The Syracuse University Department of Public Safety announced Tuesday the agency had doubled patrols, stationed police vehicles throughout campus and increased walking patrols at all dorms and campus buildings. The safety department has been working with the Syracuse Police Department, New York State Police and FBI to investigate the document “purported to be a white supremacist manifesto” and determine its origin, the campus police said.
Thus far, campus safety officials wrote, “there is no appearance of a direct threat.”
Public Safety Department officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the contents of the document Tuesday afternoon. A Syracuse Police Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The department announced earlier it had received multiple reports of the manifesto appearing on students’ phones while they were at a campus library and posted on an online forum. The campus newspaper, the Daily Orange, reported that the 74-page document included anti-immigrant rhetoric and neo-Nazi symbols.
It was the latest troubling incident at the Upstate New York campus. In the past two weeks, 11 hate crimes targeting black, Asian and Jewish people have been reported, according to the Daily Orange. Student protesters have staged a sit-in for days, demanding the university do more in response.
On social media, people expressed fear about being on campus. Some professors announced they did not hold classes Tuesday; one professor wrote that he was thinking about evacuation routes and escape plans.
Biko Mandela Gray, an assistant professor of religion at Syracuse, canceled his classes Tuesday. “Students are scared,” he said.
He said he found the chancellor’s response substantive. But he objected to the determination that the manifesto did not pose a threat to campus. “We don’t know that,” he said, and law enforcement must investigate.
The incidents don’t come in a vacuum, Gray said, but in a certain political and cultural context.
“This is American,” Gray said. “It is unpleasant, it is unethical, it is evil. It is also distinctly American.” He compared it to the anonymous actions of the Ku Klux Klan that instilled fear. “We have to take it seriously.”
A university official confirmed that some faculty and instructors were canceling classes, but other classes are being held.
Chancellor Kent Syverud said in a statement to campus Tuesday that after the “deeply troubling” incidents, the university was immediately committing extensive resources to combat the issues, including more than $1 million in curriculum development over the next year.
Most urgent, he wrote, would be significant increases in security.
Syverud said he and other administrators have met with student groups that have concerns, including international students and the #NotAgainSU protesters who have been occupying a recreational complex for nearly a week calling for changes to academics and culture to improve equity on campus.
Syverud said administrators would make changes. They include clarifying the code of conduct to ensure students understand the consequences of bias incidents, deciding about a class for incoming students on diversity, ensuring buildings are welcoming to all students, and hiring additional staff in areas of concern.
“One clear conclusion from discussions over the past days,” Syverud wrote, “is the need for better communications and transparency about programs, resources and other efforts that are already in place or underway.”
The university has planned a forum for Wednesday evening on safety and student concerns, he wrote.
In his statement to university trustees, Cuomo said Syverud had not handled the situation “in a way that instills confidence.”
“The hateful activities at Syracuse University are most disturbing,” Cuomo wrote. ” … They have not been handled in a manner that reflects this state’s aggressive opposition to such odious, reckless, reprehensible behavior."
On Tuesday evening, Kathleen A. Walters, chairwoman of the university’s board of trustees, said in a written statement that the board stands behind the chancellor.
“This is a deeply painful and unsettling time for our students and our whole Orange community,” Walters wrote. “We have been attacked — from inside our home and from the outside world. While it’s easy to spread words of hatred, Chancellor Syverud has been relentlessly focused on the safety of our community, and the well-being of our students, driving action and effecting real change on our campus.”
That was demonstrated, she wrote, by the action plan he delivered to campus Tuesday with “real timelines … real resources and real accountability. That’s what our students are asking for, that’s what our students deserve.”