Council to examine history, relationship between University of Chicago and South Side communities

UChicago Campus and Midway

New independent council will engage communities through ‘comprehensive and rigorous’ work


The University of Chicago on Dec. 17 announced the launch of a council that will examine the history and relationship between the University and its surrounding neighborhoods and identify ways in which the University and community can strengthen future partnerships.

The Council on UChicago/Community Relations: Historical, Contemporary and Future will engage with the public to investigate the University’s relationship to the South Side of Chicago—from the University’s inception to the present day. The Council, the first of its kind at the University, will consist of an equal number of University and South Side community members, including UChicago faculty, students and staff. 

In a message to the University community, President Paul Alivisatos and Provost Ka Yee C. Lee said that the work of the independent Council will be “comprehensive and rigorous, bringing together multiple sources of data, including support for academically grounded historical studies as well as documenting the lived experiences of current and former community members.” They added the Council will use a variety of forums and venues to reach a wide array of community members, and that the University is committed to providing resources to the Council and making its work transparent.

The Council will also organize public programs to broadly engage with members of the campus and South Side communities and offer opportunities for them to provide feedback and guidance of the Council’s work.

“The formation of this Council represents the University’s deep commitment to its relationship with our South Side neighbors,” Alivisatos said. “We are extremely thankful to the faculty, students, staff and community members who spoke out about the need for this Council, and whose collaborative efforts made it possible. We look forward to engaging with the work of the Council and continuing to identify new ways of collaborating with and supporting our local communities.”

Community leaders and people at the University have long challenged the University to embark on such a process. In June 2020, then-President Robert J. Zimmer and Lee committed to acknowledging and engaging with the South Side community to examine the relationship between the University and the community, and to identify ways of strengthening that partnership moving forward. Plans for the Council were developed during the 2020–2021 academic year by a working group comprised of faculty members, the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost.

More information about the Council, its inaugural members and a timeline of next steps is available on the Council website.

Photo by Tom Rossiter

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