In two consecutive announcements Thursday, the school’s department of public safety announced the discovery of vandalism and graffiti disparaging members of the Asian community: In a bathroom stall in the university’s physics building on Wednesday night, and on the third floor of the Day Hall residential building at an unspecified time Thursday.
That same day, a swastika was also found drawn in the snow just off campus near a luxury apartment building where students live, Syracuse.com reported. Mayor Ben Walsh called the incident “vile and appalling” and confirmed that the Syracuse Police Department was investigating.
These disturbing reports have become all too familiar to the Syracuse University community.
The vandalism began to appear on Nov. 6, according to the Daily Orange student newspaper, which first reported the incidents. Hateful language aimed at members of the Asian community was found written on a fourth-floor bulletin board at the Day Hall residential building, and a sixth-floor bathroom was defaced with a slur targeting black people, according to the paper.
Campus police and university officials did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s requests for comment.
It wasn’t until the Daily Orange reported on those incidents at Day Hall on Monday that the issue broke out into the open. University officials rushed to respond to reports of the ongoing vandalism as students demanded accountability from their administrators, claiming the school had not kept them informed about the incidents or attempts to remedy them.
Many students have adopted the hashtag #NotAgainSU, and several groups circulated a list of demands for faculty that included the dismissal of whoever was found responsible for the graffiti, an annual meeting with the Board of Trustees, and an increase in resources for marginalized communities.
At a Thursday night forum for Asian students held at the Center for International Services, officials including Department of Public Safety chief Bobby Maldonado faced questions from attendees about their progress in the investigation, the Daily Orange reported. After the forum, several Chinese student organizations submitted a letter to Chancellor Kent Syverud, expressing dismay that they faced such discrimination in the United States. “We are minorities, and we are deeply concerned about whether racist incidents can be controlled appropriately and whether such events will frequently occur on campus,” they wrote.
Renegade Magazine, the university’s general interest publication and platform for black students, posted on Instagram that school officials had asked students not to spread photos or videos of last week’s incident. “We can’t let them cover this up,” they posted, along with a photo that claimed to show some of the racist graffiti found in the sixth-floor bathroom of Day Hall.
On Wednesday, Renegade magazine posted the hashtag #NotAgainSU and wrote, “We want changes NOW. This campus is not a safe and inclusive space. No more broken promises, we need REAL solutions."
“It’s clear that the members of the leadership team should have communicated more swiftly and broadly,” Syverud wrote in a letter to faculty and students on Monday. “I am disappointed that didn’t happen in this case. While I appreciate the personalized and immediate care our leaders provided to Day Hall residents directly impacted by this incident, repercussions are far-reaching and are a concern to us all.”
Syverud wrote that campus police had received their first report of the vandalism at Day Hall on Nov. 7 and have followed “several leads” though the investigation remains ongoing. In addition, he wrote, school officials had “met multiple times with students directly impacted,” including a meeting at Day Hall first reported by the Daily Orange and another conversation that occurred at a student organization meeting. The school’s Residence Hall Association held a forum on Tuesday, as well.
On Wednesday, students held a sit-in at a campus gymnasium, Syracuse.com reported, and handed a list of demands to Syverud during a brief appearance. Maldonado of the department of public safety also arrived to meet with the protesters.
Senior TJ Kamanda told Syracuse.com that a majority of the student protesters were people of color, who had come to protest what they saw as the university’s long-running failure to prevent hate crimes on campus.
“Imagine me walking around to school, going to my classes, and there’s somebody out there in the crowd that really hates who I am just because of the way I look. That’s very emotional for me,” Kamanda said. “I don’t feel comfortable because of these situations. So that’s why we’re all gathered here, to try and see if any administrator with a chance that can do something about it, so we can move forward.”
In response to the spate of hate crimes, Cuomo has ordered the New York State Police Hate Crimes Task Force and the state Division of Human Rights on Monday to look into the vandalism.
“This abhorrent language is part of the growing cancer of hate and anger that is spreading across our country, and at this divisive time in our history New York must be different,” he said in a Thursday statement. “When you attack one of us, you attack us all — and we will continue to stand up and condemn hate whenever it rears its ugly head.”