Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, associate professor of food studies in Falk College, was interviewed for the Syracuse.com story “Why aren’t NY farm workers in the Covid-19 vaccine line?” Minkoff-Zern, an expert on the intersections of food and social justice, comments on the…
Statement from SU Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw on racial insensitivity and the May 7 “blackface” incident
Statement from SU Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw on racial insensitivity and the May 7 “blackface” incidentMay 09, 2002Kevin Morrowkdmorrow@syr.edu
A group of 11 African American SU students and Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw met for several hours Wednesday, May 8, in the Chancellor’s office to discuss the students’ concerns following an incident the night before in which a white student appeared in black body paint at a local tavern with several of his fraternity brothers.
The African American students, representing a larger group of concerned students, many of whom gathered Wednesday in the Tolley Administration Building, expressed concern that this situation was but the latest of several bias-related incidents at the University over the course of the 2001-02 academic year.
The students presented to Chancellor Shaw a list of demands. Following a lengthy discussion of the points, the Chancellor and student Rahnold Thomas, speaking for the group, made brief statements.
Following is an expanded response from Chancellor Shaw about this incident and the students’ concerns.
My meeting Wednesday, May 8, with student representatives was comprehensive, constructive, and provided for a full airing of views. I was impressed by the students’ earnestness, professionalism, and commitment to the University’s core values.
I, too, was appalled by the incident of Tuesday night. I offer my apologies to students of color and to all members of the University community that a Syracuse University student could have progressed to this point in his academic career and not understand the hurtful consequences of his actions. I, apologize also, for the slower than desirable response time from the University after the incident.
It is clear that we have much work to do.
The following are my responses to the demands presented to me today by student representing several recognized student organizations.
1. Suspension of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and its members from the University.
The fraternity has been interimly suspended from Syracuse University pending final resolution of this matter through the University Judicial System.
2. The individual involved in wearing blackface around the campus and campus area must be expelled immediately without question.Action has been taken regarding this student. Federal privacy laws prevent the University from commenting, except to say that this student is being afforded the standard judicial process.
3. Public apology from the members of the fraternity, as well as from the University, to all students of color.
As stated above, I have apologized to the entire University community that a student could reach this point in his academic career and not understand the hurtful consequences of his actions. I agree that a showing of remorse from the fraternity is warranted in this situation. This is their decision, however, and not the University’s.
4. Letters to parents of current and incoming students, alumni, and all people otherwise associated with the University about the blackface incident immediately via electronic mail with a formal letter to follow.
This statement will be posted on the Syracuse University News web site (sunews.syr.edu) for all constituencies by Friday, May 10, 2002. A formal letter to parents and to incoming students will follow.
5. Diversity and anti-racism training that includes all underrepresented groups required for all students, faculty, staff, and public safety officers in all aspects of training and curriculum.
At present, all University staff are participating in diversity training. Approximately one-half of the staff have gone through this training. We are reviewing the program and will adjust it as necessary. Vice Chancellor and Provost Deborah Freund will work with the deans and faculty to determine how best to communicate diversity issues to faculty members. A recommendation is expected by the Spring 2003 semester. Senior Vice President Barry L. Wells is working with faculty and staff on a revised New Student Orientation program that will contain improved diversity training. In the meantime, a number of new diversity initiatives will be included in the orientation of the new students next fall. Dean Wells and his staff will seek student comment on the orientation program.
6. All incidents must be documented and permanently placed on the record of the accused.
Syracuse University currently documents bias-related incidents and will follow federal law in the maintenance of student discipline records. Presently, a record of student misconduct is maintained for a minimum of seven years.
7. Syracuse University policy on “bias-related incident” and “hate crime” must be redefined with students, staff, and faculty to facilitate accurate reporting with public safety.
The director of public safety is amenable to developing a reporting system that includes both incidents classified as hate crimes under federal law and bias-related incidents as defined by University policy.
8. Policies to protect students of color or other marginalized groups from discriminatory acts and hate crimes. If students, faculty, staff, or administration fail to comply with the policy result must be expulsion and organizations will be fined at least $25,000. The fine must be used to support student-controlled diversity programming including a Black Student Union Building and a Black Pan-Hellenic house.
At present, we have a Protocol for Responding to Bias-Related Incidents. We will post that protocol on the web and ask for comments and suggestions. We will also develop a policy statement to provide additional context and guidance for this protocol in consultation with the University Senate. I am not prepared to endorse the suggestion about fines. I will expect the committee working on the policy to be mindful of appropriate educational, remedial, and punitive sanctions.
9. Reinstate the Black Student Union Building and Black Pan-Hellenic house.
Dean Wells will form a group to examine these issues.
10. Create a judicial task force, separate from the Team Against Bias (TAB), comprised of representatives from the following organizations: the Student African American Society, The Black Voice, the African American Male Congress, La LUCHA, the National Pan-Hellenic Council, and Asian Students in America, as well as any organization that shows interest in handling racial incidents. The African American Studies Department and faculty of color that are concerned must be included.
I have great concerns about separate judicial bodies. Fundamental fairness requires us to maintain objectivity in dealing with judicial issues. Dean Wells will encourage students and faculty of color to participate in the Team Against Bias and the University Judicial Board.
11. A student-controlled board that will monitor the increase of hiring, tenure, and promotion of faculty and staff of color.
The University will provide annual information on hiring, tenure, and promotion without including the names of those involved.
I am in full agreement that justice must be served in this and all other judicial incidents on campus.