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Syracuse University Chancellor Speech Tackles Racism on Campus

By Tyronda James

Kent Syverud, Syracuse University Chancelor

Kent Syverud, Syracuse University Chancelor

Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud delivered a speech to students January 13 outlining plans to tackle issues of prejudice and fear on campus and areas where he says they are making progress.

Last semester, the campus was impacted by racist, hateful, and anti-Semitic occurrences that involved several instances of hateful graffiti.

In his address, Chancellor Syverud discussed four key topics important for the University to become “a world-class model of an academic powerhouse that truly embraces, welcomes and values all people.” Topics included academics, the student experience, commitments to diversity, inclusion, and safety, and resources to secure the University’s future.

The chancellor highlighted a smaller number of initiatives, including an increased focus on hiring diverse faculty members and newly dedicated space for student groups.

He emphasized the solid financial footing the university currently has to be able to tackle these issues.

“Syracuse University is in a stronger financial position that it’s ever been,” Syverud said.

The University has also a focus on hiring people of color and who represent various groups. Also, an increase of-campus safety and security was also enhanced, providing staffing around the clock in residence halls.

Syverud  says he University is taking prompt action on the commitments.

“In November and December, we made 50 commitments to our students. We have a project management team that worked all through the holidays to make sure we track, perform and achieve these commitments. We have allocated an additional $5.6 million for diversity and inclusion initiatives that address these commitments—so far. Sixteen new staff members will be added to work on these new and improved programs,” he said.

“We are making investments in programs and people. I believe this work requested emphatically by our students is helping us become a better place,” Syverud said.

The Board of Trustees at SU is also tackling issues. A Special Committee on University Climate, Diversity and Inclusion was also formed by the board. The board has also recruited an Independent Advisory Panel of national and international experts on diversity and inclusion and on safety. With engagement and input from students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

“That should give the community confidence that the university can accomplish its lofty goals, even those as challenging as fighting prejudice, racism and anti-Semitism,” Syverud sais

The Diversity Opportunity Hires Program initiative was introduced by the interim vice chancellor and will give the University an edge in the competitive hiring of diverse faculty candidates.

Director of the Center for International Services Juan Tavares was appointed, as the formal liaison working directly with international students on their concerns.

“I have spent much of the last two months listening. Listening to our students, our faculty, our staff, our alumni, our community partners, to our Board of Trustees. There are many opinions, as there should be at any great university. But there is also a strong consensus that Syracuse can and should now become a world-class model of an academic powerhouse that truly embraces, welcomes and values all people,” Syverud said.

“I am realistic. Given our world right now, I don’t expect that our campus, our community or our world will be free from incidents of anti-Semitism, racism and hate. We cannot magically change everything overnight, but we can respond appropriately, proactively and positively, true to the values we aspire to!”

Chancellor Syverud’s speech can be found at https://news.syr.edu/blog/2020/01/13/chancellor-syverud.