put Kent D. Syverud, the university’s
chancellor, under fire. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, issued a
statement on Tuesday saying Syverud’s response to the incidents had been
inadequate: “Despite his efforts, I do not believe Chancellor Syverud
has handled this matter in a way that instills confidence.”
Governor Cuomo called on Syracuse’s Board of Trustees to bring in an
“experienced monitor with the relevant expertise to effectively
investigate these incidents.”
Starting November 7, campus police officers received several reports of
racist graffiti and hate speech targeting members of the Asian, African
American, and Jewish communities. They were followed by a racist slur,
allegedly yelled at a black student by a group of people that included
And then came a white-supremacist manifesto, which law-enforcement
officials say appears to be the one written by the shooter charged with
killing 51 people at two New Zealand mosques in March. The document was
posted in an online discussion forum and allegedly sent via AirDrop to
several Syracuse students’ cellphones in a campus library, according to
the university’s public-safety department.
Four agencies are working together on the investigations: the campus
police, local police, and state police; and the F.B.I. Law-enforcement
officials said during a news conference on Tuesday that they were
investigating “between eight to 10 incidents,” at Syracuse, though some
students have counted at least 11 of them.
Kenton Buckner, chief of Syracuse’s local police department, said he
first learned that the white-supremacist manifesto had been shared
online just before midnight on Monday. Students have reported that the
document was sent via AirDrop to several students in the library at
around 1 a.m. on Tuesday.
The hate speech doesn’t appear to be abating. A professor told The
Chronicle that she received an anonymous email at her syracuse.edu
address on Tuesday that targeted her religious background.
Solidarity From Governor Cuomo
Syverud, Syracuse’s chancellor since 2014, has sent several messages to
the campus over the past few days. In one, he promised to overhaul the
university’s procedures for handling bias incidents and ensuring that
affected students are supported.
Leadership Insights: Managing a Crisis
In another, he said the university had canceled all Greek-life events
for the rest of the semester after learning that fraternity members had
been involved in allegedly shouting the racist slur at the black
student. He also said he’d suspended the fraternity in question.
But student activists say Syverud’s responses have been delayed, and his
tone hasn’t been compassionate enough.
From their perspective, it’s not the first time the chancellor has
failed to lead. Students staged a week-long protest in 2014 over
Syverud’s decision to close a campus advocacy center and to cut funding
for a scholarship program for underprivileged students, among other
things. And when a racist video surfaced involving the university’s
Theta Tau fraternity chapter, some students weren’t happy with his
response. (Syverud eventually expelled Theta Tau from campus permanently.)
About 1,600 people have signed an online petition calling for Syverud’s
Governor Cuomo echoed students’ concerns in his statement on Tuesday:
“As we have learned repeatedly, these increasing exhibitions of hate and
bigotry must be handled strongly, swiftly, and justly. That must be both
the reality and the perception. Syracuse University and its leadership
have failed to do that.”
Some faculty members have also expressed solidarity with the students:
“As faculty of color who have some shared understanding of the students’
experiences, we feel that the university’s response has been inadequate.”
Jenn M. Jackson, an assistant professor of political science, said she’d
like to see top administrators talk about the recent racism as a
systemic cultural problem, “rather than in the language of events and
incidents,” she said. The larger issue, she said, is that students from
marginalized groups have long experienced hate at Syracuse, as well as
at other predominantly white institutions.
Dozens of students have been holding a sit-in in the Barnes Center, a
campus recreation complex, for the past week, demanding that university
leaders expel any students involved with the racist incidents, among
other things. They have also organized a social-media campaign, #NotAgainSU.
On Tuesday, university leaders issued a response to students’ demands,
promising to make changes in the student code of conduct by August 2020
that would “make even more clear the serious consequences for hate
speech.” Administrators also agreed to make changes in a newly required
diversity-and-inclusion course, based on how it's gone, and to issue
statements about future racist incidents within 48 hours.
Syverud visited the students’ sit-in on Tuesday and delivered brief
remarks. He said he was eager to continue to work with them. “I think
we’re in a key moment at this university,” he said. He added: “I
appreciate what I think has been extraordinarily constructive work by
this group and also patient and peaceful work under circumstances of
Syverud acknowledged in his first campus email, on November 12, that his
office hadn’t communicated with students quickly enough when the first
racist graffiti appeared this month.
But law-enforcement officials said on Tuesday that they didn't agree
with the criticism of Syverud. "I think it's unfair to put this on the
chancellor's shoulders," said Buckner, the local police chief. Bobby
Maldonado, chief of the campus public-safety department, agreed: “I
couldn’t say enough about the chancellor’s leadership. He has been
working feverishly and tirelessly for the last 13 days.”
Maldonado said he understood why students felt frustrated that there
wasn’t more information available about who committed the acts. As the
investigations continue, he said, officials will keep students and
others on the campus informed.
Law-enforcement officials emphasized numerous times on Tuesday that, for
the time being, there was no known direct threat to the Syracuse campus.
“Our students are safe,” Maldonado said. “We believe our campus is
safe.” Those statements haven’t calmed many students’ anxieties.
Syracuse didn’t officially cancel classes after the white-supremacist
manifesto appeared and shook the campus on Tuesday, but many professors
chose to do so on their own. Jackson, the political-science professor,
was among them.
Jackson told The Chronicle that she emailed her students first thing on
Tuesday, once she saw the news about the manifesto, and said she would
hold a Blackboard discussion instead of an in-person session. Several of
her colleagues in the political-science department also canceled class.
Jackson knows of other professors who planned to hold class as usual but
wouldn’t penalize students who didn’t attend.
Syracuse will close next week for Thanksgiving, Jackson said, so
canceling class this week gives students an opportunity to head home early.
Moreover, she said, it’s “inconsiderate” for professors to expect
students to come to campus, given that people from specific racial,
ethnic, and religious groups have been targeted in the incidents. By
canceling class, Syracuse’s faculty members are showing that they
genuinely care for students’ health and well-being, Jackson said.
Genevieve García de Müeller, an assistant professor of writing and
rhetoric and director of Writing Across the Curriculum, also canceled
class early on Tuesday. Not long after that, she received this anonymous
Just got this at my work email. Police are involved. #NotAgainSU I am
being directly targeted. I’m not afraid to stand up for what I believe.
Threats won’t stop me.
View image on Twitter
11:57 AM - Nov 19, 2019
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84 people are talking about this
García de Müeller, who is Mexican and Jewish, immediately called the
campus and local police. They took her statement, she said, and said
they would fold her report into their broader investigation of hate
incidents. They also told her that others on campus have received
similar hateful emails.
She doesn’t have an obvious Jewish name. Yet the person knew her
identity. “I do feel like it was a very personal and targeted attack
against me,” she said. “Somebody knew me and sought me out and sent me
García de Müeller said her department has been supportive. But she
doesn’t feel that university leaders are doing enough to ensure her
safety, as well as the safety of her students. No one from the
administration has reached out to her since she received the email, she
“There’s this narrative that the administration is pushing that these
attacks are not specifically targeting people,” she said. Her experience
shows that’s not true. “I really do think that the administration needs
to admit that these are direct attacks.”
She added that she’d continue to hold her classes online. “I’m not going
to go to campus for the rest of the week,” she said, “until I know for
sure that it’s safe for me to go.”
Sarah Brown writes about a range of higher-education topics, including
sexual assault, race on campus, and Greek life. Follow her on Twitter
@Brown_e_Points, or email her at sarah.brown at chronicle.com.
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