Chancellor Syverud Statement on Safety and Speech

Monday, Dec. 11, 2023

Dear Members of the Syracuse University Community:

Over the weekend, I received formal letters from several elected officials, including members of Congress and Gov. Kathy Hochul, asking me to consider, and in some cases respond to this question: Would advocating for the genocide of Jews violate Syracuse University’s codes of conduct? The answer is yes.

To our whole Orange community—our students, faculty, staff, alumni, families, and friends—I want to explain why.

If anyone advocates for the genocide of Israelis or Jews, or any other group—including Palestinians, Arabs, or Muslims—the targeted group has good reason to question whether that individual can faithfully meet their responsibility to all members of our community. That responsibility includes caring about the safety and well-being of all who are Orange.

Advocacy for the genocide of a group based on religion, nationality, ethnicity, or race requires Syracuse University to investigate and impose appropriate accountability. The University has disciplinary processes to address such violations of our standards. Those processes and outcomes comply with federal and state law.

But this is much more than a matter of law. It is a moral issue. As Chancellor, I have a fundamental obligation to the well-being of all our students, faculty, and staff. Regardless of what the First Amendment might permit in terms of hateful speech and conduct, as a private institution we should sometimes expect more of the members of our university community. We should expect that our community members will refuse to advocate for the death of a group of people based on their identity.

I wish the answers to all questions raised by recent events were this clear to me. During this stressful time, many are gravely concerned about the war. And I am acutely aware there remain concerns for free speech and academic freedom, including a fear that events in the world and at universities will lead administrators to regulate a broad range of speech in the name of student safety. I believe these are valid concerns, which we need to continue to work through as a community. In particular, I believe the time is here for our university to articulate a shared statement on free speech and academic freedom.

Honoring our responsibilities as citizens of this University has been stressful for so many of you since Oct. 7. Almost to a person, our community has been remarkably responsible and compassionate toward others. Thank you. I ask that we do our best to continue this, extending respect, empathy, and grace to each other in the time ahead.


Chancellor Kent Syverud