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Syracuse U holds peace vigil to combat hateful messages on campus

Payne Horning / WRVO News
Syracuse University held a community peace vigil outside Hendricks Chapel as a response to the racist and anti-Semitic messages left around campus.

Syracuse University is still on edge from a string of racist and anti-Semitic incidents on campus in the last month. As students returned this week from Thanksgiving Break, they gathered with faculty and administrators Wednesday for a community peace vigil.

In the face of freezing rain and wind, it was difficult for those outside of Hendricks Chapel to keep their candles lit. But many of the religious and spiritual leaders who spoke at the vigil, like Hendricks Chapel Dean Brian Konkol, said their presence sent an important message.

"An opportunity to show that love is stronger than hate, light is stronger than darkness, life is stronger than death," Konkol said. "Today and together we have an opportunity to send a clear and powerful message through our words and our deeds that we are better together."

This was the university's latest response to the hateful messages that have been left around campus. New security cameras were added over break, campus police officers are working longer shifts, and now more counselors are being made available to students.

Kai Wright, a sophomore at Syracuse who participated in the peace vigil, says while she thought it was an important act of solidarity, the university's response has been insufficient.

"You know how people say people listen to respond but not to hear you? I feel like that's what's been happening on the part of the university; that they listen to mitigate and cover themselves and create something that will pacify whatever they feel is being disruptive or disorderly, as opposed to creating real solutions and taking the stories and the experiences of the people who have felt the need to share them into consideration," Wright said.

Biko Gray, an SU professor who teaches about race and religion, agrees. He says the university needs larger, systemic changes.

"They've come up with a set of responses at this point, let's see if they work. Let's see how effective they are," Gray said. "In my mind, I'm interested in hearing or seeing good-faith steps toward something that can restructure this campus for the better. As of right now, that's yet to be seen."

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.
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