By TONIA HILL
University of Chicago (U. of C.) students under UChicago United, a coalition of multi-cultural organizations at U. of C., made public today, Friday, May 19, their demands for the university to create an inclusive environment for minority students at U. of C.
“The university claims that it’s dedicated to diversity and inclusion, but time and time again there are racist and discriminatory things that happen on this campus that aren’t properly addressed said second-year student, and a member of the Organization of Black Students, Qudsiyyah Shariyf. “People are continually pushed aside and not included in discussions about their safety and well-being on this campus. We are demanding to be a part of those conversations and to have a say in the changes that we want to see made.”
About 40 students gathered outside Edward Levi Hall, 5801 S. Ellis Ave., on a chilly and windy Friday afternoon for the rally.
Specific demands from the group are calling on the university to formally recognize all Greek organizations active on the U. of C. campus as Registered Student Organizations (RSOs). To create university-funded and run cultural houses (a Black House, Latin House, and Asian House) independent of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. Also, to create a Race and Ethnic Studies Department in addition to more funding for programs through the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, and diversification of the Core Curriculum.
The rally featured speakers from organizations including: Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (MEChA) de UChicago, the Organization of Black Students (OBS), PanAsia Solidarity Coalition (PanAsia), Muslim Students Association (MSA), Arab Students Association (ASA), African Caribbean Students Association (ACSA), and the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS).
According to UChicago United, “the current campus climate which fails to adequately support students of marginalized backgrounds and identities, said in a written release. “This coalition has formed to address a larger political climate that is epitomized in continuous occurrences of racist, discriminatory, and exclusionary acts within the UChicago community. UChicago United urges the university to treat the following events with the gravity they merit by offering affected students resources and pursuing disciplinary and/or legal action.”
The coalition cited three incidents on campus that it claims, “reflect the toxic and exclusionary atmosphere that minority students regularly face.”
Alyssa Rodriguez, a third-year student and member of MeChA said the current policy at U. of C. that instructs students to report discriminatory incidents to the Bias Response Team is not enough. She said under the current policy the team only has the authority to collect incidents.
“The Bias Response Team is made up of administrators, who have other jobs and in reality whenever you try to go through the Bias Response Team all they do is try to get someone to apologize to you, which is not going to solve the problem,” Shariyf said.
Incidents on campus include the racist flyers that had anti-Semitic, racist, and homophobic messaging and were discovered on March 10.
Matthew Urbanik, 21, of Schaumburg, Ill., was named as the individual caught putting up offensive posters on the U. of C. campus. U. of C. police found Urbanik with spray paint and posters. Urbanik was charged with one count of Felony Criminal Damage to Property.
UChicago Coalition claims the university has not offered “any substantive reform or university policies nor support for campus members.”
Also, mentioned regarding incidents on campus include a party with an offensive and racist theme that was to be held on Friday, May 5, by the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity. Students from MEChA discussed their concerns with a member of the fraternity and were told that the theme would be changed, but other fraternity members attended the party in costumes related to the theme.
On May, 12, the coalition said flyers were posted on campus that had racist messaging and referring to Palestinians and those in support of Palestinians human rights and Arabs and Muslims.
“This isn’t about just one incident it’s about a pattern and just the institutionalization of racism and discrimination on this campus,” Shariyf said.
A U. of C. spokeswoman issued the following statement in response to the rally:
“The University of Chicago has an unwavering commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion. The members of our University community are dedicated to continue addressing these matters, and have taken steps to improve in these areas, such as the recent climate survey on diversity and inclusion and the subsequent discussions around campus focused on these topics. We look forward to continued conversation and engagement across campus to provide a deeper understanding of the issues facing our campus.”
Rodriguez said she hopes the U. of C. starts meeting with UChicago United.
“We’ve outlined our demands, and we’ve made it fairly easy for them to start talking with us about what we think we need to get through this institution healthy and safe,” Rodriguez said.