Thank you for signing on to this letter of demands!
In the spirit of the week of Juneteenth 2020, we submitted this letter of demands to the UIC and U of I System Administration on Monday, June 15th.
To President Timothy L. Killeen, UIC Chancellor Michael D. Amiridis, the University of Illinois at Chicago Board of Trustees, UIC Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan Poser, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Robert Barish, and UIC Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs J. Rex Tolliver,
This letter addresses the concerns and demands of undergraduate and graduate students and organizations at the University of Illinois at Chicago; related to UIC and the University of Illinois System’s lack of effort and response in light of police violence.
As one of the largest public institutions in the nation serving a majority Black and Brown commuter student demographic located on the Southwest side of Chicago, UIC has a moral obligation and responsibility to respond to the escalating anti-Black violence that has been unfolding in the City of Chicago for several years now, and that has plagued the city since its inception. Furthermore, it has a duty to respond to the broader anti-Black violence and racism ravaging our country, which also specifically afflicts UIC’s Black students and students of color more generally.
Over the course of the last two weeks, we have witnessed national and international outcry over the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Dreasjon Reed, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee, Rayshard Brooks, and Priscilla Slater. These are just some of the names of Black people we have lost recently who have been killed by the police and white vigilantes. It does not include the names of Black people who have been brutally beaten by police with batons, bitten by police dogs, and have lost their life protesting a persistent injustice that is compounded by the complicit silence of institutions that refuse to take a clear stand against anti-Black racism and racist police violence. This kind of anti-Black racism and racist policing is rooted in a long history of police violence that uniquely impacts all Black people in the United States, as well as globally, and threatens their lives.
As African American Studies scholar kihana miraya ross wrote in her New York Times op-ed, “Anti-blackness describes the inability to recognize black humanity. It captures the reality that the kind of violence that saturates black life is not based on any specific thing a black person - better described as ‘a person who has been racialized black’ - did. The violence we experience isn’t tied to any particular transgression. It’s gratuitous and unrelenting.” The current uprisings around the country and even around the world have refocused attention on the need to make #BlackLivesMatter, and have reignited the call to eradicate the oppressions that threaten Black life. To be sure, people of color and Indigenous peoples also experience the brutality of racist policing on and off campus. However, we want to acknowledge the unique ways in which institutional racism and racist policing impact Black people.
Through rallies, protests, and city-wide marches, UIC students, faculty, and alumni have been a part of and leading these fights, as we have watched our communities continue to experience violence from the Chicago Police Department (CPD). Just last week, a Black woman in Belmont Cragin/Hermosa was pulled from her car with guns raised at her, dragged, and pinned down by her neck by CPD - all because she was trying to run errands with her family. In Lincoln Park, a CPD officer gave the middle finger to protesters calling for justice for George Floyd, in a long list of over 250 complaints filed against CPD in just one day.
To date, UIC and the University of Illinois System has failed to release a statement condemning anti-Black violence and racist policing, and has failed to release an action plan that demonstrates a willingness to invest in its Black students. Furthermore, it has failed to ensure that the institution is making clear efforts to end patterns and practices of inequity and institutionalized racism on campus that impact the lives of its Black students.
In an email to the University of Illinois System on May 31, 2020, President Tim Killeen noted that after seeing the image of George Floyd being suffocated by police officers that, “We hope that it will be the one that finally steers us onto a path of real change.” But, it is not enough to hope. Hope must be met by institutional change and that change begins by listening to and implementing the demands of its students.
We, undergraduate and graduate students and organizations at the University of Illinois at Chicago, come together to call for UIC to commit & invest in students and divest from the police (UIC Police, CPD, and private security agencies), in order to bring real change.
We call on UIC and the University of Illinois System to divest from UIC Police, Chicago Police Department (CPD), and private security agencies in the following ways:
Commit & Invest
We call on UIC to commit and invest in its Black students, and the UIC community in the following ways:
In addition, we demand that UIC and the University of Illinois System make substantial donations to the following local organizations who are working to end state violence (including police violence) in order to make systemic changes in the lives of Black people and Black communities. These organizations include: Black Lives Matter Chicago, Assata’s Daughters, Brave Space Alliance, BYP100 - Chicago Chapter, Chicago Equity and Transformation, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, and the Chicago Community Bond Fund.
At the heart of it, divesting from policing (including UIC Police, CPD, and private security agencies) is an issue of systemic racism and gender violence. Students at UIC and in the broader Chicago community are not made “safer” by the presence of UIC Police, CPD, and private security agencies on our campus and in our communities.
In the City of Chicago, Rekia Boyd, Laquan McDonald, Bettie Jones, Quintonio LeGrier, and countless other Black people have been murdered by CPD. Continued collaboration with CPD by UIC and the University of Illinois System threatens the lives of Black, Brown, Indigenous, Arab, Muslim, undocumented, disabled, queer, gender nonconforming, trans, and people of color on our campus and further puts us in unique positions of harm and violence; and puts all people on our campus in harm’s way as well.
In an email to the UIC community on May 29, 2020, several members of UIC’s leadership (who this letter is addressed to) stated that, “we are committed to addressing the deep systemic injustice of racism”. With the subpar response thus far from UIC and the University of Illinois System about this current iteration of murders of Black people by police, it appears to us that UIC and the University of Illinois System has no plan in mind to express commitments to Black students specifically, and to the UIC and broader Chicago community as a whole. Therefore, we issue this list of demands generated by undergraduate and graduate students and organizations at the University of Illinois at Chicago as an immediate call to action. We issue a call to divest from UIC Police, CPD, and private security agencies, and to commit and invest to students of the UIC community.
This letter also continues a history of efforts led by Black students and the larger Chicago community to improve life on our campus. In 1968, Black students led a sit-in in University Hall after University police attacked a Black student in a coat room. In the 1960s and 1970s, student-led movements paved the way for African American Studies and Black Studies departments across the U.S., including at UIC. After several incidents of violence and harassment against Black students in the 1990s, members of the Black Students Organization for Communication successfully renewed calls for creating UIC’s African-American Cultural Center. Present day, members of the Chicago Health Coalition for Black Lives are calling for disbanding campus police and working to defund CPD by cutting all ties and contracts with them to make our hospitals, clinics, and university campuses police-free zones, which includes demands for UIC’s campus. Members of the Black Students Law Association of UIC John Marshall Law School have also submitted a letter to the Dean, that several student organizations have signed, calling for advancing equity for Black law students. Decades of student led demonstrations, sit-ins, kiss-ins, and protests by many groups of students are also awoken within this letter.
We also issue these demands in solidarity with students, faculty, and alumni from all across the country who call for cities and institutions of higher education to divest from policing. In 2015, Black Liberation Collective - composed of Black students from all across the country - issued lists of demands to 86 institutions to address widespread institutional inequity and anti-Black racism. In 2018, students at the University of Chicago demanded major changes to the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) - including disarming UCPD - after UCPD shot a student named Charles Thomas who was experiencing a mental health crisis; and ignited the call for #CareNotCops to demand more mental health resources for University of Chicago students and broader community members. Simultaneously, young people organizing with the #NoCopAcademy campaign have been demanding that the City of Chicago disinvest from policing and stop construction on a $95 million dollar police academy, and instead invest in schools, housing, and community. Last month, the University of Minnesota (UMN) announced that it will end contracts with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) after the UMN Undergraduate Student Body President issued a letter to the administration, following the murder of George Floyd by the MPD. And this week, the Minneapolis City Council vowed to disband the police department citing that, “In Minneapolis and in cities across the US, it is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe”. And right now, members of the Chicago Teachers Union are supporting Chicago Public School (CPS) students, teachers, and families in their demands to have CPS divest/remove CPD from schools and invest in nurses, trauma services, and restorative justice programming in order for students to have #PoliceFreeSchools.
We hope that you, as leadership of UIC and the University of Illinois System, will support us by following through with this call to action that provides real change in the lives of students at UIC.
Black Student Union
Black Graduate Student Association
Allied UIC Student Organizations – over 40 signatories
Allied UIC Campus Units – 14 signatories
Allied UIC Students, Faculty, Staff, and Alumni – over 930 signatories
Allied Community Supporters – in Chicagoland and Beyond - over 340 signatories