Syracuse University is suspending all social activities for fraternities following reports that fraternity members yelled a racial slur at an African American student at a campus bus stop Saturday night, administrators said. The event is the latest in a string of racist incidents that have prompted concern from students and demands for accountability.
School Chancellor Kent Syverud said in an email notice Sunday that university police had identified the suspects in Saturday’s incident through surveillance video, eyewitness accounts and interviews. He pledged they would be held “appropriately accountable.” Campus police said the African American student reported being “verbally harassed by a large group of individuals” and said they shouted the n-word at her as she walked by. Syverud said the suspects were determined to be members of a campus fraternity that was later suspended pending investigation. He called Saturday’s report an “affront” to the safety and well-being of the university’s students and community.
“While only one fraternity may have been involved in this particular incident, given recent history, all fraternities must come together with the University community to reflect upon how to prevent recurrence of such seriously troubling behavior,” Syverud wrote.
The university’s response comes amid outcry against a spate of racial bias incidents that have occurred on campus since early November. The other incidents are not linked to fraternities, and no suspects have been identified. Saturday’s episode was the sixth report of a bias incident on campus in 48 hours, according to alerts by campus police.
Since Wednesday, students have occupied the Barnes Center, a campus hub, to demand action by the university. The protest was prompted by the discovery of racist graffiti in a residence hall. Those incidents, first reported by the Daily Orange, the student paper, include anti-Asian language and anti-black slurs written in a bathroom. University officials did not issue a response to the graffiti until the student paper publicized the incident in a report last week. Campus police followed with an alert several days later.
Student activists have given administrators a Wednesday deadline to respond to a list of demands that include calls for greater speed and transparency in the university’s response to bias incidents and more financial and institutional support for students of color at the school.
On Friday, Syverud met with student activists and promised further responses to their demands, according to Renegade Magazine, Syracuse’s black general interest magazine.
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Chancellor Kent Syverud spoke with students of the #notagainsu movement on Friday. He read through their final list of demands and verbally committed to implementing some key policy changes. Students were later given the opportunity to express their own concerns to the Chancellor. Swipe left to see clips from the forum. For more information, follow @notagain.su
The bias incidents on campus have drawn attention from state and local lawmakers since the first reports surfaced. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) ordered a state police hate crimes task force to investigate after reports of the graffiti, while state Sen. Rachel May (D) and Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli (D) visited the sit-in on Saturday.
In Sunday’s email, Syverud said “a generous university donor” has provided a monetary reward for evidence leading to suspects in the earlier incidents of racist vandalism.