Slurs in Day Hall ignite SU’s latest racial controversy

Racist vandalism in Day Hall stirs campus controversy

Student organizations call for transparency as administration admits it was not forthcoming about vandalism incident.
Published: November 12, 2019 | Updated: November 13th, 2019 at 3:49 pm
Day Hall on Nov. 12, 2019
Bathrooms on two floors of Day Hall were vandalized and marked with racial slurs on Thursday.

Syracuse University administration faced a barrage of criticism Monday after it was slow to announce that racist slurs were discovered in Day Hall bathrooms last week.

Outcry from several student organizations followed a series of undisclosed meetings with Day Hall residents about damage to bathrooms on floors four and six early Thursday morning that included the n-word scrawled across mirrors and trash cans.

Department of Public Safety officers met with Day Hall residents on the two floors Friday night and again Sunday night when they were joined by SU Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Keith Alford, DPS Chief Bobby Maldonado and Dean of Students Marianne Thomson.

Renegade Magazine was one of the first campus publications to publicize the incident on Instagram alleging a coverup and displaying the first photos showing the vandalized Day Hall bathroom.

On Monday morning, the Syracuse University Residence Hall Association posted a letter on its Instagram account calling for the university to speak out.

“We are disappointed in the lack of action and communication from the university in regard to student safety within a space that everyone should be able to call home.”

The SU Student Association followed suit midday Monday with its own letter on Instagram and an announcement that an open forum was scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday in Lyman Hall.

“The Student Association condemns such behavior and stands in solidarity with the students that have been affected by this hate crime. We are alarmed by the lack of information provided to the residents of Day Hall and to the rest of out community, as well as an overall lack of transparency and communication concerning these racist actions,” said the statement.

The administration reported the incident to the entire university community at 5 p.m. Monday in an email to students, faculty, and staff — hours after student organizations and the Daily Orange had already made the information public.

“We regret not communicating more broadly,” Robert Hradsky, Vice President for the Student Experience, said in the email.

Day Hall resident Xyta Vrijmoet, who lives on the sixth floor, said school officials asked students to report anything suspicious they may have seen in the last two weeks but discouraged them from recording the meeting “because they didn’t want to cause people to worry about their safety or feel unwelcome in Day Hall.”

Vrijmoet said she suspects they tried to keep the incident under wraps while the school launched its $1.5 billion “Forever Orange” capital campaign this weekend so as not to distract or discourage donors.

“I just really think this school is business first, students second,” Vrijmoet said.

After the university’s official announcement, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force and the State Division of Human Rights to investigate the vandalism.

“I’m disgusted by the recent rash of hateful language found scrawled on the walls at Syracuse University, where students from around the world are drawn each year in the pursuit of higher learning,” Cuomo said in a statement. “These types of hateful and bigoted actions seek to splinter and segregate our communities, and they have no place in New York – period.”

In April 2018, SU drew national attention when videos surfaced of Theta Tau fraternity members performing a skit with racist, sexist, and homophobic slurs. Protests and forums took place in the weeks that followed with the school administration putting together an extensive plan in response to calls for a better campus climate for students of color.

Editor's Note:

The NewsHouse will continue coverage of this ongoing story including updates during and following the Tuesday night open forum at Lyman Hall.

Avatar for Victoria Mescall

is the Assistant Executive Producer of The NewsHouse.