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Racist Incidents At Syracuse University Spark Fear Among Students


Hateful graffiti, racist slurs shouted at students, the sharing of a white supremacist manifesto - a dozen racist incidents are roiling Syracuse University.








GREENE: For days, students have staged a sit-in. The FBI is now investigating the reported racist messages and hate crimes. And now the chancellor of Syracuse has signed a list of demands at the request of protesters. Casey Darnell is news editor at the independent student newspaper The Daily Orange. Casey, thanks for being here.

CASEY DARNELL: Thank you for having me.

GREENE: So what do students want that they feel like they're just not getting from their university right now?

DARNELL: They want to feel like the university actually cares about their safety and making them feel welcome on campus. They want mandatory diversity training for faculty and staff. They want stricter consequences for hate speech and actions like racist graffiti. And they want diversity and inclusion to be more than just buzzwords.

GREENE: Can you tell us what's led to this moment? What are these incidents we're talking about?

DARNELL: So exactly two weeks ago, students found racist graffiti against black and Asian people in a dorm building. It took the university four days to officially announce that it happened while students had already heard about it. And ever since then, there's been more reports of racist graffiti.

On Saturday, there was fraternity members involved in yelling the N-word at the - a black woman on campus. And then on Tuesday, what really pushed this into the national spotlight was a alleged white supremacist manifesto from the shooter in the Christchurch massacre that was supposedly shared to students on campus.

GREENE: Has the university done anything to protect students and beef up security?

DARNELL: Ever since the first delayed communication about racist graffiti, the campus police has, like, been informing us over and over again about different incidents. So it's kind of felt like this just flood of information about hate crimes. And the university has beefed up security across campus. The state police are involved. There's just a lot more security around campus now.

GREENE: And the FBI has now gotten involved. What exactly are they looking at?

DARNELL: The FBI got involved after the white supremacist manifesto was allegedly spread or shared in an online forum. And they're also investigating an anti-Semitic email sent to a professor on campus that made reference to the Holocaust.

GREENE: And so this forum last night with students and university officials, what was it like in the room? How tense was it?

DARNELL: It gave me chills. Hundreds of students walked into this huge chapel wearing all black. It was only a few minutes into the forum when the chancellor spoke, and he said he couldn't immediately address all their demands; he would have to talk to more people and consider things. And they immediately got up, walked out and were chanting resign, (unintelligible) resign over and over again.

GREENE: So we should say, you're a journalist and you're a student at Syracuse. I just - what has this felt like for you in this climate?

DARNELL: It's been draining both physically and emotionally. I haven't been to class in the past two weeks because I've been covering the sit-in nonstop or managing my staff's coverage of it. Me and another reporter, we heard about the swastika written in the snow near a student apartment complex, and we ran down across campus to find it. And it's just really visceral to see a swastika in the snow in front of you, knowing that someone did that to be hateful. It's just really draining to experience these things and see them firsthand.

GREENE: Wow. And, I mean, is on campus - the scene - like, does it feel different than a college campus we might be used to?

DARNELL: Yeah. As there's been more and more incidents - and some people feel like there's been an escalation with this white supremacist manifesto allegedly being shared. Students have been leaving campus early. People have been afraid to go out at night, to go out alone. No one's really walking around campus anymore at times when it's normally packed. It's just been really hard for everyone.

GREENE: Casey Darnell is news editor at the independent student newspaper The Daily Orange and a student at Syracuse University. Casey, thanks very much.

DARNELL: Thank you.

GREENE: And we do want to say, we reached out to Syracuse University to request an interview with the chancellor, and so far, he has declined. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.