Frat functions on hold as reports of racism shake Syracuse U

November 18, 2019 GMT

A student sit-in entered its sixth day Monday, fraternity events were suspended and as much as $50,000 in reward money was offered following reports of racist episodes at Syracuse University.

Students in recent weeks have reported shouted slurs, vandalism and graffiti targeting Jews, Asians and black students.

Chancellor Kent Syverud suspended one fraternity Sunday along with social events for the others after the latest report the night before.

An African American student filed a complaint saying she was verbally harassed as she walked by a group of people identified by investigators as members and guests of the suspended fraternity.


“It is the collective responsibility of our fraternities and our whole university to reflect on how to prevent this very troubling behavior in the future,” Syverud said in a video message.

The slurs followed several unsolved discoveries of graffiti and vandalism beginning in early November, when ceiling lights were pulled out and put in a toilet in a residence hall bathroom scrawled with racist slurs. Another slur was written on a bulletin board two floors down, according to The Daily Orange, the independent campus newspaper.

Since then, the Public Safety Department has received reports including swastikas in a snowbank and a second residence hall and racist graffiti in the physics building.

Chief Bobby Maldonado on Sunday announced 16-hour shifts for campus police officers and increased patrols, as well as $50,000 in rewards for information about those responsible.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force and Division of Human Rights to help in the investigation and prosecution.

The Student African-American Society, meanwhile, has led a protest at the campus wellness center since Nov. 13 to demand stronger diversity programming for students and staff and the expulsion of any students involved with the racist graffiti.

The private central New York school enrolls nearly 23,000 students, of which about 8% are Hispanic or Latino, 7% are black and 6% are Asian, according to the university website. More than half of students are white.

An online fundraising campaign to sustain the protest was drawing support from Syracuse alumni, some of whom wrote in comments that they were ashamed of what was happening.

“We are demanding direct action by the administration to live up to the promise Syracuse University gives to make the campus an inclusive living environment for all students,” the campaign’s organizers wrote.


The incoming interim vice chancellor and provost, John Liu, thanked students for their involvement and said he is working to create plans to address their concerns. He urged faculty members to get involved.

“Our response is taking time because we want to get this right, because we must get this right,” he said in a statement.

Last year, Syracuse University permanently expelled a fraternity and took disciplinary action against several members after videos emerged showing the men laughing and taking part in performances punctuated by racist language against blacks, Jews and Hispanics and simulating the sexual assault of a disabled person.

Syverud at the time called the video “racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, ableist and sexist,” while some students contended it illustrated larger issues of racism and sexism at the university.