Campus Speech

Syracuse University Walks Back from Punishing Student Protesters

An image of LC Smith Hall in Syracuse University. April 13, 2008. Wikimedia Commons.

Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud announced on February 20th that the university would no longer be suspending 30 student protesters for occupying a university building.

“These students are afraid they will be arrested and forced out of the building. They have suspension dangling over them. They are concerned about being fed. Enough,” the Chancellor said in his Thursday statement.

According to CNN, this is the second time this school year that students have occupied a campus building to protest the university’s handling of racist incidents. Both demonstrations were organized by a group calling itself #NotAgainSU, a black student-led movement at Syracuse University.

In a statement shared on their Twitter page, the student protesters called for the punishment of students involved in the alleged bias incidents, and the resignation of administrative officials including the Chancellor, the Department of Public Safety Chief Bobby Maldonado, the DPS Associate Chief John Sardino, and the Senior Vice President for Enrollment and Student Experience, Dolan Evanovich.

According to the Daily Orange, a student newspaper, the protesters were placed on interim suspension on February 18th after they refused to leave an administrative building past its official closing time. Rob Hradsky, Senior Associate Vice President of the Student Experience and Dean of students, reportedly suggested that the organizers relocate to the school’s library, but the students refused. 

The university’s decision to reverse the suspensions was welcomed by civil rights groups including the New York Civil Liberties Union, who warned that the punishment could chill student speech. 

“Targeting student protestors with harsh punishment signals a chilling attitude toward free speech,” the New York Civil Liberties Union said in a statement to the press on February 20th.

ABC News