The following is written by Marie Khan, a UIC graduate and employee of the university's Graduate College.
Donald Trump's scheduled rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Pavilion on Friday, March 11th has resulted in a discussion about UIC's responsibility as a campus to its student population.
The Pavilion has a statement online which specifically notes that: The mission of the UIC Pavilion is to support UIC's pursuit of its strategic goals, while bringing students, faculty and community together through culturally diverse events that promote the University as an educational institution and the Pavilion as a place for entertainment.
As a federally recognized Hispanic Serving Institution and Asian American Serving Institution, we express pride in our diverse student population, and welcome undocumented students and other non-US citizen populations as equal and deserving of an education and our respect. The foundation and elements of this particular candidate's campaign are fully counter to this, and many of his supporters have expressed a violent distaste and hatred for the very backgrounds our students come from.
I don't believe our students should be coddled. They are adults, who have the right to be exposed to views independent of their own, and interact with individuals that do not share their ideologies. They need to attend rallies, as supporters and protesters, and develop and hone their own identities. However, do these students need to be exposed to a candidate and his supporters, who have been documented as committing and condoning violent and dehumanizing acts against minority populations, at a rally 2,640 feet away from their own east campus dorms?
The candidate's rally in Louisville, Kentucky, from which footage of rally supporters spitting and shoving an African American woman is particularly despicable. Additionally, both Time Magazine and The New York Times have illustrated damning statistics regarding the characteristics of some Trump fans; almost 20% of his supporters do not support the freeing of the slaves, along with high numbers desiring immediate deportation of undocumented individuals, and not allowing Muslims to come to the United States. This level of discrimination is mind-boggling and toxic to a country in a world that needs to have a united front against all types of extremism and ethnic violence. Assuming every non-US citizen, especially when they are of color, is an enemy and threat does nothing but damage our standing and strength as a nation, and give white supremacists and other racist, homophobic, and sexist individuals license to exercise violence and intimidation against these groups.
While we are allowing him to exercise his right to free speech by renting out our space (and he has all of Chicago at his disposal), are we endangering our own students both potentially physically but certainly emotionally, who up until this point have only had to read about his positions of hate online and watch it on TV? Now they can see it live, on their own campus. We as an educational institution do not owe this individual anything, and we are not gatekeepers to his ability to exercise his right to free speech.
What UIC does owe is to our students, ensuring their welfare and respect is maintained. Those students whose personal funds, loans and scholarships go toward paying for the fees that sustain the Pavilion, through Campus Auxiliary Services. UIC promotes its status as a haven for inclusion and support of students in an academically rigorous setting. We owe it to our students not to fail them.
From a sheer logistical perspective, the event's doors have been advertised as opening at 3 p.m. on Friday, which guarantees that crowds (on both sides) will appear and edge into our workday and our students' school day. Aside from the foot traffic, this will make leaving campus very difficult for car and CTA commuters. Compounded with the nature of this candidate's crowds, and their record of treatment of ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups in our society, the choice to let this campaign use our space is troubling and distorts what UIC has professed to stand for.
I have worked at UIC since 2008, first as an undergraduate academic advisor and then with graduate students on funding efforts, beginning in 2011. I completed a graduate degree as well here, in Criminology, Law and Justice. The silver lining of this discussion is how all facets of our community are coming together, in solidarity and support of the populations targeted by this candidate.
Marie Khan earned her bachelor's in Political Science and a master's in Criminology, Law and Justice. She proudly works in UIC's Graduate College.
Image: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File