Dear Chancellor Amiridis:
Thank you for your prompt reply to the concerns expressed by faculty, students, alumni, and the community regarding the Donald Trump rally scheduled at the UIC Pavilion on Friday, 11 March at 6 pm. This letter serves as one response from the undersigned faculty and staff at UIC.
We value free speech and the right to assemble and we appreciate the university’s commitment to those constitutionally protected rights, as well as its commitment to exercising no political bias and neither endorsing, sponsoring nor supporting (nor condemning, excluding, or censoring) any political candidate who requests to lease a space on our campus. From the now 40,000+ signatures (growing by the minute) on the petition requesting that the university cancel the event to the 7,000+ people who have RSVP’d via social media to attend a protest against Trump’s positions on a number of issues and the over 13,000 who have expressed interest in protesting, it is clear that our community is poised to engage publicly in vocal opposition to speech we find unacceptable and violent.
The alarm behind the petition, emails and calls you have received extends to more than opposition to political positions or speech acts. We write to turn your attention to the extremely important issue of safety, which you also cite as paramount in your letter to the campus. We are deeply distressed that this event threatens to create a hostile and physically dangerous environment to the students, staff, faculty and alumni who come out to express their opposition. We base this claim on what happened recently at another public higher education institution, Valdosta State in Georgia, where university security ejected a group of peaceful protestors, all of whom were students enrolled at the university, who were seeking to attend the rally being held in a campus venue. We are also concerned for the safety of the diverse staff and team of student employees who work at the UIC Pavilion, as well as of those in our community who have no choice but to traverse parts of the campus around the Pavilion going to and from work and class from the time the event doors open around three through and immediately after the full closure of the building.
In addition to the deeply troubling events other educational venues that have rented space to the Trump Campaign, we are also expressly concerned by consistent reports that Trump supporters across the country have used racial slurs and attacked individuals who are members of groups that are represented, valued, and guaranteed respect and safety on our campus, invoking Trump and his candidacy for President as they did so. Donald Trump has done nothing to condemn or distance himself from these hateful speech acts or acts of violence, or hate groups who perpetuate them. A range of reports in both the alternative and mainstream press have provided credible evidence that people of color and individuals with values opposed to those touted by the Trump campaign have been verbally and physically assaulted by not just the crowd attending Trump rallies, but also by the security forces staffing them. This maltreatment has extended to journalists. Some have been violently removed from rallies, despite having done nothing uncivil, let alone illegal. Donald Trump has been quoted as saying something to the effect of being willing to defend in court anyone who finds him or herself in trouble for reporting or expelling dissenters from his rallies and speeches. There is evidence that members of his audience have treated visible racial or religious markers as grounds for expulsion and that security and police have been enlisted to assist them. All of this amounts not only to a refusal to defend the rights and protect the safety of those targeted individuals, but more importantly as a direct affront against those rights and that safety. It also compromises the integrity and mandate of the officers assigned to maintain order and safety. We believe that these actions suggest that an incitement to violence is very likely and must be planned for and stopped if UIC is going to allow the rally to move forward. We believe these examples also constitute sufficient evidence to justify canceling the event to protect the physical safety of the UIC community.
If you affirm your decision to allow the event to move forward, we seek answers to a set of questions about how our institution plans to protect us and keep us safe. Will there be extra UIC police on hand to patrol the crowd? Whose command will they be under? How does UIC plan to protect the rights and physical well being of its students in the event that the campaign asks that students be ejected from the Pavilion? How have UIC police been trained to identify and stop illegal mistreatment and endangerment of minorities and dissenters inside the Pavilion as well as public and state property surrounding the Pavilion? What are the plans to enforce the gun ban on campus, given the very real potential that conceal to carry laws mean that people not connected to UIC may have weapons with them? Who will pay for the extra security that will likely be required to ensure our students’ safety as well as all the people who work on campus? What will the guiding principals of justice, safety and security be for the various security personnel working the event?
UIC is a model for diversity and the cause of social justice. All eyes are now on us locally and nationally. Please assure us in no uncertain terms that the constitutional rights and physical safety of our students, staff, alumni, faculty and community supporters will be protected. Our student leaders demand this of us and it is their experience that we must hear. Jorge Mena, a graduate student in Latino and Latin American Studies, has quite clearly explained how Trump’s rally will effect him: “The UIC Pavilion is where I walked across the stage to receive my Bachelor’s degree as an undocumented first-generation college graduate. It is the same stage where I will receive my Masters this upcoming May. I do not want this to be the same stage where Trump threatens my family, my friends, and my community. In any other instance if known white supremacists and hate groups with a pattern of violence were found out to be planning to rally on campus, the University would likely (or hopefully) be implementing support and safety plans for students. But in this instance, it’s signing rental agreements.”
We are asking you, Provost Poser and Chief Booker to provide answers to our questions above and updates on how the UIC police will oversee any and all security forces from the campaign assigned inside or outside the Pavilion. We also request that all logotypes and UIC brand representations be covered inside the arena so that it is clear that UIC has no connection to the event. UIC should have the right to cancel the contract if the Trump organization refuses to comply with any of these actions. We also request that the University publicly distance itself from the event and make a statement that the Trump Rally is an anathema to the mission of UIC, as the university for Chicago.
We, the undersigned, are members of the UIC faculty and staff.