AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a response from Interim Provost Salma Ghanem.
An online petition created by students and faculty at DePaul is calling for the university to end their relationship with the Chicago Police Department. The request is directly in response to DePaul’s statement published on Monday, June 1.
The statement, written by President A. Gabriel Esteban, wrote to stand in solidarity against racism and hate due to recent events that unfolded across the country and in Chicago.
“As you undoubtedly know, the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis last week has set off days of protests across the United States,” the statement reads. “Unfortunately, the justifiable outrage felt by so many at the death of another unarmed black man, has been overshadowed by acts of violence and destruction.”
The statement goes on to describe property damage that occurred – that has now been boarded up – of graffiti and broken windows at the DePaul Center, the Lewis Center and the CDM Center in the Loop. It is unclear when the damage occurred.
Eric Aldieri, Greg Convertito and Aurora Laybourn-Candlish, all graduate students at DePaul, and Gil Morejón, an adjunct professor of Philosophy at DePaul, responded to Esteban’s statement by creating the online petition to condemn Esteban’s remarks.
“Esteban’s comments on June 1 were particularly worrisome insofar as he reaffirmed the university’s plan to work with CPD in an explicit prioritization of university property over and against the now global movement for racial justice,” the group wrote in an email. “His comments thus served as a catalyst for our demand for DePaul to divest from CPD and sever its relations with the police.”
The day after Esteban’s statement was released, the group wrote up the petition, which quickly spread across social media. As of Monday, June 8, the petition has gathered over 2,100 signatures from students, faculty and alumni, calling for DePaul’s relationship with the CPD to end.
“We believe [Esteban] seriously erred in his decision to prioritize the university’s property relations and financial interests when he affirmed his commitment to working with CPD in his second statement on June 1,” the group said.
Esteban’s statement comes three days after his initial response was published on May 29, acknowledging the anger and frustration caused by the country’s history dealing with racism. Not long after the initial statement was published, Esteban misnamed Eric Garner for Eric Ferguson, which immediately resulted in backlash from students.
Marina Blough, a senior at DePaul, was one of the 2,100 people who signed the petition.
“I was very excited when I read it, because I remember feeling genuine anger when I received the email spoken about in the letter,” Blough said. “I thought President Esteban’s willingness to basically brush aside police brutality and extrajudicial murder in order to focus on what he seemingly considers the ‘real’ problem – which is the damage/destruction of property owned by people with extraordinary wealth – demonstrated his complete ignorance of the actual purpose of the protests.”
According to Aldieri, DePaul has not disclosed information regarding the university’s relationship with the CPD.
A protest occurred on June 10 to demand DePaul cut ties with the police and reallocate funds elsewhere, like to Chartwells employees and students in Statesville Correctional Center and Cook County Jail.
“One officer’s actions or even that of some of my own department members do not speak to the person I am and the values that I am instilling in my children,” Interim Provost Salma Ghanem said. “Our university is dedicated to providing students an education that is imbued with Vincentian values of social justice and transforming society to serve the most vulnerable. We are called to provide access to high-quality education to all.
“Black Lives Matter. We know that George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Laquan McDonald and so many others should still be alive. We also know education can be part of making the change we all want to see in police departments. We support all who are working to make police reform a reality,” Ghanem said.
Public Safety did not respond to a request for comment.
Back on Tuesday, June 2, Minneapolis Public Schools unanimously voted to terminate their contract with the Minneapolis Police Department, exactly eight days after George Floyd was killed. MPS had contracted the MPD since 1964, and was paying them roughly $1.1 million per year for their services.
Yesterday, it was announced that Minneapolis would be disbanding the police department and investing in community-led public safety, a drastic change or reform in the wake of Floyd’s death.
“I have disapproved of DePaul’s relationship with CPD since the moment I became aware that the relationship existed,” Blough said. “DePaul’s entire mission and philosophy is to stand with the less fortunate, to offer help and solidarity to those that need it most. The police do not need our solidarity – our community needs our solidarity.”