Student activists who took over a Syracuse University administration building earlier this week to protest racist incidents on campus rejected a request from officials to end their sit-in, the school said in a statement Wednesday.
The self-described black-led movement #NotAgainSU launched the sit-in at Crouse-Hinds Hall early Monday afternoon with about 30 students to protest the administration’s response to a spate of racist incidents on campus dating back to 2019.
After students ignored a warning to leave the building before it closed on Monday night, the university issued interim suspensions to all of the protesters who remained.
In Wednesday’s statement, the Vice President for Student Experience, Rob Hradsky said the university had spoken with the student demonstrators on Tuesday and made several offers in an effort to “find common ground.”
Among them: revoking the interim suspension of any student who voluntarily left the building by 10 p.m. Tuesday, reiterating its support of peaceful protests at Crouse-Hinds Hall during business hours and the relocation of overnight protests to a 24-hour campus library “staffed to handle the influx of students” and scheduling a Thursday meeting to address the group’s new and existing concerns.
“After deliberation, students rejected all of these options,” the statement said.
The university’s Department of Public Safety sealed off Crouse-Hinds Hall and prohibited food and other resources, such as medicine and hygiene products for the unbathed protesters, from entering since Tuesday morning, two student organizers told NBC News in an interview Wednesday.
Both students requested anonymity out of fear of retribution from the university. The students, a 21-year-old senior and an 18-year-old freshman, said they had been among those suspended Tuesday morning for remaining in the building past the 9 p.m. closing time.
The two student organizers said Wednesday their demands, which include a meeting with the executive board of the board of trustees, have not been met.
“The administration has not appropriately addressed the 25+ hate crimes that have occurred on campus since November 2019, and they have not addressed student protestors in any way that is reflective of a commitment to equal safety and support,” the protesters said in a statement this week.
Organizers on Wednesday defended the decision to protest at Crouse-Hinds Hall, which they describe as “the house of enrollment and admission.”
“The act of protest is to be disruptive,” the senior said, but added that the library where officials suggested students relocate is an academic space where students are actively trying to learn.
“How can we disrupt that space?” they said.
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the university told NBC News that Chancellor Kent Syverud had rescinded the interim suspensions.
The two student organizers who spoke to NBC News said the reversal did not change the group’s plan to continue the sit-in protest.
“There are a lot of things that are happening on this campus and the university does not acknowledge it,” the 21-year-old organizer said. Specifically, the group wants the university to publicly state that “white nationalism and white supremacy exist and are being perpetuated by their continuous criminalization of marginalized bodies and lack of intervention in the series of racist incidents that have occurred.”
As of Wednesday evening, there were upward of 20 students at Crouse-Hinds Hall, organizers said.
“The administration has never come out and said this is about white nationalism and white supremacy being spread on campus,” the senior said.
The widely publicized racist incidents at the school last year included slurs against African Americans and Asians scrawled in marker at a freshman dormitory and a swastika drawn in the snowbank at an apartment complex where students live.