SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Syracuse University student Naiya Jai is a resident advisor (RA) at Day Hall – an on-campus freshman dormitory. Over the past several months, the campus has been struck with a continuous thumping of bias-related incidents.
These incidents have been overtly directed towards marginalized groups, whether it be Black, Jewish, Asian, Hispanic, homosexual, and other marginalized members who help make up a diverse local campus community.
One particular result from these senseless acts has been the situation Jai, a senior as SU, is forced into. As both a resident advisor and African-American student, it’s inevitable that Jai has a job to do as an RA whenever a bias-related incident transpires at Day Hall . That entails ensuring the students on her floor – many of whom away from home for the first time – feel at ease, not threatened, or that their safety is not being compromised. However, it shouldn’t take much to realize that given the circumstances, a job of that nature is thoroughly difficult.
The campus of Syracuse University has experienced approximately 30 reported bias-related incidents since the middle of November, many of which targeted at Black people. Jai’s job of consoling students and trying to make them feel safe on-campus becomes difficul when she herself – being someone directly targeted in a significant amount of these incidents –does not feel safe.
“It’s really hard to try and do your best to comfort and protect your residents when there’s nothing you can really do for them. They don’t feel safe on-campus in their living space,” said Jai. “And, to be a person of color on staff, I have no choice. I can’t just up and leave the building because I have to be there for my residents, so I’m constantly in an environment where I am the direct person who’s being targeted.”
Jai says that on her floor, she only has one group of girls who are African-American students. She says more often than not, that group of girls opts to go all the way to Lawrinson Hall, a separate dormitory about 15 minutes away, to sleep at a friend’s place on a multi-cultural student floor.
“They [the group of girls] tell me all the time, we don’t feel comfortable here.’ So, they literally go to Lawrinson [Hall] to stay with their friends,” said Jai.
Jai’s frustrations also come in the midst of a second sit-in of a Syracuse University building by students peacefully protesting with the “NotAgainSU” movement. After occupying the Barnes Center at The Arch from last Nov. 13 – Nov. 22, students have now done the same for ten days at Crouse-Hinds Hall, to which that sit-in remains ongoing. All told, the frustrations, fear and discomfort shared by Jai and countless other students and faculty, likely will not waver until these bias-related incidents come to a screeching halt – among other changes as well.
According to the Department of Public Safety (DPS)’s page on the Syracuse University website, the most recent bias incident report was filed on Feb. 24, for a Feb. 22 incident. The report cited a screenshot containing racist comments about African-Americans being sent to a student’s cell phone. Before that, the latest incident took place at Day Hall on Feb. 21.