UI Senate passes resolution seeking to end campus aggression

UI Senate passes resolution seeking to end campus aggression

URBANA — The campus senate approved a wide-ranging measure Monday calling on University of Illinois leaders to reaffirm their commitment to a campus climate "free from hostility, aggression and acts of hate," with clear sanctions for such incidents.

The resolution, which drew a large crowd to the senate's meeting at the Illini Union, also directs the campus to review "best practices" for campus police and other law-enforcement officials, particularly situations where they enter classrooms.

That provision stemmed from an Oct. 10 incident in which police went into an African-American studies class to interview students about a stolen cellphone traced to that room, which upset the professor and students.

The resolution was approved on a 97-17 vote after an attempt to refer it back to committee for further study was defeated.

The measure cited the "growing vulnerability" of various groups on campus, including immigrants, people with disabilities, international students and faculty, blacks, and other underrepresented groups.

It cited "incidents of aggression, hatred, and intimidation" aimed at those groups following the election of President-elect Donald Trump, who has pledged to tighten U.S. borders and deport illegal immigrants. Undocumented students are facing uncertainty about their status, and potential changes in U.S. border and visa policies could affect visas for international students and faculty, the resolution said.

Some senators argued against mixing those issues with concerns about campus police. Professor Kim Graber objected to an appendix describing the Oct. 10 incident, saying the senate needed to know more from the police department's perspective before voting. Others wanted to separate the two issues, or put the resolution off for further study.

But supporters argued that it was important for the senate to lend its voice to the debate before the presidential inauguration, fearing quick action by Trump on immigration.

They also said the incidents are not unrelated. Undocumented students are worried about police coming to their classrooms or dorm rooms to check on citizenship status, professors said.

"I have students who are afraid to come to class," said Gilberto Rosas, a professor of anthropology and Latino studies. "They need to hear from this body that they belong."

The professor involved in the Oct. 10 incident, Erik McDuffie, said there's been a "spike" in racial incidents on campus in recent months, citing a white man who yelled the "n-word" at black students on the Quad and another white man who pulled off a Muslim woman's hijab on a bus.

Putting it off "sends a signal that that behavior, those actions are OK," he said.

Professor Kathy Oberdeck, the resolution's author and chair of the senate's Equal Opportunity and Inclusion Committee, praised administrators' "many encouraging statements" about the UI's commitment to inclusion in recent days. But she said the panel wanted to look at what further actions the UI could take to maintain its values of diversity.

Oberdeck said members of her committee had already met with UI police Chief Jeff Christensen and Associate Chancellor for Diversity Assata Zerai, which she described as "very, very positive ... leading to the kinds of changes that we would like to see happen." She also expressed "deep appreciation" of the police department's work and said it would be part of any policy review.

Illinois Student Senate President Ron Lewis, who is black, said Christensen has actively sought out opportunities to work with students "so marginalized students don't feel like the police are against us" and feel safe.

"We're not trying to say those are the bad guys," Lewis said. "The only thing people are asking for is accountability."

The resolution requires the campus to:

— Provide regular summaries to the senate about incidents of aggression, hate and bullying, and any actions taken in response.

— Work proactively to "maintain a campus climate conducive to continued recruitment of a diverse student population, faculty, and staff, including respecting and enhancing cultural houses, ethnic studies, and gender and women's studies units."

— Review or develop documents outlining the "best practices" for campus police and other law-enforcement officials who enter classrooms, dormitories and "other spaces of education and student life in non-emergency circumstances, that takes into consideration histories and ongoing issues of racial profiling on campus."

Also Monday, Professor Siobhan Somerville presented Chancellor Robert Jones with a petition signed by more than 2,300 people urging the UI to become a sanctuary for undocumented students, which would limit its cooperation with federal immigration enforcement authorities.

Jones said last week that he wanted to study the legal and regulatory issues involved before taking a position, though he expressed support for undocumented students. On Monday, he said he hopes to have a response "in the next few weeks or so."

Rosas, an author of the petition, said sanctuary supporters are scheduled to meet with representatives of the chancellor's office Wednesday to discuss "how to protect the undocumented community and ensure that undocumented students remain a vital part of UIUC."

Rosas praised Jones for signing a national statement in support of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields more than 700,000 young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation. Trump has threatened to abolish it.

As of Dec. 2, more than 480 public and private college presidents had signed the statement, citing the "moral imperative" for the program and offering to meet with U.S. leaders to discuss it.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
robby71 wrote on December 07, 2016 at 10:12 am

Just today another story about an armed robbery near campus:


Less than three months since the murder of George Korchev in campustown, a constant stream of robberies and thefts on and near campus. But obviously the most urgent problem that needs to be addressed is that the police came to a class and siezed a stolen phone from a student who admitted that he knew he bought a stolen phone.

Yeah, the Senate definitely has its priorities straight....