Syracuse University students renew protests following administration's response to racist incidents

Students put up posters in Crouse-Hinds Hall protesting racist incidents on campus.

(CNN)Students at New York's Syracuse University are occupying a campus building for the second time this school year following several reported racist incidents.

#NotAgainSU, a black student-led movement at Syracuse University, launched a sit-in Monday afternoon citing the administration's handling of previous and recent racist incidents on campus.
The organization says Monday's sit-in at the school's admissions building is "a necessary response to the administration's failure to address and denounce racism, xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism, white supremacy and other oppressive systems present on Syracuse University's campus," according to the statement.
      The university said on Tuesday that it has taken several steps to tackle "some of the most pressing issues relative to climate, safety, curriculum, multicultural living, health and wellness and anti-bias training."
        A spate of bias incidents beginning in November 2019 helped spur #NotAgainSU's first protests. Following those protests, Syracuse administration released a list of commitments in response to the demands of protestors.
          "Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, administrators and trustees have been working respectfully and collaboratively over the last several months to effect urgent, lasting and meaningful change," according to the university's statement.
          #NotAgainSU says they believe that the university's current administration has been complicit in the spreading of white nationalistic ideology. The group's recent demands include punishments for students involved in bias incidents, the creation of more diversity initiatives and the resignation of administrators for their response to the incidents. If the administrators don't resign by February 21, the student group says, "escalated action will take place."
          The student-group has not yet elaborated on what "escalated action" entails.

          Approximately 30 students face interim suspensions so far

          As the sit-in continued Monday night at Crouse-Hinds Hall, students told CNN that public safety officials blocked every entrance and refused to allow community members to give food to the students. The university dropped off food Tuesday afternoon.
          The university suggested Monday evening that the protestors move from Crouse-Hinds Hall to Bird Library, which operates 24 hours, and then return to the admissions building when it reopened. Students declined that offer, according to the university.
          "Only the students who failed to comply with exiting the building once it closed for the evening were referred to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities for violating the Campus Disruption Policy," the university said. "Students are free to leave the building at any time."
          So far, approximately 30 students received interim suspensions, according to Sarah Scalese, the university's senior associate vice president for communications. Students were being suspended "not for protesting, but for violations of the building occupation policy," she said. The university has since moved classes out of the building due to the protests.
          "Students who were issued interim suspensions and live in a campus residence hall or south campus apartment may remain in their campus residence and use campus dining centers," the university added.
          However, the students are "prohibited from any presence on Syracuse University, owned, operated, or controlled property and from enrollment in any course or program" from Syracuse while their matter is pending, according to a letter from the university provided to CNN by a student. If students require access to campus property or programs, students need to get approval from the university. If they do not, students would be arrested for trespassing, the letter said.
          A student facing an interim suspension has the opportunity to appeal, according to the student handbook.
          #NotAgainSU called "the administration's 'disruption' narrative a thinly veiled pretext" in their most recent statement.

          New bias incidents in 2020

          There have been six reported bias incidents since the spring semester started on January 13, according to the Syracuse Department of Public Safety bias incident report page.
          The most recent reported incident involved a driver shouting a racial slur out their vehicle toward two students on February 8. Other reported incidents similarly involved verbal harassment and racist graffiti directed toward black and Jewish students.
          A series of racist incidents late last semester spurred police investigations and led to student protests on campus. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement after the first incident saying, "These types of hateful and bigoted actions seek to splinter and segregate our communities, and they have no place in New York — period."
            Following the incidents, the university announced a newly created Special Committee on University Climate, Diversity and Inclusion and the Independent Advisory Panel, both of which are "actively engaging with the campus community."
            #NotAgainSU said that prior commitments to diversity and inclusion were not sufficient.