Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch will lead an investigation into Syracuse University's police department after student complaints and protests, the school announced Monday.
Lynch, who ran the Justice Department in the Obama administration for two years, will " lead an independent, expedited review of our Department of Public Safety (DPS)," Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syverud said.
Syracuse, a private university in upstate New York with around 15,000 undergraduates, has been rocked by a series of racist incidents followed by student protest. #NotAgainSU, a self-described black-led movement of student activists, took over a Syracuse University administration building last week, demanding a more equitable campus.
Among their demands is a call to disarm the campus police, who they believe mistreated students and responded to their sit-in with disproportionate force.
"I believe this review is necessary given that concerns have been raised through several channels about how DPS engages with our community and how it has managed various interactions with students, including protestors," Syverud wrote.
The school's chief of public safety Bobby Maldonado said his department would embrace the review.
"I welcome the review directed by the Chancellor and look forward to reviewing any suggestions that improve our department and enhance the safety and security of the Syracuse University community," Maldonado said in a statement released on Twitter.
A student activist with #NotAgainSU, who requested anonymity out of fear of retribution and uses they/them pronouns, criticized the school's decision, saying it was done without consulting student activists and seems to be a way to mask the larger problem.
"We have demands, we make it very clear," the student said. "The university knows exactly what we want and they act like they don't know what's happening."
The student described the decision to have Lynch investigate as "frustrating" and "really expensive," and said they feel like the money paying for the investigation would be better used to address their demands, some of which focus on the need for more resources for marginalized students on campus. They also questioned why the campus police need weapons and said the department's actions have made them and other students feel unsafe.
#NotAgainSU reiterated in a tweet shortly after the announcement that the group wants campus police disarmed. "As clear through the interactions with DPS last week, students feel unsafe, especially when they are armed," the student activists wrote. "DPS has the same jurisdiction as the Syracuse Police Department (SPD)." The group said they want "peace officers" not police officers.
Biko Mandela Gray, an assistant professor of religion at Syracuse, also criticized the school's decision to hire Lynch to investigative.
"I’m so sick and tired of administrators—at every institution—'conducting investigations” instead of having the moral courage and ethical fortitude to step up and move swiftly," Gray wrote on Twitter.
In the chancellor's announcement, he also announced Syracuse will be reviewing the way it responds to protest and will be conducting a separate independent review of the school's "student experience" function.