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Syracuse administration still struggling to be responsive to race-related incidents

“Country’s best PR school” needs some PR help.

S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse... Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

For those unaware, the Daily Orange reported this week that an incident occurred at Syracuse University’s Day Hall, where racial slurs aimed at Asian and black people were found on two floors. The discovery itself happened nearly a week ago (November 6), yet Syracuse did not issue a statement on the matter until November 11.

Yet again, Chancellor Kent Syverud’s administration has chosen the path of wishing things away over addressing them head-on. Made worse this time around, SU’s Renegade Magazine reports that residents were asked to avoid sharing photos and videos of what occurred to the press.

All of this — the racial slurs and reported cover-up attempt — should not occur within any organization or on any campus. But they’re especially damning for a school that prides itself on its communication school... to the point where the first amendment is plastered on the wall of one its buildings. How is a school that seems fully capable of churning out accomplished grads in communications consistently poor at the completing the function in an acceptable way for 2019?

It’s an answer no one person can necessarily get to the bottom of without in-depth conversations with the staff and administration itself — but the evidence is clear that there’s a willful approach that emphasizes avoiding the changing environment this university exists within. This is not to even centralize criticism on Syverud’s administration alone, since there are numerous instances of similar approaches under Nancy Cantor. But the microscope is especially on Syverud in a national environment that emboldens racial intolerance.

You see increasing numbers of incidents at high schools and colleges around the U.S. that involve many of the same factors: Majority-white student population, fairly affluent, not a lot of exposure to people that come from different backgrounds, and an upbringing that tells them it’s okay to feel that way. These people don’t even necessarily have to be on one side of the political aisle or the other. It’s very easy to go to majority-white suburbs in any state or city (right or left) and see the same sort of thing. As Theta Tau brothers at Syracuse said last year following their own controversy around intolerance, “we thought it was okay.”

Syracuse University didn’t create these problems, but as an institution of higher education, they’re duty-bound to address them and create an environment that makes every student feel welcome, regardless of who they are, where they’re from or what they look like. Becoming more proactive with regard to incidents like this is one step. Finding ways to actively increase the tolerance of its student body is another. Both are going to be essential going forward.

Racial slurs written in Day Hall (Daily Orange)

Student Association posted a statement Monday criticizing the lack of information from SU officials. SA urged the university to provide more information to the campus “immediately.” “The Student Association expects a distinct level of transparency from the university’s administration, a level that we have not yet seen in regards to this issue,” the statement reads.

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