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SU chancellor addresses racist, anti-Semitic incidents on campus in annual winter message

Ellen Abbott
Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud addresses the campus community Monday during his annual winter message

A new semester has begun at Syracuse University, and Chancellor Kent Syverud’s annual winter message Monday focused on the drama of last semester, when a series of racist and anti-Semitic incidents fueled fear and anger that the university wasn’t doing enough to make a diverse student body feel safe.

Anti-Semitic and racist graffiti found in a number of buildings on campus in the fall created fear and anger on campus for students of color, and energized many students and supporters critical of SU’s handling of the matter. Dozens of students conducted a two week sit in, and ultimately called for the resignations of Syverud and other top SU officials.

In his winter message, Syverud wasted no time calling up the past, that included an online hashtag #NotAgainSU, noting it was a seminal moment in the school’s 150-year history.

"We have a choice right now, whether to seize this moment today, to learn, to teach, to get better and to reaffirm our values. I have great confidence that we as a university community are going to choose to do that."

Syverud signed off on 50 promises to student protesters last fall. This week he told faculty, staff and students that the school is making progress on all fronts. He focused on four areas: recruiting more diverse faculty members and staff, creating a better student experience for diverse communities, offering  greater commitment to student safety. He finished by noting the university can afford the extra hiring and programs, because it’s in the strongest financial situation it’s ever been in.

"We are taking prompt action on the commitments we made. We are making investments in programs and people. I believe this work, requested emphatically, insisted on by our students will make us a better place."

SU's Department of Public Safety and Syracuse Police continue to investigate the bias incidents that took place on campus last semester. No arrests have been made.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.