A Syracuse University graduate student taking photographs outside the VA Medical Center says she was questioned and ordered to delete several images by hospital security officers Thursday afternoon.

Mariam Jukaku, 24, of Michigan, said the officers also photocopied her university ID and driver’s license and asked if she was a U.S. citizen. She wonders if her appearance played a part in how the incident was handled.

Jukaku, a U.S. citizen of Indian descent, said she is Muslim and wears a head scarf.

“I got actually kind of annoyed. I felt that the question had no relevance,” she said of being asked about her citizenship. “That’s when I started wondering, ‘Maybe someone who didn’t look like me might be treated differently.’ “

Gordon Sclar, a medical center spokesman, said security officers were following hospital policy that restricts photographs on hospital property. He said Jukaku was between the sidewalk and the parking lot. She said she stayed on the sidewalk.

Her appearance was not an issue, Sclar said.

“There is a policy that requires if video or photographic equipment is being used on our property and we don’t know about it, (the operators) will be questioned,” Sclar said.

“It’s a government building and we’re living in challenging times,” he added.

But Sclar said photocopying her ID was not necessary and there is “zero tolerance” for discrimination.

“Removing the images that she shot was inappropriate, so we apologize,” Sclar said.

Jukaku is a graduate student in SU’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She writes for The Post-Standard as part of the Newhouse fellowship program. (MORE)


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