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Sit-in by Syracuse students to protest string of racist incidents enters day three

The activists rejected an offer from Syracuse University officials that would have reversed their suspensions if they ended the protest.
Image: The Syracuse University campus in New York.
The Syracuse University campus in New York.DebraMillet / Getty Images

Student activists who took over a Syracuse University administration building this week to protest racist incidents on campus rejected a request from officials to end their sit-in, the school said in a statement Wednesday.

The self-described black-led movement #NotAgainSU launched the sit-in at Crouse-Hinds Hall with about 30 students early Monday afternoon to protest the administration's response to a spate of racist incidents on campus dating to 2019.

After students ignored a warning to leave the building before it closed Monday night, the university issued interim suspensions to all of the protesters who remained.

In Wednesday's statement, Rob Hradsky, the vice president for student experience, said the university had spoken with the student demonstrators Tuesday and made several offers to "find common ground."

Among them:

  • Revoking the interim suspension of any student who voluntarily left the building by 10 p.m. Tuesday.
  • Reiterating its support of peaceful protests at Crouse-Hinds Hall during business hours.
  • Relocating overnight protests to a 24-hour campus library "staffed to handle the influx of students."
  • Scheduling a meeting Thursday to address the group's new and existing concerns.

"After deliberation, students rejected all of these options," the statement said.

The university's Department of Public Safety sealed off Crouse-Hinds Hall and has prohibited food and other resources, such as medicine and hygiene products for the unbathed protesters, from entering since Tuesday morning, two student organizers said in an interview Wednesday.

Both students requested anonymity out of fear of retribution from the university. The students, a 21-year-old senior and an 18-year-old freshman, said they were among those suspended Tuesday morning for remaining in the building past the 9 p.m. closing time.

The student organizers said their demands, which include a meeting with the executive board of the board of trustees, have not been met.

"The administration has not appropriately addressed the 25+ hate crimes that have occurred on campus since November 2019, and they have not addressed student protestors in any way that is reflective of a commitment to equal safety and support," the protesters said in a statement this week.

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Organizers on Wednesday defended the decision to protest at Crouse-Hinds Hall, which they describe as "the house of enrollment and admission."

"The act of protest is to be disruptive," the senior said, adding that the library where officials suggested that students relocate is an academic space where students are trying to learn.

"How can we disrupt that space?" the senior said.

A spokeswoman for the university told NBC News on Wednesday that Chancellor Kent Syverud had rescinded the interim suspensions.

The student organizers who spoke to NBC News said the reversal did not change the group's plan to continue the sit-in.

"There are a lot of things that are happening on this campus, and the university does not acknowledge it," said the 21-year-old organizer, who identifies as non-binary and uses the pronoun "they."

Specifically, the group wants the university to publicly state that "white nationalism and white supremacy exist and are being perpetuated by their continuous criminalization of marginalized bodies and lack of intervention in the series of racist incidents that have occurred," they said.

As of Wednesday evening, upward of 20 students were at Crouse-Hinds Hall, organizers said.

"The administration has never come out and said this is about white nationalism and white supremacy being spread on campus," the senior said.

The widely publicized racist incidents at the school last year included slurs against African Americans and Asians scrawled in marker at a freshman dormitory and a swastika drawn in a snowbank at an apartment complex where students live.