Inside The #NotAgainSU MovementBy Desjah Altvater
Mar. 5 2020, Published 3:07 a.m. ET
Dear Syracuse University,
I used to bleed orange, until you left me blue. You accepted me when fellow institutions rejected my best. You took me out of the projects and invited me into prestigious halls. When I first laid eyes on you, I felt an orange pride that I convicted would never be dulled. But it has. It appears that we are leaving the honeymoon stage as the real you gets uncovered. A place where the campus aesthetic is more important than Brown skin being fed. A place where swastikas and spray painted slurs are anonymous artwork. You keep saying that you love me but love does not invoke pain. When I think about it, you wanted me to fulfill your diversity quota, you never really accepted me.
The Beginning of #NotAgainSU
During the fall 2019 semester at Syracuse University, a series of hate crimes targeting Black and brown bodies unraveled. This was not the first time that students felt unsafe on campus nor the first time racism was addressed by the student body. Almost immediately after these crimes were made public knowledge, countless students gathered in the newly built Barnes Center for a sit-in. For weeks, students assembled and demanded that the administration take action by providing a set of demands which included mandatory diversity training for faculty and staff. According to Syracuse News, students saw a slow and inadequate response which sent a message that change wasn’t really all that important.
When they returned to campus from winter break, the #NotAgainSU organization was equipped with an everlasting fire to seek justice.
Spring 2020 Protests
According to the Daily Orange, #NotAgainSU submitted a list of 18 demands for Syracuse University, Kent Syverud, to meet in response to a series of hate crimes and bias-related incidents. When the school failed to fully meet these demands and address and denounce racism, students renewed their protests. On Monday February 17, 2020, around fifty students assembled to occupy the lobby of Crouse-Hinds Hall. A statement released by the student-led organization, claimed the sit-in was “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 CNN, as the sit-in continued into the night, the Department of Public Safety arrived and began blocking every entrance. With the Department of Public Safety surrounding every entrance, a halt in incoming and outgoing activity occurred. While students locked inside did not have access to numerous essentials, they did not have access to the most important essential of all: food. Out of desperation, protesters went to social media with a list of urgently needed items which included medication, hot food, feminine and hygiene products, and clothing. When donations arrived, food began to pile up outside and a video posted from the #NotAgainSU twitter account show DPS officers throwing away nourishment intended for tens of protesters inside. According to a female student, she tried to get feminine hygiene products inside, but a male DPS officer responded with, “we don’t need it, I just asked all the females if they’re on their period and they said no.”
During the three days, fellow Syracuse University students, faculty, and staff protested outside to support trapped students. Several claims of assault of students by DPS officers are backed by videos posted to Instagram. In one video, Syracuse University DPS chief, Joe Sardino, can be shown reaching for his weapon while physically assaulting students who attempted to get inside the building.
Over thirty students who were locked inside were faced with suspension, as well as four women of color who were never in the protesting space, according to #NotAgainSU. On February 18, administrative officials claimed that students were not suspended due to protesting but because their occupation was disruptive to academic and administrative activities. On February 19th, Kent Syverud addressed the university senate and announced lifted suspensions, while stating that protesters were ‘fed and cared for.’
When asked how students felt about the ongoing fight towards justice, students claim:
‘I am beyond disappointed in this school. I pay over $60,000 a year to be dehumanized. Not only am I upset with the administration’s response to the hate crimes targeting Black and brown bodies, but also with their response to students protesting against these crimes. I do not understand how I can be suspended for practicing my first amendment, when the students who provoke hatred have their identities kept anonymous and still attend class. I just do not understand.’
‘I knew advocating for change on campus was going to be challenging, but I did not predict suspension. They say it’s because we were inside the building after functioning hours, but we all know that is a lie. They may be able to lock us in a building, but I refuse to allow my voice to be silenced. I am doing this because of the people who fought before me and for the students who will come after.’
While students had scheduled a meeting on February 26 with the university administration for transparency and accountability, the administration cancelled the meeting. Students gave administration until 4:00 p.m that day for the university to address students and participate in negotiations, but there was no communication from the administration’s end. This guided students into a main street on campus, holding hands to create a barrier, chanting for change. On Monday March 2nd, an official negotiation meeting between #NotAgainSU and the university administration began and continued into Tuesday, March 3rd.
To receive updates on #NotAgainSU and their fight for equality on the Syracuse University campus, please follow their social media pages below: