Less than two weeks ago, racist and anti-Semitic activities — including graffiti, swastikas, hate speech, and an airdropped manifesto — have been sweeping across Syracuse University, leaving students, faculty, and even federal agents clamoring to find out who is behind the attacks, and why, the New York Times reported.
There have been at least a dozen racist incidents reported in November alone on or close to campus, according to the timeline laid out by the Daily Orange, Syracuse University’s student paper. The incidents included racist attacks targeting Black and Asian students in particular; one student said she was called the n-word by a group of people on Sunday (November 16). A fraternity was later suspended in connection to the incident; per the Daily Orange, it was most likely the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity, which has since denied its members’ involvement in that or any other hate crime.
In response to the attacks, students began conducting sit-ins, boycotts, and protests, and also made clear their concerns to the school’s administration; On Tuesday (November 19), Chancellor Kent Svyerud responded to to those demands in a chart obtained by MTV News.
On Sunday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo directed state agencies to investigate the racist hate speech, according to Syracuse.com.
“I’m disgusted by the recent rash of hateful language found scrawled on the walls at Syracuse University, where students from around the world are drawn each year in the pursuit of higher learning,” Cuomo said in a news release on Monday (November 18). “These types of hateful and bigoted actions seek to splinter and segregate our communities, and they have no place in New York — period.”
On Tuesday, federal authorities descended upon the campus, searching for whomever spread a racist manifesto on Monday (November 18). The manifesto, an anti-Muslim essay circulated by the person accused of murdering worshippers at two New Zealand mosques in March, was posted online late Monday night to a Greek life forum. Then, it was airdropped to students inside a school library.
The University has suspended all social activities at fraternities, but most activists and students say that just isn’t enough. Students began protesting the university’s response — they were scared, the hallways were empty, and there was a feeling of panic among students and faculty alike, Chandler Plante, a third-year magazine journalism major told the Times. “We can’t sleep. We can’t think.”
The incidents “have not been handled in a manner that reflects this state’s aggressive opposition to such odious, reckless, reprehensible behavior,” Cuomo said on Tuesday (November 19) according to the Times. “That these actions should happen on the campus of a leading New York university makes this situation even worse.”
The faculty and staff of the political science department at SU released a statement condemning the attacks and said it creates “an atmosphere that is hostile to our students, staff, and faculty, especially those from vulnerable groups.” They called upon the university administration to build “processes and institutions” to help create a safer campus environment. “We also call upon all members of the Syracuse community to fight racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism,” they added.
A student tweeted out an email from her professor saying that they urged the administration to accede to #NOTAGAINSU’s requests and encouraged all of their students to boycott classes in which the attendance is still being enforced, “in solidarity with those who cannot attend.”
#NOTAGAINSU’s demands include expelling the people involved in hate speech, and pushing for more systematic changes on campus, like diversifying the faculty and reforming the curriculum to educate students on racism. While the university has not responded to these demands, the protestors raised more than $20,000 through a GoFundMe campaign for food and pillows.
The hate crimes at Syracuse also come at a time when such incidents are increasing nationally. In 2018, the FBI reported a rise in reported hate crimes on college campuses as well as a rise in the U.S. broadly. In 2017, Rutgers University in New Jersey reported 25 hate crimes on campus; the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor reported 15. The Anti-Defamation League also found that the presence of white supremacist propaganda on college campuses is on the rise. And the number of hate groups currently active in the U.S. is at a two-decade high, the Southern Poverty Law Center found in February.