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American News Aug 15, 2020 10:07 PM EST

Syracuse University to punish students who witness 'racist' incidents and don't act

Syracuse University officials created a new punishment policy for student "bystanders and accomplices" accused of silence and inaction in "racist" offenses.

Syracuse University to punish students who witness 'racist' incidents and don't act
Mia Cathell The Post Millennial

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be up to date.

Syracuse University officials created a new punishment policy for student "bystanders and accomplices" accused of silence and inaction in "racist" offenses.

This rule was implemented #NotAgainSU demanded the expulsion of students present in racial and "bias-motivated" incidents, Jonathan Turley, an attorney and professor at the George Washington University Law School, reported in a blog post.

The group protests the school administration's alleged "lack of transparency and complicity with white supremacy."

Professor Keith Alford, the university's first diversity and inclusion officer, proposed the initiative, Turley explained.

Alford sent a community-wide email, warning:

"The Code of Student Conduct has been revised, based on your input, to state that violations of the code that are bias-motivated—including conduct motivated by racism—will be punished more severely. The University also revised the code to make clear when bystanders and accomplices can be held accountable. The code will be prepared and distributed for students to sign in the fall.”

Any act of discrimination or harassment experienced on campus may be reported to the Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion and Resolution Services via email. Students, faculty, and staff also may report incidents anonymously through the STOP BIAS portal.

"We reject all acts of hate, but we can’t address each one with just words. What we can and must do is the collective work necessary to confront it every time," Alford wrote.

The new rule does not extend to the severity of the student group's demands. However, Turley highlighted, how "silence or inaction" will be judged is not clearly stated in any given circumstance and appears left up to the investigators' discretion.

"That uncertainty will prompt many to guarantee compliance by speaking or acting to avoid even the chance that they might be subjected to a highly damaging bias charge," Turley speculated.

The university also stated that the campus will install cameras in first-floor lounges, “public areas,” and residence hall elevators to observe any failure of immediate intervention. For fall 2020 resident advisors, almost 55 percent identify as students of color, 37.5 percent identify as white, and over 7 percent identify as international students.

"The law has always drawn a line between malfeasance and nonfeasance in considering unlawful acts," Turley wrote, "but Syracuse University is about to eradicate any real distinction..."

Malfeasance is the doing of an act which a person ought not to do at all and nonfeasance is the omission of an act which a person ought to do, he explained.

The differentiation can be lost in corporate law or prosecutorial ethics "where duties come with a duty to act in a particular fashion," Turley continued.

"The concern raised by the Syracuse rule is that there remains controversies over vague universities standards on bias or race motivated violations including microaggressive language or actions," he urged.

Recently, a columnist at Syracuse's The Daily Orange was sacked from the student newspaper for simply questioning the basis for claims of "institutional racism," he cited.

"What is viewed as bias-motivated speech for some is viewed as political speech by others," Turley pointed out.

The new rule suggests that even students, who might disagree that an incident is "bias-motivated,” must still act to avoid scrutiny or punishment.

"Given the rising concerns over the erosion of free speech on our campuses, the punishing of students for nonfeasance for merely being witnesses or passive adds a new chilling element to speech," Turley went on.

Turley asserted that the new rulebook creates a “prove you are not a racist” or biased burden.

"It is not just silencing those who now fear expressing their views on campus," Turley concluded. "It would now require speech and action to avoid possible discipline."

The corrective agenda was set after an alleged string of racist incidents that occurred at Syracuse last fall.

One of the allegations that sparked the policy change came from a black woman who claimed that several fraternity members shouted racial epithets at her. Four students from the fraternity were suspended, but after “hours of voluntary interviews with authorities,” the organisation could "confirm that no member of Alpha Chi Rho directed racial slurs at anyone," the fraternity's national chapter told The Daily Orange.

The only other racial dispute in question happened last year when a white supremacist manifesto was allegedly sent to several Syracuse students' cellphones at the main campus library via AirDrop—which turned out to be a hoax, NBC New York reported.

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