U. of C. students and faculty meet to discuss hate incidents on campus

Interim University of Chicago Police Chief Joanne Nee explains to audience members that 21 year old Mathew Urbanik has been arrested and charged with one count of Felony Criminal Damage to Property for his role is distributing posters considered racist, homophobic and anti Semitic on University of Chicago property, during a community forum to discuss hate incidents on campus Wednesday, March 29, at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, 5733 S. University Ave. – Owen M. Lawson III

By TONIA HILL
Staff Writer

Students and faculty from the University of Chicago (U. of C.) met Wednesday afternoon, March 29, to discuss hate incidents on campus.

At the forum, hosted by the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, 5733 S. University Ave., students, faculty, and community members expressed concern about the manner in which the university is responding to hate incidents on campus.

The group believes that the university is not doing enough to address those incidents, which in the last few months have been committed by White Nationalist organizations.

Regina Dixon-Reeves, assistant vice provost for Diversity and Inclusion, assured students that the administration is listening to their concerns.

“We are incredibly concerned…you have our heartfelt sympathy,” Dixon-Reeves said.

She said that the administration is working with the U. of C. police to ensure safety to all members of the university community.

The most recent incident occurred on March 10, according to a March 20, article in the Herald, Matthew Urbanik, 21, of Schaumburg, Ill., was named as the individual caught putting up offensive posters on the U. of C. campus.

The posters had anti-Semitic, racist, and homophobic messaging and were discovered on March 10, the same name night U. of C. police caught Urbanik with spray paint and posters. At the time he was warned and told that he could be banned from the campus for his actions but was released.

Joanne Nee, interim U. of C. police chief, said the department compiled evidence to present to the Cook County State’s Attorney office and pushed for the State’s Attorney to pursue a hate crime charge, but the office instead moved to charge Urbanik with one count of Felony Criminal Damage to Property.

He has been barred from all property connected with the university. According to Nee, Urbanik is out on bond.

As mentioned in a Feb. 9, article in the Herald, members of the graduate worker labor union on campus, Graduate Students United (GSU) have reported sightings of the posters since January.

After listening to University of Chicago student Elizabeth Adetiba (left) explain that there have been several times when she has been a victim of racial slurs on campus, Susan Gzesh, J.D. executive director of the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights at University of Chicago, said she wants the University of Chicago to prosecute Matthew Urbanik to the fullest extent of the law and encourages University of Chicago students, faculty and administrators to attend Urbanik’s trial in order to demonstrate how serious the university considers this matter, during a community forum to discuss hate incidents on campus Wednesday, March 29, at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, 5733 S. University Ave. – Owen M. Lawson III

GSU members find the posters and take them down. According to Claudio Sansone, graduate student and a member of the GSU, since the group began tracking and reporting on the posters they have determined designated hot spots for posters.

Sansone said the Regenstein Library, 1100 E. 57th St., and Cobb Hall 5811 S. Ellis Ave., are a few popular spots for poster sightings. College campuses, he said are areas where White Nationalist groups are working to recruit members.

Volunteers are assisting the GSU in reporting the posters daily. Groups are walking and checking different spots day and night. Sansone said the administration should be just as diligent.

“It should be a shared responsibility of everyone to look out for these posters and take them down,” Sansone said.

Members of the group also voiced their disdain for the administration’s stance on free speech versus hate speech.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, last month, U. of C. President Robert J. Zimmer said that all speakers invited to speak at college campuses should be allowed the space to do so.

Including white nationalists like Richard Spencer, who is a U. of C. alum and president and director of the National Policy Institute.

“It would be fine if he [Richard Spencer] came to speak, just like if anyone else came to speak,” Zimmer said.

The Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture held the forum to provide a safe space for students and faculty members to air their concerns in regards to hate incidents on campus.

Sansone said he is appreciative for the conversation had at the forum and believes more conversations can lead to change, but he remains skeptical about the university taking practical action.

“I am optimistic that these kinds of meetings can push this discussion,” Sansone said. “I think we need to have many more of these conversations to push things in a better direction.”

t.hill@hpherald.com