More cowardice from Syracuse University; students sit in and threaten escalation, administration cowers

As I reported about a week ago, students at Syracuse University have staged a sit-in in the administration building. It is, in fact, still going on, as the University administration has shown itself to be spineless and won’t do anything about it. Further, the sit-in is being conducted by a “black-led student movement” in protest of racist graffiti and alleged bias incidents—incidents whose veracity hasn’t been established. (I’m always dubious about racist graffiti until they’re investigated, as there are simply too many incidents these days in which members of minority groups produce the graffiti themselves, allowing them not only to claim victimhood but, in the case of Syracuse, to make demands on the administration.)

Originally, Syracuse identified and then suspended 30 protestors in the building, but within one day had lifted the suspensions. Further, during the first days of the suspension, which has been going on since mid-February, the university even provided lunch and dinner for the protestors.

The latest update, five days ago, is from the student newspaper The Daily Orange (click on screenshot to read):

Even without evidence that the graffiti and bias incidents are real rather than confected, the students are demanding that the University officially acknowledge “hate incidents at SU as indicative of institutional white supremacy.”  Institutional white supremacy? What in the bylaws of the University, or in its actions, has institutionalized racism? If nothing—and there’s almost certainly nothing—then what does Syracuse have to acknowledge, even if the incidents are real? (If they are real, then of course the perpetrators should be tracked down and treated according to University regulations).

Further, if the University doesn’t grovel with an official apology for nothing they did, the students have threatened to “escalate”:

Protesters and SU officials exchanged a tense back-and-forth Friday over #NotAgainSU’s demand that the university publicly acknowledge hate incidents at SU as indicative of institutional white supremacy. Organizers warned of escalated action if SU refused to release a statement.

“If we do not get a statement, we will be in this building, and escalation will occur,” an organizer said.

Well, I’m not sure whether that’s a threat of violence or damage, but it sounds portentous.  And there’s the usual student hyperbole about lives being in danger:

The Department of Public Safety sealed off Crouse-Hinds as of Feb. 18, preventing outside food, medicine and supplies from entering until the afternoon of Feb. 19. SU provided lunch and dinner to organizers Feb. 18 and breakfast Feb. 19. The building reopened Feb. 20.

Organizers have criticized DPS officers’ interactions with protesters inside Crouse-Hinds throughout the movement’s occupation.

“My life is in danger when I leave this building because you don’t want to acknowledge what you did to the people in this room,” the organizer said. “People have threatened my life, threatened to kill me because they think I’m a liar.”

Any harm that comes to students will be on the administration’s hands, the organizer said.

What the administration did to people in the building was seal it off, period. If the students didn’t like that, they could leave (it’s no longer sealed). But the president of Syracuse has already apologized for that. Further, instead of heaving the protestors out after a warning, Syracuse is bargaining with the students about exactly how they should grovel and how they should word the statement of apology and acknowledgment:

“If we do not get a statement, we will be in this building, and escalation will occur,” an organizer said.

Keith Alford, chief diversity and inclusion officer, initially said the university would need until at least the end of the semester to draft such a statement. The statement would require input from faculty and other SU constituents, he said.

Organizers said this was not soon enough.

“The fact that you’re saying it will take you eight additional weeks to write an email that says there are issues on this campus that deal with white supremacy is very distressing,” said Jenn Jackson, an assistant professor of political science who was present during the negotiations.

Gabe Nugent, deputy general counsel for SU, said after a caucus that the university could not comment further on its response to that demand. #NotAgainSU organizers said they could not reach an agreement with the university without such a statement.

I find the situation absurd. If there has been racism at Syracuse, it needs to be investigated, and, if necessary, changes made to University policy. But the University does not have to take the students’ word for this an then issue an apology whose terms are dictated by the students, including a public acknowledgments of “hate incidents” that are indicate of “institutional white supremacy.”

The students are holding the University hostage, and, like Chinese students during the Cultural Revolution, are trying to put a dunce cap on the University and make it wear a sign of contrition around its neck.

Perhaps this will come to an end given that Syracuse has announced that classes will be online until March 30 and students must stay away from the University for two weeks during spring break. But it doesn’t appear to be  a closure for the rest of the semester, and I have a feeling that the protestors won’t let this lie. Even if they do, I want to point out how pusillanimous the administration of Syracuse has been. When the students say, “Jump!”, the administration says, “How high?” This trend is increasing (remember the dismissal as faculty dean of Ronald Sullivan at Harvard?).

Here’s the “Jump!”:

“If we do not get a statement, we will be in this building, and escalation will occur,” an organizer said.

Here’s the “How high?:

“Keith Alford, chief diversity and inclusion officer, initially said the university would need until at least the end of the semester to draft such a statement. The statement would require input from faculty and other SU constituents, he said.”

 

17 Comments

  1. Posted March 12, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    If I were king, my statement would be: “We are sorry for your feelings of fear at this institution. To combat this, we will allow any of you to leave the university and not return. Ever. University security will be available to help you on your way.”

  2. Posted March 12, 2020 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    This relates to another point you’ve raised in the past: Civil disobedience means being willing to accept the legal consequences of your actions. These kids want to pretend to be “making a difference” but aren’t willing to put any skin in the game. Warn them once, then remove them physically and arrest any who return. Let them sort out their concerns in court.

    Mollycoddling them will just result in more such disruptions.

  3. Posted March 12, 2020 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    “Institutionalized racism” is supposed to mean racist policies that are built into the institution. Perhaps it has to do with the numbers of minorities in faculty or administrative positions. Don’t know what else it could be.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    The question becomes, how do you get management/administration where none seems to exist. When student sit-ins for causes disrupts operations in the buildings it must be removed. Allowing food deliveries to people who have taken over a building makes no sense either. Do we next, bring in beds for them. Other than investigation to attempt discovery of who is doing the graffiti and maybe something like installation of cameras, what can you do? How is the institution responsible for juvenile activity. If they broke windows, who is responsible for that, the school?

    • Posted March 12, 2020 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      “White privilege” will be responsible for the broken windows and the fact the delivered meals aren’t from Popeye’s, etc. Look at the statements by the President of BLM – New York. And incidentally, graffiti on the subway is “Okay When We Do It” (TM).

  5. Posted March 12, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    People don’t act like this when they’re disenfranchised and powerless and frightened. They act like this when they’re emboldened. The university being spineless only emboldens them.

  6. Jon Gallant
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    It was in the 4th grade that my own career as an activist began. There was a burning issue involving hall-passes in my elementary school, something to do with permission to leave the class, or go to the bathroom, or something of the sort. I organized a few of my classmates into a protest group, which we called”The Committee for the Rights and Justice of the Students.” I was a precocious little boy. Had I been even more precocious, I would no doubt have named our group “The People’s Interplanetary Mobilization for Peace, Justice, and anti-Racism”.

    We issued a proclamation and distributed a leaflet to our fellow students, using crayons for lack of access to a mimeograph machine. Our proclamation started from the rank injustice of hall-passes, and went on to denounce the historic exploitation of nine-year-olds by the international capitalist system of scheming, soulless grownups.

    First, we put up posters in the hall. Then, We considered blocking the street outside the school, in order to “raise consciousness,” but had to drop the idea because we couldn’t safely cross the street without a crossing guard. Instead, we announced our intention to occupy the school nurse’s office.

    Several of my contemporaries were nervous about taking a strong stand. If we occupied the school nurse’s office, they worried, wouldn’t that prevent the nurse from bandaging scraped knees and doing things like that? “We who wanted to prepare the ground for kindness,” I told them, “could not be kind ourselves.” But, they went on, if we were all given detention after school, then we would miss out on getting ice cream on the way home from school. I explained that “you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.”

    It was clear that the waverers just didn’t understand the logic of revolutionary struggle. In the end, I threatened to expose them as lackeys of the ruling class. After that, the deviationists quickly broke down, sniffling a bit, and acknowledged my superior revolutionary leadership. I was, in effect, the Secretary-General, and deference to my superior revolutionary leadership was taken as identical to militancy, trustworthiness, and sound moral character generally.

    In the end, the school administration felt obliged to meet with us. We agreed that the Political Bureau of our Central Committee would discuss our grievances with the vice-principal. Actually, I recall that there were only five of us in the entire group, so the five of us called ourselves the Political Bureau of the Central Committee, and we went to the meeting.

  7. rickflick
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    The administration could just capitulate and send all the protesters a gift basket of rattles, suckers, and other baby toys. On second thought, it might trigger an even greater tantrum. 😎
    Seriously, I’m convinced 90% of the motive is simply the need to feel radical. That’s why you don’t see much of this behavior coming out of engineering departments. Engineers have no need to feel radical.

  8. Steve Cameron
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I think one easy example of institutional racism at most American universities is how expensive they are, but that’s hardly a reason to single Syracuse out. The students could probably make a better case for there being structural racism if the racial and gender composition of the administration (and, to a lesser extent, the faculty) doesn’t reflect that of the students and the community they serve.

    Also, given how high tuition is these days, why shouldn’t the administration be making all these concessions? These are their paying customers who have it in their power not only to leave and take their tuition money with them, but also to ruin the reputation of the institution, which will affect future profits… er, I mean enrollment. Capitalism, right? Isn’t this how it’s supposed to work?

    • Adam M.
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 1:59 am | Permalink

      But it’s not just institutional racism, it’s “institutional white supremacy“. If expense was any kind of institutional racial supremacy then I guess it’d be institutional Asian or perhaps specifically Indian supremacy, since they have higher average incomes and wealth than whites – the highest, in the case of Indians… 😛

      • KD
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 8:34 am | Permalink

        No, Adam M., the customer is always right.

    • Posted March 13, 2020 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      Coddling to this particular type of customers is short-sighted. It brought the Evergreen State University underwater.

  9. KD
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    If you are paying $69,759 a year in tuition, fees, student housing and meals, not only should the college president admit to anything you want, but they should have to do it while dressed in a clown suit.

    Not to mention, with that kind of money, they should have a free pony ride so students can vent their stress.

    • KD
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      I think that higher education should continue to be a luxury consumer good like an expensive BMW or a Lexus, because then college administrators will get paid much higher than they would if it were just a practical, affordable system for insuring that youth have the knowledge and competitive skills to make themselves economically self-sufficient in employment.

      However, if you are selling a luxury good, you have to be very sensitive to the preferences of your consumers, so a few things like ranking students based on performance (which makes them feel bad) or intellectually challenging course work (which takes away precious time for drinking, bong hits and instagram selfies) need to fall by the wayside.

      Further, colleges just need to adopt woke slogans because the consumption of luxury goods are the ultimate form of virtue signalling, and it is irresponsible for colleges to not to pretend. Its like selling a luxury sedan that gets 18 miles per gallon without incorporating some B.S. about some new green technology that means the car is actually reducing the carbon footprint (fine print on the back: when tested against tractor trailers hauling 8 ton loads).

      Students are the new revolutionary consumers, and just like consumers should be able to send their steak back to the cook and complain to manager, students should be able to make ridiculous political demands to the administration, and the administration should suck up to them and make changes.

  10. eric
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Hmm, that response sounded a bit more like circular filing than ‘how high’ to me. The protestors are right in that it shouldn’t take 8 weeks (probably more like 12 with the temporary hiatus) and reviews by umpteen professors for the administration to write an email. But the lesson to draw from that is not ‘the administration is fumbling it’ but rather ‘the administration is slow rolling us.’

  11. Posted March 13, 2020 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Hasn’t this university any more pressing problems? My university has just switched to distant education because of the coronavirus!


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