Creating an Inclusive, Welcoming and Safe Campus Community

Over the past four years, Syracuse University has taken action and made significant investments to foster an inclusive, welcoming and safe community and to respond to concerns raised by our students.

Updated Nov. 25, 2019


  • An interim solution for a first-year experience course was implemented to provide all first-year and transfer students with a strong foundation for an aspirational culture that is welcoming, inclusive, tolerant, understanding and respectful. SEM 100 provides first-year and transfer students a shared reading experience to explore identity, belonging, diversity, inclusion, and health and wellness through small-group discussions, co-led by a peer facilitator and a lead faculty, staff or graduate student facilitator. Feedback from student surveys and focus groups continues to help improve the experience for the following year.
  • Two University Senate committees involving faculty and students are working to revise curriculum in two ways. One is revising the first-year experience course as (a one-credit seminar) to include curriculum, learning outcomes and measurement of knowledge gain. This course is focused on transitioning to the University and encountering diverse communities, identities and perspectives with empathy and respect. A second ad hoc committee is considering a proposal for a required elective course in social justice. If approved, students would choose from a menu of 3-credit courses that will deliver a deep dive into the issues of diversity, inclusion, equity and accessibility from multiple disciplinary perspectives. The intention is that both of these courses will be approved for launch in 2021 and will work in tandem to meet crucial learning objectives on race, identity and social justice.
    • Both ad hoc committees include diverse representation (in self-identification and subject-matter expertise) of students, faculty, administrators and staff. All curricular initiatives, including these, require adoption by the individual schools and colleges, approval by the University Senate, and in some instances, approval by the New York State Department of Education.
  • The Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence has designed teaching support initiatives, including mentoring programs and coaching for faculty, with attention to the needs of diverse and marginalized populations and the creation of a faculty professional development plan that enhances and supports teaching excellence. The center also helps faculty integrate issues related to diversity, bias and cultural sensitivity into coursework and reading selections. 
  • From Aug. 14 to 16, 50 faculty members deepened their knowledge related to creating inclusive, equitable classroom practices at the inaugural Faculty Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Institute. The conference included extended discussions with keynote speaker Robin DiAngelo, author of “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism,” as well as interactive sessions led by diversity educator Vivian Relta and the Cornell Interactive Theater Ensemble. Additional learning opportunities are in the process of being organized.
  • American Sign Language (ASL) faculty have been hired, and curriculum development and proposals are in process to include ASL as an option to fulfill language requirements in the Arts and Sciences core.

Campus Community

  • Keith A. Alford was appointed as the University’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer in May, after serving in an interim capacity. His appointment fulfills a key priority of the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion, which, in 2016, delivered wide-ranging recommendations aimed at creating a more welcoming, respectful campus climate. Alford provides executive leadership, oversight and vision in the administration of services, programs, policies and procedures related to creating a diversity, equitable and accessible campus community. He has worked with campus partners to develop and deliver educational opportunities in diversity and inclusion. He helped bring together faculty and staff members from each of the University’s schools and colleges who lead diversity and inclusion efforts in their respective units to form the Inclusive Leadership Assembly. The group, chaired by Alford, discusses best practices, and its members exchange ideas to better support students, faculty and staff.
  • Hire Potential, a consultant firm selected by the Disability External Review Committee, is evaluating the services offered by the Office of Disability Services, the Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion and Resolution Services, Information Technology Services and others serving those members of the University community with disabilities. Hire Potential is also evaluating the University, based on best practices and the practices of peer universities, on the physical accessibility of the University’s buildings and public spaces, accessibility of websites and IT products, the administrative structure for service provision, and the campus culture both inside and outside of the classroom. 
    • Many facility improvements to enhance accessibility have been made, including new door operators installed in multiple locations at the Dome, and new all-gender accessible restrooms have been or are being completed in multiple locations, including the first floor of the Shaffer Art Building, the subbasement of the Physics Building and the first floor of Crouse College. Updates also include improving accessibility in more than 100 student rooms and new accessible classroom technology. 
    • All new campus projects will include use of Universal Design Principles.
  • The Council on Diversity and Inclusion’s recommendation to create a plan within the Campus Framework to house distinct cultural centers (e.g., Disability Cultural Center, LGBT Resource Center, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Native Student Program, and Center for International Services) in a centralized location such as the to-be-renovated Schine Student Center is underway. This includes ensuring that all cultural centers are accessible and have adequate space.
    • This will be complete as part of the Schine Student Center renovation in August 2020 and will include consultation with cultural centers and student groups.
    • Attention was given to accessibility and central location in providing temporary space for the LGBT Resource Center, Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Disability Cultural Center in Bird Library while the renovations take place at the Schine Student Center.
  • The University has expanded the Preferred Name/MySlice process for choice of gender pronouns, email display names, ID cards, and issues related to Blackboard and other relevant platforms.

Faculty and Staff

  • In an effort to hire more faculty from diverse and marginalized groups, several actions have been taken, including hiring a new member of the human resources talent management team to provide support to faculty search committees in diversity hiring and assisting dual career candidates; adding staff in the Provost’s Office specializing in the successful integration of diversity initiatives into faculty hiring, the search process, salary review and retention; training for deans and launch of the Signature Hires program across all 11 schools and colleges. 
  • All faculty and staff completed required sexual harassment prevention training in compliance with New York State law and in support of the University’s commitment to provide a safe and inclusive workplace. This training includes modules on preventing unconscious bias, microaggressions and discrimination.
  • Fifty faculty, staff and administrators participated in the inaugural Advanced Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Institute, established and hosted by the Office of Faculty Affairs. The second offering of this institute is planned for 2020. The objective is that all existing faculty will receive additional training on the aforementioned topics, in addition to training in the areas of accessibility, academic ableism and responding to bias.
  • More than 1,000 faculty and staff have undergone some kind of training or educational experience to better understand how unrecognized bias can impact students inside and outside the classroom, and how to raise issues of bias, inclusivity and diversity in the academic environment.

Campus Safety

  • To address concerns about campus safety, especially as it relates to racial issues, a Student of Color Advisory Committee was established and charged with collaborating closely with the Department of Public Safety (DPS) on matters related to safety, late-night transportation, DPS intervention and other important topics. In response to student concerns, the University improved its late-night safety shuttle service with two new fully accessible point-to-point shuttle vans. The new shuttles pick up and drop off students from on- and near-campus locations. Also, five uniformed, trained and licensed security guards were hired by DPS to provide walking safety escorts to students, faculty and staff to and from on- and near-campus locations. The University is also exploring adding cameras to off-campus neighborhoods. An on-line map was developed to be shared with the campus community that clearly defines DPS and Syracuse Police jurisdictions. 
  • In September, DPS announced it will expand its residential security aide program by hiring an additional 90 residential community safety officers. The program will provide 24-hour staff coverage to every residence hall, validating the identifications of every person entering and signing in guests. 
  • All DPS officers are required to complete training on unconscious bias.


  • In response to the campus community’s request for more meaningful communications, the University launched detailed, transparent and regular communications through updates from the then-interim chief diversity officer (now in the permanent role) and others in leadership, regarding new programs, services and staff appointments that have expanded resources to address diversity, sexual violence, accessibility, veterans’ affairs, Greek Life and other issues. 
  • The University Events Calendar was launched in April 2018, and any member of the Syracuse community can submit events for University-wide publicity. The calendar is accessible, and event organizers are required to provide information on available accommodations or how to request them before events can be published to the calendar. The calendar is searchable by topic, including events focused on diversity and inclusion and health and wellness.

Greek Life

  • The top-to-bottom review of Greek Life, conducted by outside experts in the field, produced important and useful findings. This executive summary highlights strengths and areas for improvement. With the creation of an advisory committee composed of members of the Greek community, the broader student population, advisors, alumni and other University stakeholders, the University is assessing and implementing the recommendations to ensure that Greek Life espouses and practices the University’s shared values. 
  • The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs is making enhancements to its structure and operations, including the addition of an associate director.
  • The Division of Enrollment and the Student Experience hosted a summit for the Greek community called “Know Better, Do Better” with a keynote speech focused on campus racism and is implementing other initiatives, including funding new training opportunities for staff and student leaders; increasing communication internally, with parents and with national chapter offices; hosting meetings of campus safety, local law enforcement, Fraternity and Sorority Affairs staff and Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities staff; creating a hazing incident online reporting form; and revising how the institution investigates alleged hazing incidents. 

Health and Wellness

  • Every incoming undergraduate student is required to complete two online health modules: one focused on alcohol and substance use and another focused on sexual and relationship violence prevention. Before they arrive on campus, students are introduced to concepts, resources and policies related to substance use, healthy personal and professional relationships, and interpersonal violence. 
  • The Be Orange training program educates students on pro-social bystander intervention addressing sexual violence. Trainers are certified to train others across campus, increasing the number of opportunities for students to participate in the Be Orange training.
  • Counseling staff at the Barnes Center at The Arch has been expanded, including four additional full-time professionals who self-identify as people of color and the addition of six graduate student trainees. Three of the new professionals speak at least one language in addition to English.

Student Financial Support

  • Met 97% of first-year domestic students’ demonstrated need (remaining 3% missed deadlines, did not file proper paperwork, etc.)
  • Implemented 2018-2019 Success Scholars Award for high-performing first-year and transfer students (including international students); continued for sophomores who met criteria.
  • For the 2018-2019 academic year, Syracuse University awarded more than $282 million to undergraduates in the form of grants and scholarships. 75% of these dollars went to meet need. The other 25% went above need or was awarded in the form or merit or talent based awards. In addition, the University awarded nearly $40 million in federal, state and other grant aid.
  • The Graduate School awarded $750,000 in Research Excellence Doctoral Funding Program dollars to support 36 new fellowships and research assistantships across 16 academic departments. The goal of this funding is to advance high-impact research opportunities and support the University’s goal of increasing doctoral funding opportunities for diverse candidates and doctoral degree conferrals in high-performing areas.
  • The Graduate School awarded 50 summer dissertation fellowships of $4,000 to support dissertation completion and to address the need for more summer funding opportunities.
  • The Student Employment Office partnered with Career Services to centralize all student employment and career development opportunities into one convenient, modern resource. All student employment opportunities have transitioned to Handshake, the University’s student career management tool, on Aug. 1. There, students will not only have access to all job and internship opportunities, but also resources to book career counseling appointments, register for career-related workshops and access employer information.
  • The Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry provides free pantry staples to students facing food insecurity. In summer 2019, a new campus garden was planted on South Campus to provide fresh produce. A second food pantry opened fall 2019 in Sustainability Management’s office on South Campus. 
  • The Syracuse Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement was established to provide support and summer and academic year grants to undergraduates conducting original research or creative work.

Other Support Services

  • New reporting mechanisms have been put in place to help those who have experienced or witnessed bias through the STOP Bias initiative. The initiative is intended to educate the campus community about bias and provides resources to report and receive support for bias-related incidents. 
  • Neil Powless G’08 was appointed University ombuds. The Office of the University Ombuds was created in response to recommendations of the University Senate Committee on Women’s Concerns, the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion and the Graduate Student Organization to provide staff, faculty and graduate students with an informal, confidential, impartial and independent resource to address interpersonal issues.
  • On June 14, UndocuAlly Training was offered by the Chancellor’s Ad Hoc Committee on DACA/Undocumented Students. The three-hour training included an overview of laws, policies and issues currently impacting our student population; best practices for improving services for our students; and how to be allies and advocates for those impacted. 
  • Hendricks Chapel has launched many new series and opportunities for dialogue, especially targeted to enhance understanding of the Islamic faith, anti-Semitism, Buddhist thought and multiculturalism. The chapel created a Hindu Students Association. In addition, the Interfaith Dinner Dialogue series is intended to foster an inclusive and accessible campus environment. 
  • The Office of Student Assistance has transitioned to become a part of the expanded Dean of Students Office. It will provide integrated, holistic and comprehensive support to students with additional staff and increased programming. 
  • The Office of First-Year and Transfer Programs hired an assistant director for international student orientation to enhance the experience for new international students, by organizing international student orientation programs, coordinating social programs throughout the year and supporting communication efforts with first-year and transfer international students.

Preventing Sexual and Relationship Violence

  • The Chancellor’s Task Force on Sexual and Relationship Violence released results of a campus climate survey, a student-focused survey administered to students in spring 2018. The survey provides information on student attitudes toward awareness of and experiences relating to sexual and relationship violence. The results of the survey, along with data from students who completed the Sexual Assault Prevention online education program and other tools, is being used by the task force to inform educational programming and to guide the prevention strategy that addresses sexual and relationship violence on campus.
  • Transcripts involving cases of sexual and relationship violence before the University Conduct Board are now available at no charge to involved students.


  • In April 2019 the Division of Advancement and External Affairs convened the LEAD Summit, a day of professional development for Syracuse University alumni leader volunteers, including two diversity and inclusion leadership workshops for attendees.