Open Letter to Rahm Emanuel
February 14th, 2018

We, the undersigned student and community organizations, are writing to express our deep disappointment with the Harvard Administration’s decision to bring Rahm Emanuel to campus.

As part of its Design School Lecture Series, Harvard University will host Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on February 20th, 2018. The event will highlight Emanuel’s tenure as mayor and touts how he has made Chicago “a great place to live, work, and play”. This erases how destructive Emanuel’s policies have been to Black and Brown residents of Chicago and to the City of Chicago as a whole. As future and current designers, urban planners, policy-makers, organizers, and educators, we cannot disregard the people who are in danger because of Rahm Emanuel’s administration.

In the last 15 years, Chicago has seen its African American population decline by roughly 200,000 residents as they have been priced out or pushed out of their communities. The lack of economic investment in communities of color and the failure to address violence contributed to the exodus. In 2017 alone, a person was shot in Chicago every 2 minutes and 27 seconds. The Mayor’s focus on downtown while ignoring broad swaths of the city means vital resources that address poverty and violence are not deployed to the places of most need.

In 2013, Mayor Emanuel closed 50 public schools in the largest school closing in history, with no plan for the use of now vacant buildings and with little done to track the 11,000 students that were displaced. In 2018, Chicago Public Schools decided to close four high schools in Englewood, displacing hundreds of students while planning to build a new high school in the community – yet none of the current students are allowed to attend the new high school once it is built. Instead of funding these schools and providing them with the resources they need, the Mayor’s Administration is disrupting the education of Black students in Chicago. Students are resisting these policies, and we support them in their fight to keep their schools open.

Although the City of Chicago already invests $1.5 billion on police every year, Rahm Emanuel plans to spend $95 million of taxpayer money to construct a Police Academy in the West Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago, a neighborhood that is 95% Black. This egregious use of public funds will expand a police department that is notorious for its systematic brutality against Black residents of Chicago. Out of 400 police shootings being investigated in Chicago since 2007, only one has been found to be unjustified. This is the same police department that murdered LaQuan McDonald with sixteen bullets and continues to inflict violence on Black and Brown communities in Chicago every single day. We will not forget Rahm Emanuel and his administration’s role in covering up the case of LaQuan McDonald to secure his own reelection.

The Police Academy is being built under the guise of training police officers to be more competent, but we recognize this rhetoric as a strategy to funnel more money into an institution that will continue to terrorize Chicago’s most marginalized communities. Many groups in Chicago vehemently oppose the Police Academy proposal. The #NoCopAcademy Campaign is a grassroots coalition that is calling for this project to be stopped and for $95 million to be invested in public services. #NoCopAcademy is made up of 54 organizations including Black Lives Matter Chicago, Assata’s Daughters, the Arab American Action Network, the Latino Union, National Lawyers Guild of Chicago, and many more. We wholeheartedly stand with #NoCopAcademy and the organizers in Chicago that are fighting to protect their communities from Rahm Emanuel’s violent policies.

While expenditures on police and police infrastructure continue to rise, Rahm Emanuel has ensured that the city has become less affordable during his term. Taxpayers are paying more than $1000 more in taxes per year under his administration. Taxes on vital services have increased while service quality has not. These services are seeing their funding dry up under Rahm Emanuel’s Administration.

It is our responsibility to challenge institutions of power, including our own university, and hold elected officials accountable for their racist, violent policies. Rahm Emanuel claims that his administration made Chicago a great place to live. We ask, for whom?

We encourage the Harvard University campus to look into the starkly inequitable, unjust, and destructive policies of the Emanuel Administration and support efforts of those in Chicago that rise above the public relations spin to provide a more accurate account of how Rahm Emanuel’s policies are affecting the city’s residents.


Harvard Urban Planning Organization
GSD African American Student Union

Eric Williams, Loeb Fellow
Mayu Takeda, Co-President, Harvard Urban Planning Organization
Lena Ferguson, Co-President, Harvard Urban Planning Organization
Sidra Fatima, Harvard Urban Planning Organization
Matt Genova, Harvard Urban Planning Organization
Simone Hodgson, Harvard Urban Planning Organization, African American Student Union
Casey Peterson, Harvard Urban Planning Organization
Justin Rose, Harvard Urban Planning Organization
Jennifer Kaplan, Harvard Urban Planning Organization
Alifa Putri, Harvard Urban Planning Organization
Aubrey Germ, Harvard Urban Planning Organization
Mariana Pereira Guimaraes, Harvard Urban Planning Organization, Healthy Places GSD
Marcus Mello, Co-President, GSD African American Student Union
Armando Sullivan, GSD African American Student Union
Shanasia Sylman, GSD African American Student Union
Chanel Williams, GSD African American Student Union
Marisa Villarreal, Co-Chair, Women in Design
Juan Reynoso, Healthy Places GSD, MUP Diversity Committee
Sarah Diamond
Malia Teske
Rian Rooney
Don O'Keefe
Gustavo Diaz Paz
Charlotte Leib
Andy Lee
Christin Hu
Finn Vigeland
Yara Saqfalhait
Zoe Holland
Katie Gourley, MUP (former resident of Chicago)
Nerali Patel, AfricaGSD
Zlatan Sehovic
Zawar Jafri, Harvard Divinity School
Jena Tegeler
Léopold Lambert, The Funambulist
Emily Marsh
Kate Wolf
Tau Tavengwa
Daniel Padilla, MUP Diversity Committee
Diane Athaide
Megan Slavish
Laura Lopez Cardenas
Yoni Carnice
Brian Zug
Hung Vo
Emma Phillips
Caroline Lauer
Ranjani Srinivasan
Ellie Rochman
Claire Matson
Carson Fisk-Vittori
Dylan Anslow
Connie Trinh
Sonya Karabel
Carissa Connelly
Syed Ali
Stefano Trevisan
Evan MacKay, Harvard Organization for Prison Education and Reform
Haden Smiley
Colleen Brady, Africa GSD
Billy Schaefer
Doris Reina-Landaverde, TPS Coalition
Rose Florian
Billy Schaefer
Collin Poirot, Harvard National Lawyers Guild
Mallory Nezam
Andrew Freear
Javier Arbona
Chris Liao

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Questions for Rahm Emanuel
1) Mayor Emanuel, how do you justify the fact that there is a mass exodus of Black residents taking place under your tenure? The populations of many of Chicago's black communities has declined and the city as a whole has lost more than 200,000 residents - most of them Black - in recent years. What have you done to keep Black residents in the city?

2) What specific economic investments have you made to create an inclusive economy for people of color?

3) Mayor Emanuel, you've been quoted on many occasions as touting the fact that there are 67 cranes up in downtown Chicago - as evidence of development. How many cranes are up in other neighborhoods of the city? What are your specific plans (besides the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund) to financially invest in Chicago's neighborhoods and to build vibrant economies outside of the city center?

4) Mayor Emanuel. can you explain why Chicago Public Schools is currently being sued because of the failure to give special education students the services that they are mandated to receive according to federal IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)? How can the city tout the quality of education it provides when its most vulnerable students are being denied vital services?

5) Mayor Emanuel, can you explain why corruption has been such a problem with your administration? The most recent CEO of Chicago Public Schools has resigned amid a scandal where he attempted to cover up an investigation. His predecessor was ousted after it was discovered she was engaged in pay to play to the tune of $20 million. The City's previous Comptroller was sent to prison as well. You yourself fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy for his role in the cover up of the murder of LaQuan McDonald - a case that you were involved in as well. Can you explain how any one can have faith in your administration with such a track record?

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