Syracuse students demand punishment for bystanders who do nothing about racist speech

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Signs posted on windows and doors at Syracuse University.

Activist students at Syracuse University are apparently having some trouble distinguishing between words and actual, physical violence, and are expressing the desire to take over how everyone talks and behaves.

Over the last month several alleged “hate crimes” have shocked the New York state school. Student activists have responded by demanding the resignation of chancellor Kent Syverud.

They also want to require “diversity training,” more counseling services, and punishment for anyone involved in “racist speech.” This would include penalties for people who only witness events and do not intervene.

“The safety of students on this campus — specifically the safety of underrepresented and underserved students — is paramount,” wrote the leaders of #NotAgainSU, a student activist group.

Safety from spoken words, apparently.

The incidents began on Nov. 7, when graffiti denigrating Asian students appeared on a campus building. This was soon followed by vandalism expressing attacking black, Jewish and Native American students, according to Inside Higher Ed.

Students are on edge, but some people seem to be blowing the danger out of proportion. Inside Higher Ed described the mood as one that “seemed to students like escalating threats and potential for violence”

Last week, the campus went into lockdown mode when it was reported that someone was using AirDrop to send the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto to student’s iPhones. It turned out that no one had actually received the manifesto.

Broadcast journalism professor Les Rose said he and other Newhouse professors volunteered to take shifts being in the lobby of the Newhouse building to reassure concerned students of their safety.

“It hurt my heart,” Rose said. “I woke up at 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday night because I couldn’t sleep—I was worried about what another racist idiot would do—and there’s an email from a very concerned student of mine who didn’t want to come to class. She was truly unnerved.”

Nonwhite students who participated in the protests say their mental health has deteriorated from mounting fear of being targeted on campus.

There is no evidence that anyone at Syracuse is in danger. None of the incidents have let to violence. They could be the handiwork of a disgruntled staffer, or, most likely, a student or group of students in search of an excuse to start limiting free speech to their own standards.

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