A week ago, we discussed Syracuse University’s response to race-related incidents, and the lack of urgency and decisiveness on behalf of the administration. Since then, more incidents have occurred. And while the administration has issued statements, the incidents, tensions on campus and SU’s failures have now become national news.
Chancellor Kent Syverud signed the list of demands late last night in response to the growing protest — specifically the one organized by #NotAgainSU. Of course, that’s just step one toward more decisive action that responds to student concerns.
Like many of you, I’m an SU alum. And in recent weeks I’ve been discouraged, disappointed and angered by the school’s inaction in the face of real, tangible hate on its campus. Syracuse, as many of this country’s institutions have, has ignored the threat of intolerance — both active and passive — for years because it didn’t necessarily originate there. Now (again, like a lot of other entities), it has no idea what to do as it discovers that the calls are coming from inside the house, so to speak.
I add caveats above not to excuse Syracuse because it’s a problem other schools have. But to point out how widespread this issue really is. This country was founded with intolerance as a pillar, and no matter how much time has passed since then, the U.S. still harbors plenty of hate to go around. The White House is happy to peddle it themselves as we speak, and has emboldened many to embrace racist and antisemitic ideologies (and share them with others as they deem fit).
But just because these things are institutionalized by the country (and its majority-white ruling class) doesn’t mean they can’t be fought head on. Black students organizing #NotAgainSU and international students voicing their respective concerns shouldn’t have to carry the torch on their own for an entire campus or an entire society, though. Fighting the rising tide of hate takes every one of us standing up to it and pushing it back at every turn.
If this sounds like work, well, it is. And that’s the point. Protesting students made demands of SU given recent events, and addressing those is a start. But if we’re truly aiming to change this community, alums and others associated with Syracuse (school and city) need to offer up lasting solutions as well to ensure intolerance never finds a home there again. How can we work to improve this situation, no matter how far we may be away from campus?
Choose where your money goes
If you are fortunate enough to be able to give back to Syracuse financially, don’t just hand it over to general funds, merit-based financial aid or even athletics. As a donor, you can direct money to programs and scholarships that promote diversity in the student body. SU’s largely stayed pretty stagnant in terms of its minority student population in recent years. And per the demands listed by #NotAgainSU, the organizations that appeal to students of color need further funding and acknowledgement from the school.
For those that can’t give money, you can become a mentor to current students, and volunteer to assist their personal and professional development as they work toward graduation.
Be open to the tough conversations
This doesn’t even have to limit yourself to what’s happening at Syracuse. Even in your personal and professional life, be open to having conversations around inclusion, diversity and racial issues and how they affect our society. If you’re white, you should be open to hearing these opinions and even criticisms... while also not expecting people of color to have to hold your hand and explain racism to you. It’s not their fault that hate is such a widespread part of this society and you aren’t necessarily aware of all of the extent of it. Read some books and articles on the subject. There are plenty of them.
For current students, engage in dialogue about how you can help bridge gaps and make the university a better and more comfortable place for your everyone you share a campus with. There’s a responsibility on behalf of students who are white and/or have means to do their part in creating and fostering a welcoming environment that doesn’t make those from different backgrounds feel unwelcome.
Actively push the university to change
To start, you can contact the administration and push them to follow up on promises around being more responsive to developing a more tolerant and diverse campus community.
Syracuse University deals with a racial divide, yes, but is also divided clearly along class lines — as anyone that’s been on campus in recent years should be keenly aware of. The luxury apartments are but one of many examples that cater to the haves and attempt to elevate their campus experience above those of the rest of the populace.
As an institution, SU also needs to become a more supportive place for the students that need to work while attending. Not everyone can work at free internships and have the connections to facilitate resumes full of relevant experiences.
How do we make it so that students graduating with a mountain of debt are in positions to benefit from this supposed elite education? Alums can push the school to create a better ramp to full-time employment after graduating — especially for areas outside of New York City. Not everyone can or wants to move to New York. And not everyone has parents ready to put them up for months on end until they’re ready to land on their feet.
Given the network SU sells to get students in the door, it might behoove them to make good on it for all students.
This is just scratching the surface, of course. So would be curious what other recommendations are out there for us all to be part of a lasting solution for SU (and if those solutions make it beyond the school’s walls too, even better). Share your own ideas below.