Fr. Holtschneider sits down with DePaul students, faculty at ‘On the Table’ event

When the 99-year-old Chicago Community Trust Foundation (CCT) asked DePaul President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider if DePaul would host an On The Table Discussion May 12 on how to solve community turmoil, he had one stipulation.

“If you’re coming to DePaul, then you’re going to have to ask the students what they think,” Holtschneider said. “You need to get a microcosm of DePaul students to talk about how they want to see Chicago changed.”

The Chicago Community Trust is a wealthy foundation, with hundreds of millions to bestow, interested in community philanthropy based on ideas generated by people in the community.

More than 10,000 Chicagoans, divided into approximately 200 groups, sat down to “break bread and discuss change” Monday night at exactly 6:30 p.m., to decide where to put CCT’s money into action.

Holtschneider insisted the ideas were to be generated by DePaul students.

So at 6:30 p.m. in the Lincoln Park Student Center, approximately 30 students divided into six roundtable conversations, each conducted by a DePaul professor, to pitch ideas on community reform.

“The unique thing about using students is that they represent multiple communities,” Doug Long, the director of First Year Programs, said. “(The CTC) is going to get a lot of diverse perspectives, something besides church groups and civic groups.”

Long emphasized how impactful the 99-year-old foundation is.

“This is a charity that really has the money to give to the community,” Long said. “When I was on their art committee, I was amazed at how much art they donated to the city.”

Long said the CTC can be followed on Twitter at #OnTheTable2014

Each of the six roundtable discussions was proctored by a DePaul professor.

Melissa Markley, a marketing professor, said it’s important to hear from college students.

“You guys are going to be running the world in a short time,” Markley said. “As professors, we have access to the brains of the future and I think you guys need to be a primary voice.”

Markley began her table discussion by asking students where they were from. Communities ranged from the South Side to the North Shore-California to Shanghai. Each student was asked to say something positive about his or her community.

Markley said the mission of the citywide dinners was to conduct marketing research.

“It’s like having a bunch of focus groups,” Markley said. “We want to know from the source of the community how to make (the community) stronger and more sustainable.”

“The CCT not-for-profit wants to know where the people of Chicago think the money should be put,” Markley said. “As professors, we want to know where the DePaul students think the money should be put.”

Michelle Mueller lives on Fullerton by the CVS and said she doesn’t feel safe unless she’s on campus.

“I chose to live by campus because DePaul is safe; but the area directly around it isn’t safe,” Mueller said. “The back alley behind CVS has stabbings and robberies all the time and that’s right where I live-right across from a safe campus.”

Mueller said money should go to citywide bluebox stations like the ones on DePaul’s campus.

Of the many ideas that surfaced, some of the most popular generated by DePaul students were Chicago Public School education reform and proactive policing.

Faizan Khan said the CPS educational reformation discussions need to be more than rhetoric.

“The CPS have to be reformed in a specific way,” Khan said. “Schools need to be more than just schools. A lot of underprivileged children are getting no guidance and life skills at home and the schools should offer life counseling and guidance.”

Some students came up with a plan to rearrange the Junior Year Experiential course-making it more community service focused and less overtly high-class privilege focused. Things like studying abroad and internships were seen as self-serving and useless to the struggling community.

Kennedy Bartley came because she thinks social awareness is talked about far more than acted upon.

“I’d be crazy not to be here,” Bartley said. “I feel as though our generation allows things to directly affect us without us directly opposing them.”

Bartley started her own social non-profit organization at DePaul called Power In Numbers (PIN), which will be an active organization by Fall 2014.

“CCT is a great way to be a voice for the voiceless,” Bartley said. “Families are affected by the things we are talking about at the tables.”

Bartley was slightly outraged by the fact that every DePaul student was invited to CCT’s On The Table dinner and only about 30 showed up.

“I would encourage DePaul students to get active-get aware,” Bartley said. “We have a lot of dialogue without action.”

Fr. Holtschneider only stayed for a short time after giving the opening speech. He said he knew how busy this time of the quarter is and that he knows it’s hard to find time for voluntary community service.

“I’m not sure what ideas you will come up with,” Holtschneider said. “But I do know one thing-I’m going to be proud.”