To: All Faculty and Other Academic Appointees
From: Paul Alivisatos, President, and Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost
Subject: UChicago and Community Safety
Date: November 16, 2021
Our community has been terribly shaken by the tragic killing of Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng, and we extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends, and other loved ones. The University will continue to support Dennis’ family and others closest to him during this time of mourning.
We write today to acknowledge a letter, “A Call for Action to Enhance the Safety and Security of Our Community,” sent to us by a group of University faculty members and other academic appointees. The thoughtful letter recommends that the University make anti-violence the top priority and outlines concrete actions. We share both the concerns and the goals outlined in the letter.
As you are aware, the problem of violence in our city has reached the level of a public health crisis, and it demands a commensurate response. This issue requires that we come together to pursue a range of solutions, from significantly stepping up policing, to scaling proven violence prevention/reduction/recovery efforts, along with advancing initiatives to increase economic opportunity on the South Side and other community-building activities for the long term. It requires input from and partnership with all parts of the University community, including our University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) officers and leaders, our students, faculty, other academic appointees, postdocs, staff, parents, and alumni, as well as our many neighbors and community leaders and groups, and the City, State, and even federal elected officials and agencies. As the University continues to make progress on addressing public safety in our community, input from faculty and other academic appointees is invaluable to informing our ongoing actions.
The University has taken important steps this year to enhance safety, and we are implementing a series of additional actions, some announced in a recent all-campus safety webinar. We know that we must do more, and the University will communicate additional actions in the coming days and weeks. Let us outline a few already underway:
  • Increase in police patrols: UCPD and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) have coordinated to increase enforcement of traffic safety in the extended patrol area and increase foot and vehicular patrols on and near campus and throughout Hyde Park. This includes joint robbery-directed patrols as well as increasing enforcement of traffic safety violations. In addition to reducing the likelihood of traffic accidents, the visibility of traffic safety enforcement can help deter criminals. The University has also expanded its Safety Ambassador program into nearby communities.

  • Additional use of security technology: CPD is temporarily adding more Police Observation Device (POD) camera technology to the Hyde Park area. The University is working with CPD and local aldermen to develop a long-term strategy for adding permanent technology solutions to the areas surrounding campus. The University already operates many security cameras and fixed license plate readers and is working to add more. The University is also exploring how to use the current technology more effectively to inform the deployment of our officers.

  • Expansion of Lyft program: The Lyft Ride Smart program, which offers students free Lyft rides in the Hyde Park/Kenwood/Woodlawn area, has been temporarily extended from Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights to seven nights a week. This is in addition to the University’s extensive and recently expanded shuttle program, available to all members of the campus community.

  • Planning with city and community: The University has been in close contact on safety issues with Mayor Lightfoot, local aldermen, and other Chicago public leaders, and UCPD is working closely with CPD on these issues. The City is formalizing, with the University’s involvement, a number of short and longer-term public safety strategies that will help Hyde Park and surrounding communities. We will share specifics soon.

  • Gathering input: The University is gathering input on public safety from all parts of the University community, with faculty and other academic appointees being major constituents in this effort. We will communicate soon about additional opportunities to discuss these important issues.

Importantly, CPD on Friday announced the arrest of a suspect in Dennis’ murder. We greatly appreciate CPD and UCPD’s diligent work.
We agree with the letter that our first goal must be for people to feel safe where they live, study, and work. We ask for your continued support and engagement.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to either of us directly with additional thoughts.