By: Nick Suarez, Senior
In the fall of 2019, I began the process of interviewing for the Posse Scholarship. The Posse Scholarship looks for students who demonstrate unique leadership qualities and send them to top universities and colleges throughout the nation with a full-tuition scholarship. The specific university I applied to was Syracuse, and the final interview had 20 scholars(including myself) in a room with Posse leadership and Syracuse admission staff. In this final interview, most, if not all of us, were aware of a movement known as NotAgainSU which had drawn national attention by protesting the administration’s response to various race-related crimes on campus. The admissions representatives dismissed these students as nothing more them “rabble-rousers angry over bureaucracy” yet, nearly 3 months later NotagainSU has made national headline protesting once again by occupying halls in a sit. In light of recent events, this article is being written to inform prospective students about the current situation unfolding on campus and, for those inclined, ways to support #NOTAGAINSU.
What is NotAgainSU
NOTAGAINSU is a student-led protest group founded in November 2019 in order to combat perceived racial bias and racially motivated violence on the Syracuse campus. The movement began due to a perceived lack of effort by the administration to properly inform the student body of racially charged graffiti found within the Day Hall. Students felt that the slow response and lack of active investigations from the administration and police came from a systemic lack of caring for minority students. Students responded by initiating a sit-in, a form of protest in which the students occupy the hall until their demands are met, which lasted 2 weeks until Chancellor Syveurd yield to certain demands on certain demands. It should be noted that since the November protests, 26 incidents of “racial bias-related incidents' have occurred on campus.
Why is NOTAGAINSU back in the news?
NotAgainSU began occupying Crouse-Hinds Hall on, Monday, February 17th 2020 in an effort to further combat “racism, xenophobia, homophobia, antisemitism, white supremacy, and other oppressive systems present on Syracuse University’s campus.” The sit-in began at 12:30 PM, and as of February 19th, no end is in sight. The administration’s response to the protest has been undemocratic, to say the least. The administration first sent out an email claiming no suspension would take place, before giving out thirty “interim” suspensions to those who stayed past the halls closing at 9:00 PM (It should also be noted that multiple students on social media have claimed to have been suspended despite not being near Crouse-Hinds Hall at the time of the protest).
In addition to the suspensions, DPS has refused to allow entry into the building and refused to allow students to provide aide to protestors, only recently allowing medical supplies and hygiene products to be given to the protestors (food, in some cases, has literally been thrown on the floor by DPS if observers have attempted to bring in food to protestors). Finally, the administration has canceled classes in the hall and seemingly turned off the heat for protestors inside (keep in mind this is upstate New York and it is absolutely freezing up there.) All of these moves seem to indicate that the administration would rather treat the protests as a siege than actively attempt to engage the students and resolve issues found within the school. In recent days, confusion has occured due to the school’s lack of clarity on whether suspensions have been lifted or on a temporary hiatus until protests have ended. In addition, protestors have added demands to a growing list which include the darmerment of DPS (campus police), tuition freezing (stopping the cost of tuition from increasing further), and other demands meant to increase minority students on campus. The most recent update, has former Attorney General Loretta Lynch leading an investigation into DPS misconduct after complaints of mistreatment during the protest.
What do Students on campus think?
An interesting aspect of being a Posse Scholar is the access to a closed network of other Posse Scholars around Syracuse University. I asked some of the students in the Posse above me (freshmen at Syracuse University) about their opinions and experiences with the organization. One student felt that each side had failed to come to terms, but specifically refused to outright express support for the movement due to the perceived exclusion of other minority groups (NotagainSU is predominantly an African American movement). Other students, expressed strong support for the movement citing the universities harsh treatment of protestors and refusal to come to the negotiation table during “the siege”. Interestingly, all students, I spoke to, felt that the university had failed in their duty to protect minority students and prepare a safe environment to learn and grow.
As I write this article I find it more and more difficult to wear Syracuse orange proudly. The idea of a school in which all students are allowed to express their ideas and exercise their first amendment, which we, as Posse Scholars, were sold on feels more and more like a dream. Other minority students will likely think twice before accepting a position at the university (regular decision returns in March), but I do not think students should entirely blame the university. The entire situation is emblematic of a problem all universities face struggling to combat white supremacy surging in the age of Trump, with university officials who sound more like bureaucrats then educators. I don’t know if the answer is for the complete resignation of Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syveurd or continued reforms by the current administration, but I do know that the answer likely won't be found any time soon.
I am Nick Suarez; an iPrep senior interested in politics, sports, and history, also a Proud Social Democrat!