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Syracuse University hires former Obama AG Lynch for probe of SU’s Department of Public Safety

By Eric Reinhardt


Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud (Eric Reinhardt / CNYBJ file photo)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Syracuse University (SU) announced it has hired former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to lead an independent review of the school’s Department of Public Safety (DPS).

Lynch served under President Barack Obama and has been known throughout her career for her work in the area of police-community relations, Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud said in a statement that the school posted Monday on its news website.

Lynch is now working for the Washington, D.C.–based law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

“I believe this review is necessary given that concerns have been raised through several channels about how DPS engages with our community and how it has managed various interactions with students, including protestors. Our DPS officers work very hard every day and night to protect our students and our community. Our community expectations and our needs have evolved, and this review will result in recommendations on how DPS can best meet today’s community’s needs going forward,” per Syverud’s statement.

The chancellor issued the statement following a week in which students protested inside Crouse-Hinds Hall. Syverud called it a “tough week on campus, including for the students … [who protested] in Crouse-Hinds Hall.” He also noted his remarks last Wednesday to the University Senate in which he said Syracuse “needed to step back from the edge so we can continue productive ongoing work to address issues of diversity, inclusion and safety that have caused significant concern across our campus since November.”

Additional actions

Hiring Lynch was among three specific areas for which Syverud “directed that we take immediate action.” The chancellor’s statement followed his conversations with many students, deans and faculty, Syracuse said.

He also received feedback from “early engagement sessions” conducted by a special committee of the school’s board of trustees and an independent advisory panel of experts, per the statement.

Besides the hiring of Lynch, Syverud figures that in the future, Syracuse faculty and deans “must have greater involvement, oversight and authority” on how the school handles protests.

Syverud wants interim provost John Liu to work with the deans, faculty and administrators to develop protocols to “achieve this mandate.”

The chancellor also directed an independent review of Syracuse’s “Student Experience function.”

“I am concerned that our students’ needs have evolved and changed, and that our team must be able to effectively execute on these needs, even in rapidly developing circumstances like the protests this week. We will announce the leader of this effort soon,” per Syverud’s statement.

Syverud concluded his statement noting that he believes these steps are “needed now for the sake of our students and university.”

“There will be more steps to come, including from the continuing work of the Special Committee and Independent Panel. Our university is making progress on many fronts —including on the many Campus Commitments, and in identifying, and holding responsible, three students for hateful acts so far,” said Syverud.

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