President Alivisatos says UChicago working with city, community to address violence

Message to University community follows Nov. 9 murder of alum Shaoxiong ‘Dennis’ Zheng

The following message was sent Nov. 10 to members of the University community from President Paul Alivisatos. Read the transcript of the video below.

Today we are mourning yesterday’s tragic murder of a recent University graduate. In this video, I express the University’s deepest sympathy for the family and other loved ones of our alumnus, Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng. I also discuss our commitment to working urgently with our local community, scholars across the University, as well as city, state, and federal elected officials and agencies, to address the serious problem of violence in our city.


Yesterday we lost a member of our University community, and today we are mourning. Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng was murdered in the course of a robbery in a residential neighborhood near campus. Our deepest sympathies are with his family and loved ones. Dennis came to us from Hong Kong and graduated from the University this summer with a master’s degree in statistics. Our community will come together soon to remember him and to honor his life.

The violence afflicting Chicago is on the same scale as a public health crisis and demands a commensurate response. The University community and our fellow residents of Chicago’s South Side—as well as citizens throughout Chicago—see a clear and urgent need to strengthen public safety. We have been in close contact with Mayor Lightfoot, Chicago Police Department Superintendent Brown, and other members of the Mayor’s team, along with local aldermen. The city is formalizing, with the University’s involvement, a number of short and longer-term public safety strategies specifically for Hyde Park and surrounding communities. We will share specifics soon.

I was born in Chicago. I love our city and our beautiful, vibrant neighborhoods. Tragically, violence afflicts our city and others in the U.S. It is more vital than ever for the University of Chicago and our neighbors on the South Side to show what is possible by coming together with purpose and creativity to address this issue.

We are fully committed to doing even more as a University and as an anchor institution on the South Side. We have taken positive steps to strengthen public safety, but know there is much more to do. This includes working with our neighbors, calling on our University community’s academic and policy expertise, joining in partnership with other Chicago institutions, corporations and concerned citizens, and seeking the support of city, state, and federal elected officials and agencies. We must and we will push constantly for our city and our own University community to work on this problem with the immediacy, vision and ambition that it demands.

We must also support each other in our time of grief. I urge students and employees at the University to make use of resources for counseling and other forms of support. You can find more information at the end of this message.

Thank you to the University community and our neighbors in the city for your partnership and commitment, as we work together on this serious challenge.