By TONIA HILL
The University of Chicago (U. of C.) made major moves in 2016. From a new residential commons being opened for the fall semester to student-led protests and influential guest speakers, to its continued commitment to free and open speech.
No “trigger warnings,” “safe spaces” for incoming freshmen
In August, a letter was sent to U. of C.’s Freshmen class.
Dean of Students John Ellison warned students ‚“there would be no canceling invitations of guests whose views may seem controversial (trigger warnings) or places where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own (safe spaces) at the university.”
“Trigger warnings,” and “safe spaces,” have become catch phrases around many colleges and universities in the wake vocal student-led protests at The University of Missouri and Yale University.
Critics of “safe spaces,” cite freedom of speech as to why the practice has no place on college campuses.
In November, Noche Diaz, a member of the Get Into the Revolution National Organizing Tour (RevCom) challenged the notion of free and open speech at the university.
Diaz defied a U. of C. campus ban and spoke on campus following his arrest and removal from campus in October.
Diaz said his arrest and removal from the university prove that there is a double standard.
Diaz was not arrested during the November protest.
In February, the university launched a $100 million enhancement of support for lower-income students with potential through a $50 million gift and challenge from writer Harriet Heymen, AM‚‘72, and her husband investor, Sir Michael Moritz.
The new five-year commitment is part of a $350 million investment by the University in the Odyssey Scholarship Program. The Odyssey Scholarship Program currently eliminates loans and academic-year work requirements for lower-income students. The program also includes support for study abroad, academic enrichment and career development through paid, substantive internships for each Odyssey Scholar.
A U. of C. varsity swimmer, Naomy Grand Pierre made history as the fist female swimmer to compete in the Summer Olympics in Rio for Haiti.
In September, the University of Chicago’s Campus North Residential Commons opened. The project was designed by Studio Gang Architects and is located on the northeast corner of U. of C.’s campus.
The 400,000-sqaure-foor residential commons is home to 800 undergraduate students and includes the Baker Dining Commons, university classrooms offices, for Campus and Student Life, outdoor green spaces and 10,000 square feet of retail.
In September, the University of Chicago Medicine broke ground on a new and expanded emergency department that will offer a Level 1 adult trauma center.
The new center is expected to bring in 1,000 permanent jobs to staff the facility and 400 construction positions to build the facility.
The new infrastructure will support 25,000 patient visits per year, an increase of 40 percent in the number of patients the hospital can currently treat. The new facility will be 76 percent larger expanding from 16, 517 square feet to 29,017 gross square feet upon completion.
The new emergency department is scheduled to open in January 2018 with trauma services offered by spring of 2018.
In March, UCPD announced that it would begin using body-worn cameras starting in April according to a statement from the university.
During the initial stages of the program, approximately 20 patrol officers will be outfitted with the cameras. However, the university said that by the outset of the upcoming academic year, every UCPD patrol officer would be equipped with a body-worn camera, according to a previous issue of the Herald.
UCPD Chief of Police Fountain L. Walker said the new policy would prove useful in officer training and evaluation.
“In addition to meeting a need that the public has identified, body-worn cameras aid officers in performing their duties,” Walker said. “These cameras help promote professionalism and accountability among officers.”
The UCPD’s body-worn cameras will have the ability to record both audio and video footage. The footage will be uploaded and stored on a university server. If the video footage is not flagged for use as evidence after 90 days, it will be automatically disposed of.
In August, Eric M. Heath was named Associate Vice President for Safety & Security at U. of C., Heath replaced Marlon C. Lynch, who accepted a position at New York University.
Heath oversees the University of Chicago Police Department (UPCD), Emergency Communications, Emergency Management, Environmental Health and Safety, Transportation & Parking Services, and Risk Management.
Heath rejoined U. of C. in September 2015, as the Executive Director of Campus Safety with responsibility for all of the administrative, logistical, technology, and communications functions of the department.
In October, about 10 Westboro Baptist Church members stood at the northwest corner of 55th Street and University Avenue in protest against the University of Chicago’s gender-neutral bathrooms and housing.
60 U. of C. students stood to counter-protest the Westboro members near Augustana Lutheran Church’s “Love Lives Here,” sign that was displayed on the side of the church.
Westboro announced that they would be protesting at the U. of C. campus. While protestors from the church, which is now known for its anti-LBGTQ beliefs and protests, held up signs directing derogatory comments to the LGBTQ community, students remained peaceful and positive.
J.T. Johnson, a second-year U. of C. student, explained his reasoning for coming out to counter-protest.
“ I am transgender, and when I heard that [Westboro Baptist Church] was coming, I thought it was a joke,” he said. “If you’re a bigot, I can’t change you’re mind, but protests matter in terms of visibility, and if you compare our numbers to theirs, we have succeeded.”
Following, the outcome of the November presidential election, students from the University of Chicago (U. of C.) staged a protest on Tuesday, Nov. 15 against President-elect Donald Trump and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
Included in the protest were students from campus organizations: UChicago Student Action (UCSA), the Organization of Black Students (OBS), Phoenix Survivors Alliance, and el Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan (MEChA).
Luiz Gomez, a college senior at Illinois Institute of Technology, and a member of Chicago Student Action, which falls under the umbrella of the People’s Lobby came to stand in solidarity with students at U. of C.
In his first interview since winning the election, Donald Trump said that he wants to deport millions of undocumented immigrants specifically those with a criminal records or gang ties.
Gomez is undocumented. He came to Chicago from Mexico when he was 11 years old. He is fearful about Trump’s plans for deportation and what could happen to him and others that he knows are undocumented.
“There is fear; there’s a lot of stress, mental health issues and calls to hotlines rising,” Gomez said. “There’s a lot of fear about the uncertainty of what the future holds for our community.”
Through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Gomez is protected from deportation. DACA is an immigration policy created in 2012 by President Barack Obama, for certain undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children. Under the plan, undocumented people who entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 can receive a renewable two-year work permit and are exempt from deportation.
Gomez is concerned that the protection that he and others have through DACA could vanish.
In November, WHPK 88.5 announced that they would meet with U. of C. representatives to resolve ongoing issues between the community and student-run radio station and the university.
Since September, programming at WHPK has been reduced because of new policies set in place by the university. One new policy prohibits after hours use of the Reynolds Club, 5706 S. University Ave., where the station broadcasts.
The station claims the policy change has cut a third of its programming and WHPK typically broadcasts 24 hours, seven days a week. The new changes were put in place by the Center for Leadership and Involvement, which advises the station and other student organizations.
“It would no longer be possible to maintain 24-hour access to the studio, which is located in a university facility that closes at midnight during the academic year and does not have sufficient staffing or security to support after-hours access for the station,” said Marielle Sainvilus, spokeswoman for the university.
Former show host at WHPK Mario Smith said in his time at the station, to his knowledge, safety, and security at the building was never an issue. When guests, DJs, or any other people needed access to the building, they called someone in the studio, and they were brought into the building without incident.
The ban is the latest in policy changes for WHPK. The university began to require DJs who were not students to submit social security numbers for criminal background checks, which Smith admitted he signed reluctantly.
After the criminal background checks, and then home inspections for bed bugs Smith said he’d had enough and after 15 years, he left WHPK. Several other DJs also resigned in the midst of the bed bug inspections.
“They are implying that you have bed bugs and then they asked for a criminal background check,” Smith said. “The last straw was the bed bug thing. That means you did not want us to be there.”
Smith said he saw the moves by the university this year as a way to keep outsiders out of the equation.