Racist incidents at Syracuse University prompt protest, response from New York governor

Racist graffiti was discovered in a building on campus Wednesday, days after racial slurs were found on walls in a residence hall in a separate incident.
Image: The Syracuse University campus in New York in 2015.
The Syracuse University campus in New York in 2015.Jerome Davis / Corbis via Getty Images file

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By Janelle Griffith

Racist graffiti was discovered in a building on the Syracuse University campus Wednesday, days after racial slurs were found in a residence hall in a separate incident that prompted a response from the governor of New York and a sit-in by students.

The Syracuse University Department of Public Safety said in a statement Thursday it is actively investigating a bias incident reported at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

"Graffiti using language that is derogatory to Asian individuals and vandalism were discovered in a bathroom stall in the Physics Building," the statement said. "There are no suspects at this time."

A few dozen students gathered in a campus center Wednesday in protest of the university's response to a separate incident last week involving racist graffiti and vandalism at a residence hall. The university did not disclose what the racist graffiti was in that incident, but The Daily Orange student newspaper which was first to report on the vandalism, said the racial slurs were written against black and Asian people.

Renegade Magazine, which describes itself as a platform for black college students, also said it involved the N-word.

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"On Wednesday, Nov, 6, in Day Hall, not only did someone take out all the light fixtures and put them in the toilets, they wrote the N-word across the bathrooms on both floors," Renegade Magazine said in an Instagram post earlier this week.

"Once notified of the actions, the chief of the department of public safety, the chief diversity officer, the dean of students, and an administrator told the residents on the floors to not spread any photos or videos of the incident," the magazine reported.

After last week's incident of graffiti became public, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday directed the New York State Police Hate Crimes Task Force and the state Division of Human Rights to investigate.

"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. "These types of hateful and bigoted actions seek to splinter and segregate our communities, and they have no place in New York — period."

That same day, Syracuse's vice president for the student experience said the school was first alerted of the racist graffiti and vandalism on Nov. 7 and the incident was being investigated.

Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud expressed disappointment in the university's response to the initial incident in a Nov. 12 statement.

"It’s clear that the members of the leadership team should have communicated more swiftly and broadly," he said. "I am disappointed that didn’t happen in this case."

The chancellor briefly attended Wednesday's sit-in, where students held signs saying "Where is Kent?" and submitted a series of demands to administrators including that any student involved with the recent hate crimes be expelled, the school's current anti-harassment policy be revised, new staff and faculty undergo mandatory diversity training and the option for same-race roommate selection on housing applications for all students.

The students protesting said if the demands are not met by next Wednesday, they will call for the resignation of the chancellor and chief diversity officer.