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Tensions rise as protests at Syracuse University continue

Tom Magnarelli
More than 100 students gathered outside Crouse-Hinds Hall at Syracuse University Tuesday, protesting the campus administration

Updated at 7:00 a.m. Wednesday

Syracuse University officials have taken a noticeably tougher stance against protests by #NotAgainSU, a group of students that says the administration hasn't done enough to address racist and anti-Semitic incidents on campus in the last few months.

When #NotAgainSU occupied the Barnes Center on campus for eight days in November, SU officials suspended the rules so the students could stay in the building 24 hours a day. But when the group occupied Crouse-Hinds Hall Monday, they were asked to leave when the building closed at 9 p.m. About 30 students refused to leave, so administration officials told them they faced interim suspensions for refusing the leave the building.

Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Tensions continued to rise Tuesday. With students still at Crouse-Hinds Hall, SU officials moved classes out of the building and would only let people in who had card access. Department of Public Safety officials refused to let outside food and other supplies be delivered, leading students inside to say they were being starved.

SU officials say the students are not being denied food, and said dinner was provided to the students Tuesday night. 

"Students are free to leave the building at any time," the university said in a statement.

But students in the building say they are being treated like prisoners.

Grace Gay, a sophomore at SU, said the university is enabling racism on campus and the protesters inside are brave for fighting for what they believe in.

“Student protests are what cause change on university campuses,” Gay said. “To basically, disallow students from peacefully protesting, just sitting in a building, says a lot about how the university views students of color, views protesting, views change.”

She said she also does support the removal, even if it’s temporary, of the Syracuse University chancellor and Department of Public Safety chief, something the protest movement is demanding. Gay said protesters don’t just want more diversity and inclusion, they want integration. 

“We want students to feel like they are a part of this campus and everyone is united, and to not let hate crimes go without justice,” Gay said.

#NotAgainSU has demanded that Chancellor Kent Syverud, and DPS Chief Bobby Maldonado and two other administration officials resign by Friday or "escalated action" will take place.

A junior at SU, who did not want to give her name, said initially, the renewed protest was in regards to more transparency between the administration, faculty and students. She said a revised list of demands made by protesters, which includes expelling perpetrators of hate crimes, has not been addressed by the administration.

“And now we’re all here because we’re angry that they’re threatening the students with suspension,” she said. “They are suspending them. I’m pretty sure everyone in this crowd has signed the petition, has brought some sort of food or blanket to support them inside for the same reason.”

Tuesday night, SU officials offered to revoke the interim suspensions if the students left Crouse-Hinds Hall by 10 p.m. They also continued to offer students the use of Bird Library, which is open 24 hours, for students to continue their protest when Crouse-Hinds Hall is closed. Officials also tried to schedule a meeting with students on Thursday, to "identify the leaders responsible for addressing their new and existing concerns, as well as a timeline for meeting dates—with good faith commitment to weekly meetings through the Spring 2020 semester."

SU officials said the students rejected all of these options.

"Shifting culture and creating positive change is a long and, at times, complicated process. But it is possible to acknowledge progress, while also being very clear that hard and necessary work remains," said Rob Hradsky, vice president for the student experience said n a statement. "Reflecting on what we have done and the work ahead reminds us that realizing our collective goals is possible, even if it takes longer than anticipated."

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said he is continuing to monitor the situation.

"My primary concerns are ensuring that students and the campus community are safe and that students are provided the opportunity to present their concerns," Walsh said in a statement. "My staff and I will continue to be in regular contact with the Administration, the Syracuse Police Department and, as in the past, with students on campus."

Jason has served as WRVO's news director in some capacity since August 2017. As news director, Jason produces hourly newscasts, and helps direct local news coverage and special programming. Before that, Jason hosted Morning Edition on WRVO from 2009-2019. Jason came to WRVO in January of 2008 as a producer/reporter. Before that, he spent two years as an anchor/reporter at WSYR Radio in Syracuse.
Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.