Syracuse University students are back on the hill, and Monday afternoon, Chancellor Kent Syverud is addressed the campus for the first time since the holiday break. He focused on the tumultuous fall semester, littered with racist and anti-Semitic graffiti.
Syverud offered a four-pronged approach to make Syracuse University a place that truly embraces, welcomes, and values all people. It starts with academics and diversifying the faculty, he said. He wants to improve the student experience outside the classroom and make SU more inclusive and safe.
"We have a choice right now,” said Syverud. “A choice whether to seize this moment today to learn, to teach, to get better, and to reaffirm our values."
Those values center on embracing all people, said Syverud.
Throughout the fall, more than a dozen instances of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti appeared on campus, and many students called for Syverud to resign. The administration promised students 50 ways it would improve and spent winter break working on them.
- SU: Reported White Supremacist Manifesto Posted Online
- Racial Incidents Continue at Syracuse University
- Fraternity Activities Suspended Following String of Racist Incidents at Syracuse University
- SU Chancellor Releases Video Denouncing Racist Graffiti Incidents
- SU Students Form List of Demands After Second Reported Incident of Racial Graffiti
- Additional Incidents of Racist Activity Reported at Syracuse University
The board of trustees is working to come up with a sustainable approach to diversity and inclusion.
"These are long-term solutions,” said Bea Gonzalez, Syracuse University VP for community engagement. “They take time and thoughtfulness to implement them. We're really grateful that we've been able to do a really good job of where we want to be. And our students push us and that's what students are supposed to do."
The administration has added space on campus for multicultural students and groups.
It will continue to provide space for Native American students, increase safety for Jewish students, and invest in international students.
Some students say they'll believe it when they see it.
"For me, I'm not pretty sure about that,” said Cleo Hamilton, Syracuse University student. “Like I said, I might find out very soon this semester if he will address what he just said — part of his speech or not. I will see what's going to happen next."
Syverud says these are challenging times on the SU campus and in the world, but SU has a chance to be a leader. Changes won't happen overnight, he said, and it's important to continue to respond appropriately and positively.
The chancellor has said he'll offer frequent updates on the status of his promises. He said he has committed more than $5.5 million to diversity and inclusion projects at the university.