Update on University’s efforts to foster engagement on public safety

Discussions on security and policing to continue with campus, local communities through Autumn Quarter

Editor’s note: This message was sent Oct. 29 from Provost Ka Yee C. Lee to members of the campus community.

I am writing today with an update on the University’s efforts to foster community dialogue and engagement on public safety, and the steps the University is taking to examine and improve our public safety function, including security and policing.

Over the past decade, the UCPD has undergone significant change, guided in part since 2015 by the recommendations of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. These actions have contributed to more specialized training, revised policies, increased accountability and transparency, and long-term reductions in crime on and around campus.

Two months ago, the University announced a multi-pronged engagement process to build on this progress. Our goal in talking with members of our campus and neighboring communities is to identify areas for action, including further steps to prevent bias in policing, and ways of accessing community resources in order to improve responses involving mental health.

To date, we have held 26 distinct meetings with students, faculty members, staff, alumni, and community representatives such as aldermen, other elected officials and community members at large. The meetings have produced constructive dialogue with a wide range of individuals who have both positive and critical perspectives of the UCPD. This public safety engagement process will continue through the Autumn quarter, and a public forum will be held at its conclusion to discuss issues raised in these meetings. I invite interested individuals or groups to contact PublicSafetyEngagement@uchicago.edu to schedule an engagement meeting.

These meetings have allowed us to identify potential areas for improvement. We value the insights from members of the campus community and from the residents of neighborhoods that the UCPD serves. We appreciate the invitation from Student Government to participate in a virtual town hall for students on community safety that is scheduled for 6 p.m. today.  This virtual town hall will include presentations from student leaders as well as Q&A with leaders in the Provost’s Office, Department of Safety & Security, UCPD and the Office of Civic Engagement. Information on the event can be found here.

In addition, in order to gain additional insights into the full range of experiences with UCPD, we are planning to conduct a survey of people on our campus as well as residents of the local community with no University affiliation.

I look forward to continuing to work with individuals across campus and the South Side to support the safety and well-being of our community and will continue to share progress updates and plans to enhance the University’s public safety function going forward.