Social activities at Syracuse University fraternities suspended following racist incidents

All social activities of fraternities at Syracuse University have been suspended for the remainder of the fall semester following the latest in a string of incidents involving racism, according to a letter from Chancellor Kent Syverud posted to the university website.

Posted: Nov 18, 2019 5:20 AM
Updated: Nov 18, 2019 5:20 AM

All social activities of fraternities at Syracuse University have been suspended for the rest of the fall semester following the latest in a string of incidents involving racism, according to a statement from the university's chancellor.

The last day of the fall semester is December 13. The statement from Chancellor Kent Syverud was posted to the university website Sunday.

Syverud's decision is in response to a report by an African-American student who says she was "subjected to a verbal racial epithet from a group of students and visitors" on campus near College Place, according to the statement.

This investigation marks the sixth such incident involving reports of racist symbols and language on campus in the last 10 days. The school's Department of Public Safety is offering a $50,000 reward for information that can lead to the arrest or referral of the person responsible.

"This report of an affront to our student's — and our whole community's — safety and well-being is the latest incident of several against Jews, Asians and African Americans," said Syverud in the statement. "I am deeply angered by these events, including this latest incident."

The perpetrators from Saturday night's incident — said by Syverud to be members and guests of a Syracuse University fraternity — have been identified following an investigation led by the Department of Public Safety. The fraternity in question has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation, according to university spokeswoman Sarah Scalese.

Syracuse's Interfraternity Council released a statement Sunday saying they were "outraged by the racist words and actions of one of our chapters."

"There is no place for intolerance on our campus, and we will work with all proper authorities to ensure that this never happens again," the statement read. "Our chapters will be attending diversity trainings in the coming weeks and these programs will expand next semester."

Scalese declined to comment further regarding which fraternity the individuals are from and what they will be charged with.

The Syracuse Police Department, which assisted with the investigation, did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

Mat Ross, alumni trust association board president of Psi Upsilon Fraternity — which has been at Syracuse University since 1875 and has upwards of 70 members — for the last 20 years, told CNN he learned of the suspension of fraternity social events this morning when he received an email from the university's assistant dean of Greek life.

"I can't say I agree to suspend all social activities for the actions of one," said Ross, who graduated from Syracuse University in 1986. "But I understand, because what happened is really terrible."

Ross stressed that Psi Upsilon is not the fraternity behind the latest racist incident.

Syverud defended his decision to suspend fraternity social activities in his statement: "While only one fraternity may have been involved in this particular incident, given recent history, all fraternities must come together with the University community to reflect upon how to prevent recurrence of such seriously troubling behavior."

This incident is not the first time a Syracuse University fraternity has come under fire for racist actions. In 2018, a racist video derogatory to minority groups emerged from Theta Tau, an engineering fraternity at the university.

In a video message to the Syracuse community Sunday, university administrators announced plans to review and revise their code of student conduct, and work toward hiring and retaining a diverse staff to support their students.

Incoming interim Vice Chancellor and Provost John Liu said in the video message that the university has four priorities moving forward: "First, our curriculum. Second, inclusive teaching. Third, diversity training. And fourth, diversifying our faculty."

While the Department of Public Safety, the Syracuse Police Department and state police continue to actively investigate the other recent racist incidents, protests continue in the university's Barnes Center.

Protesters gave university officials a November 20 deadline to address their 18 short- and long-term demands, which include the allocation of $1 million for the creation of a curriculum to educate the campus on "diversity issues, specifically anti-racism."

If their demands are not met, protesters say they will call on Syverud to resign.

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