John Katko

Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y. speaks at Syracuse University Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, in Syracuse, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

U.S. Rep. John Katko on Wednesday denounced the racist messages and bias incidents targeting faculty and students at Syracuse University. 

Katko, a Syracuse University College of Law alumnus, said in a statement that the hateful messages "have no place in our community." 

"Discrimination and hate speech of any kid must never be tolerated," Katko continued. "I support a full and robust investigation into these actions, and believe the perpetrators must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Syracuse University has long welcomed students, teachers and visitors from around the globe, and it is critical that it remain a safe and tolerant place."

The incidents, according to a timeline compiled by The Daily Orange, Syracuse University's student newspaper, began Nov. 7 when racist messages targeting African Americans and Asians were written in separate areas of Day Hall, a campus residential facility. 

There have been at least 11 other bias or racist incidents reported over the last two weeks, according to the publication. This week, a Syracuse professor reported that she received an email containing anti-Semitic statements. 

The university's Department of Public Safety is investigating the incidents. Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the New York State Police's Hate Crimes Task Force and the state Division of Human Rights to assist with the inquiry. 

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Students responded to the incidents by holding a sit-in at Barnes Center at The Arch on campus. The hashtag #NotAgainSU is being used to support the students and call for the school's administrators to address their concerns. 

The students presented Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud with a list of demands, including stiffer penalties for bias-related incidents, a diversity-focused course, mandated diversity training for faculty and staff and strengthening the anti-harassment policy. 

Syverud responded to the students' demands and accepted many of them. In a statement distributed by the university, Syverud addressed each of the demands and how the university would respond.

Among them is a commitment to revise the code of conduct to "make even more clear the serious consequences for hate speech." The changes will be implemented no later than August 2020, Syverud said. 

The chancellor has been criticized by Cuomo for his response to the racist incidents. Cuomo released a statement urging the university's board of trustees to install a monitor to lead the investigation. 

Other elected officials, including Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, support Syverud's handling of the inquiry. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.