Syracuse University lifts suspensions of racism protesters

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud has lifted the suspensions of 30 student protesters to allow the university to “step back from the edge” and address reports of racist graffiti and other bias-related incidents on campus, he told the university’s governing body.

As Syverud spoke Wednesday evening, a sit-in that began Monday continued inside the administration building on the central New York campus. Students who organized under #NotAgainSU, which describes itself as a black student-led movement, say the university has not properly addressed more than 25 instances of racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia reported since the fall.

“These students are afraid they will be arrested and forced out of the building. They have suspension dangling over them. They are concerned about being fed. Enough,” the chancellor said.

The reversal drew praise from the New York Civil Liberties Union, which called the initial response concerning.

“Targeting student protestors with harsh punishment signals a chilling attitude toward free speech,” a statement Thursday from the central New York chapter said.

Syverud said the latest stalemate threatened to jeopardize progress made since November, when students first protested and presented demands, many of which administrators have agreed to.

“We are on the edge right now. … We need to step back from that edge. I want to direct that first step back right now,” he said. Protesters can remain in the building and will be fed and cared for, he said.

Protest organizers did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Six instances of bias have been reported to campus security since the spring semester began in January. They included a driver shouting a racial slur at two students and other episodes of verbal harassment and racist graffiti.

A spokesman said two people have faced either school disciplinary or criminal charges for graffitti inside the library and on a buidling.

In his annual winter address last month, Syverud said the university has allocated $5.6 million toward addressing issues of diversity and inclusion. Steps being taken include revising a required diversity and inclusion course and making clear in the code of conduct consequences for hate speech, according to the university website.