CHICAGO—(ENEWSPF)—June 1, 2018
Contact: Abby Brockman
In April, University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) officers shot a student experiencing a mental health crisis, needlessly escalating the situation and endangering his life. The student, Charles Thomas, had previously sought services from the University Student Counseling Service (SCS), but was referred out due to lack of adequate resources.
On June 1, 2018, during the University’s Alumni Weekend, a coalition of University students, alumni, and community organizations will launch Camp #CareNotCops, a two-day overnight occupation and block party to oppose the UCPD’s criminalization of students and communities on the South Side, and to demand fully-funded and multicultural mental health resources for all. Over ten UChicago students and alumni will risk arrest by occupying tents in the center of the Main Quad and zip-tying themselves to one another as 400 students, alumni, faculty and community members demonstrate in support.
“We believe that police do not keep us safe,” said Tunisia Tai, a fourth year student in the College. “Policing, especially private policing, is an inherently violent system, and investing in that system escalates rather than heals intra-community violence. We’re building Camp #CareNotCops because the University refuses to invest in real community safety for all, so it’s on us to do it ourselves.”
Camp #CareNotCops is built on the principle that the resources necessary to keep communities safe are mental health funding, restorative justice, education, employment, housing, and access to nutritional food, and art. During the encampment, we will provide free political education, free meals, and free arts programming for the residents of Hyde Park and Woodlawn, inspired by the Freedom Square occupation protesting Homan Square.
“The shooting of Charles Thomas on April 6 was not an isolated incident,” said Alyssa Rodriguez, fourth year in the College. “UCPD has a long history of harassing, assaulting, and endangering students and residents of Hyde Park, Kenwood, Woodlawn, and Washington Park, most of whom have no connection to the University. At the same time, both UChicago and the city of Chicago refuse to invest in mental health resources.”
$5.5 million is allocated annually to the private police force—one of the largest private police forces in the United States that patrols 65,000 residents with virtually no accountability—all while the University continues to chronically under fund mental health services. In a meeting with University deans and counseling staff, we were told that SCS did not currently have the capacity to accommodate the high demand for culturally competent counselors, and there that there must be a trade off between choosing specific counselors and wait times for appointments. There should be no trade-off in providing quality care for all students.
“UChicago’s mental health services are not up to standard compared to peer institutions like Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins,” said Julia Attie, a second year in the College. “When I visited the counseling center my first week at the University as a new student, I was told I would have to wait two months to be seen by a psychiatrist for assessment. The counselor I was given in the meantime dropped me after three weeks.”
As Provost of the University and the director of the University budget, we call on Daniel Diermeier to divest from the UCPD, to fully fund mental health resources, and to demonstrate that quality counseling and care, rather than harm and policing, is the budgetary priority of the University of Chicago.
UChicago United is a coalition of multicultural student organizations, including Organization of Black Students (OBS), PanAsia, MEChA, Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), and African Caribbean Students Association (UChicago). UC United was formed to make the University of Chicago campus more inclusive for students of marginalized backgrounds and identities.
UChicago Student Action (UCSA) is a student power organization founded in 2004 dedicated to fighting for racial, economic, gender, disability and environmental justice on our campus and in our communities. We are a member of Student Action and Chicago Student Action, a campus power organization on six campuses in Chicago, and a project of The People’s Lobby that is bringing together people from across the city to train and take direct action toward structural change. Student Action is a national network of students affiliated with People’s Action fighting for economic, racial, gender, and environmental justice in 15 states across the country.
Follow the hashtag #CareNotCops for updates on June 1.