Council on UChicago/Community Relations: Historical, Contemporary, and Future

December 17, 2021

To: Members of the University Community
From: Paul Alivisatos, President, and Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost
Subject: Council on UChicago/Community Relations: Historical, Contemporary, and Future
Date: December 17, 2021

One of the University of Chicago’s most fundamental and critical relationships is with Chicago’s South Side. We depend upon and benefit from our connection with its people and institutions. As we move into our next phase of becoming a more engaged University and uphold our unwavering dedication to rigorous inquiry, we are committed to growing and evolving this relationship, learning from our intersecting histories, and using that knowledge to inform our future.

To that end, today we announce the launch of the Council on UChicago/Community Relations: Historical, Contemporary, and Future. This independent council will undertake the critically important work of exploring and addressing the University’s historical relationship with its surrounding neighborhoods, examining progress made in our partnership, and identifying ways in which the University and community can strengthen this partnership for the future.

Establishing a mechanism to examine the relationship between the University and the South Side community has been discussed for a number of years, and community leaders as well as internal constituencies have long challenged the University to embark on such a process. Progress was achieved by collaborating with a range of stakeholders whose thoughtful feedback was essential to helping shape and inform the Council’s structure. The Council will be the first of its kind at the University. We thank the faculty, students, staff, and community members who moved this process forward, and we hope this collaborative effort serves as a model for future University initiatives.

An equal number of campus and community members, including University faculty, students, and staff, will comprise the Council. It will organize public programs to help the campus and community learn about these historical and current relationships. The University is committed to providing the resources needed to support and sustain the Council’s work, and to making this a transparent initiative. The research will be comprehensive and rigorous, bringing together multiple sources of data, including support for academically grounded historical studies as well as documenting the lived experiences of current and former community members. The engagement will be broad and deep, using a variety of forums and venues to reach a wide array of community members, thereby informing and reflecting new ways in which the University can partner with the community going forward. We invite members of the University and South Side communities to participate and look forward to engaging in this process of mutual learning. More information about the Council, its inaugural members, and a timeline of next steps is available on the Council website.

Developing true partnerships is not easy and is something that institutions have not always gotten right. A byproduct of rigorous and shared inquiry is trust, and the success of this Council will depend on our ability to partner with, listen to, and learn from one another. Thank you for your support as we move forward with this process together.

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