Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud told the university’s student senate on Wednesday that the latest episode of racist activity on campus was likely fake, following protests and criticism from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“It was apparent that this rumor was probably a hoax, but that reality was not communicated clearly and rapidly enough to get ahead of escalating anxiety,” Syverud said Wednesday.
During a press conference Tuesday, campus police and the FBI provided details on the latest incident in which a hateful document was disseminated on campus. The document — an apparent copy of the manifesto written by the New Zealand man who killed 51 people in a mosque shooting in March — was shared with students at a campus library on Monday via AirDrop, an Apple service that allows iPhone users to send pictures or files to other iPhones or iPads near them when devices are within Bluetooth and Wi-Fi range of each other.
“We don’t know the author. We don’t know what the intent of it was. It’s a very disturbing document if you read it,” Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner said on Tuesday. Department of Public Safety Chief Bobby Maldonado added that a preliminary investigation had revealed no direct threat.
Authorities have received over a dozen cases of racist vandalism, graffiti and, slurs targeting Jews, Asians and black students at Syracuse this month. On Sunday, the university suspended four students and fraternity social activities after a black student complained she was verbally harassed by people leaving a frat party on Saturday. Syverud said Wednesday that the New York State Police’s Hate Crimes Task Force was working further on the case.
On Tuesday, Cuomo questioned Syverud’s leadership and called for an independent monitor investigate the incidents.
“Despite his efforts, I do not believe Chancellor Syverud has handled this matter in a way that instills confidence,” Cuomo said.
At a campus forum later Wednesday, student protesters called for Syverud’s resignation and walked out when he wouldn’t promise to sign onto all their demands as written, according to news accounts. They marched to his house, chanting, “Sign or resign!”
On Thursday, Syverud announced he had signed on to “nearly all” of the demands, including mandatory diversity training for faculty and staff and $1 million to change the curriculum in order to better address diversity.