Students and faculty at Syracuse University say they’ve been left “distraught” and “terrified” following a string of racist incidents and hate crimes on campus, including the distribution this week of a white supremacist manifesto that reportedly contained virulently anti-immigrant language and neo-Nazi symbols.
The manifesto — which, according to student newspaper the Daily Orange, was similar to a racist document penned by the alleged gunman behind the March attacks on two New Zealand mosques — was reportedly posted on a Greek life forum on Monday night. Hours later, several students in a campus library said the manifesto was sent via AirDrop to their phones.
In a statement on Friday, campus officials said investigators haven’t found any evidence that the document was sent directly to students’ phones.
News of the manifesto comes on the heels of at least 11 recent reports of racist incidents and hate crimes on the campus in Syracuse, New York. On Saturday, a black student said she was verbally harassed by members of a fraternity who shouted the N-word at her. The Daily Orange said graffiti targeting Jews, Asians and black students has also been found scrawled around campus.
University officials have been accused of not doing enough to address the racist attacks.
Several Syracuse students have been participating in a sit-in — which, as of Tuesday, had stretched into its sixth day — to demand the school do more to protect the safety of all students, especially those “underrepresented and underserved.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also criticized university leaders, saying in a Tuesday letter to the school’s board of trustees that Syracuse had failed to adequately address “these increasing exhibitions of hate and bigotry.”
“The hateful activities at Syracuse University ... have not been handled in a manner that reflects this state’s aggressive opposition to such odious, reckless, reprehensible behavior,” Cuomo wrote, adding: ”[They] must be handled strongly, swiftly and justly. That must be both the reality and the perception. Syracuse University and its leadership have failed to do that. It is your obligation to remedy the situation immediately.”
The governor added that the board should install “an experienced monitor with the relevant expertise to effectively investigate these incidents.”
While university officials have yet to respond publicly to Cuomo’s recommendation of an outside monitor, they announced Tuesday that campus security was being ramped up. Patrols would be doubled, campus security officials said, and police vehicles would be stationed around the school.
The university said it was also working closely with city and state police, as well as the FBI, to investigate the manifesto and figure out who circulated the document.
In the meantime, university officials told students and faculty, that “based on preliminary information, there is no appearance of a direct threat.”
Syracuse’s Chancellor Kent Syverud ― who Cuomo personally targeted as having not “handled this matter in a way that instills confidence” ― said the university was committed to stamping out bias on campus. Other than suspending the fraternity involved in the alleged harassment over the weekend, as well as all fraternity events, the university has promised to invest more than $1 million in curriculum development, enhance diversity training for staff and work with students to strengthen its existing anti-harassment policy, among other commitments.
Biko Mandela Gray, an assistant professor of religion at the university, told The Washington Post that while he lauded Syracuse officials for enhancing campus security, he found fault with their conclusion that the manifesto posed no immediate threat to the school.
“Students are struggling. They’re terrified. I’m terrified. That’s the nature of terrorism,” Gray wrote on Twitter.
Gray, who was among several faculty members who chose to cancel classes on Tuesday amid mounting anxiety on campus, also questioned why the university had not opted to cancel classes and activities in the wake of the manifesto scare.
“Classrooms are enclosed spaces with few exits. That doesn’t bode well in the midst of a crisis. The least the school could do is cancel class for a day,” he tweeted.
Jenn Jackson, an assistant professor of political science, echoed this sentiment.
“No one should have to be on campus right now,” she wrote on Twitter, adding in a separate tweet: “I, like my students, feel distraught, powerless, vulnerable, and afraid.”
Genevieve García de Müeller, an assistant writing professor of Mexican and Jewish heritage, said she’d received a threatening message in her work email on Tuesday, in which she was called a Jewish slur and told to “get in the oven where you belong.”
Jackson and García de Müeller both canceled their classes on Tuesday.
This story has been updated to include a university statement saying that it has not found evidence the manifesto was sent directly to students’ phones.