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Packed forum presses admins on Reg arrest

Concerns over other potential cases of racial profiling dominated proceedings. Administrators had few specific answers to attendees' questions, citing three ongoing investigations.

Photo: Darren Leow/The Chicago Maroon
Reverend Paul R. Ford, a graduate student at the Divinity School, claims the University of Chicago Police Department engages in racial profiling Tuesday at an open forum in the Reynolds Club.

Students and community members, frustrated by what they perceived as years of racial profiling by the UCPD, confronted University, Library, and UCPD administrators Tuesday, in a charged open forum in the Reynolds Club.

Over 200 people attended the forum, which was convened to address a powerful student response to last Wednesday’s arrest of fourth-year Mauriece Dawson in the A-level, which many at the meeting said is part of a larger culture of racial profiling on the part of UCPD.

A Regenstein clerk called the UCPD Wednesday night to report an “unruly” group of students, including Dawson, although witnesses said they were not unusually loud for the popular study area. When told to leave the building by a UCPD officer, Dawson repeatedly asked why he had to leave; the officer placed him in a choke hold, pinned him to the floor, and placed him under arrest. Witnesses said Dawson, who is black, was never asked for identification.

Administrators and attendees stressed the need for a quick investigation into police and library staff conduct, but argued how reforms could dispel a simmering feeling of mistrust.

The forum was sponsored by the Office of Campus and Student Life, and Student Government (SG).

Administrators had few specific answers to attendees’ questions, citing the ongoing investigations—three are underway, within the Library, UCPD, and Campus and Student Life—or about the specifics of Dawson’s case.

However, UCPD Chief Marlon Lynch did say the sergeant who arrested Dawson has been reassigned but has not removed from the force, and Vice President for Campus and Student Life Kim Goff-Crews said the charges can’t be dropped based on talks with University counsel.

“The charges were made by the police, so they’re responsible for shepherding them through the system. We don’t think, legally, the University can pull them back,” Goff-Crews said, adding later, “We’ll do what we can” to support the student.

Concerns over this and other potential cases of racial profiling dominated proceedings. Around 50 attendees raised their hands when Dawson asked how many felt that they, or someone they knew, had been racially profiled by UCPD officers. More than half were black. “This is not an isolated incident,” Dawson said.

Some in the audience told stories, often in great detail, in which they felt that they or some one they know had been profiled by UCPD. Divinity Ph.D. student Reverend Paul R. Ford (M.Div. '05) interrupted one administrator to say the UCPD has engaged in racial profiling since at least 2003, when he said the University accosted a black School of Social Service Administration graduate student when he met a white, female friend on campus at 3 a.m.; the first thing Ford said officers did was ask the woman if she was okay, suggesting they viewed the student as a threat.

Wanting to “cut the crap,” Ford received applause when he yelled: “I am sick and tired of black students being racially profiled at the University of Chicago by their own police department.”

Two members of the audience, both black, recounted recent incidents when they were stopped by UCPD officers outside of the Reg; both said they were doing nothing suspicious. One of those students said one police officer involved didn’t cooperate when he asked for his badge number, and Lynch confirmed an investigation is underway in that case.

While first-year Ariel McCleese, a witness to Dawson’s arrest, said the lack of a UCPD response made her feel “overlooked”—she said she received one response from 25 e-mails to administrators—Lynch said the UCPD is taking students’ claims seriously. There is an internal investigation underway at the department, he said, for which the more than 30 students who are listed as witnesses will be contacted. He also said that there is an external body that investigates cases of police misconduct including instances of excessive force and civil rights violations.

“This isn’t cops training cops. This is professionals within the University of Chicago culture assisting us with what the lifestyle is here,” he said. “It takes time to change a culture, and those who have established patterns…we will take the necessary action to remove them from employment.” He said achieving “organizational change” would take time, and urged those in the audience to participate.

Many at the forum were confused about ID policy, and Lynch pointed to the fine print on the back of the card, where it says “Must be shown on demand.” When investigating a call, Lynch said an officer should attempt to identify the person about whom the call was made, to hear his or her side of the story, and then to make an arrest if the person is not forthcoming. “Can you ask questions to an officer? Sure, of course you can,” Lynch said, but allowed for exceptions. He said a police officer is expected to ask questions of the student before making an arrest; witnesses have said that did not occur in Dawson’s case.

Goff-Crews said the ID policy needs clarification and that students should help administrators understand “how do we talk to staff and train staff…so that you feel comfortable” in showing identification.

One student asked how a University affiliate can be trespassing on University property. Once a student has been asked to leave, and then refuses, Lynch said, “That’s when it’s criminal trespass.”

Assistant Director of the Library Jim Vaughn was the most remorseful administrator who spoke. “This is something that we feel very badly about and…we [at the Library] are investigating,” Vaughn said, adding he was personally saddened at what happened.

When some in the audience raised concerns that Library employees call police too often, Vaughn disagreed. “We rely on you to self-police the library,” he said. “We do this [call UCPD] when people refuse to abide by a library policy.”

However, Goff-Crews said there may be a misconception of what is permissible in the A-level. “I don’t think most adults understand the A-level culture,” Goff-Crews said, referring to 50- and 60-year-olds. “It’s a student culture, and people talk.”

Attendees pointed to other times when no serious action was taken in previous instances of Library policies being broken, including when “white frat boys” drank beer and ate pizza in the A-level. “I can walk around naked, but I can’t laugh,” one student said, referring to another unpunished student.

Goff-Crews asked the audience for suggestions at “structures” in which students and community members can help adapt UCPD policy, but she did not receive concrete answers; at another point students asked her how they might get involved. She and Lynch put forward a few proposals, including a SG­led committee, a liaison with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, and more regular open forums on the subject.

Divinity School Dean Richard Rosengarten also attended the meeting, but did not speak.

Many of those interviewed after the forum said they hadn’t expected administrators would answer many of their questions, given that investigations are ongoing. Nevertheless, second-year Margaret Marion said the meeting wasn’t as productive as it could have been.

“I understand their limitations, and with all due respect, I understand they couldn’t disclose certain information, but they still weren’t helpful in proposing potential changes,” said Marion, who witnessed Dawson’s arrest, filed a misconduct report with UCPD as the incident unfolded, and helped gather signatures after Dawson was taken away.

“I don’t feel hopeful at all,” Marion said. “I think this is going to blow over, and the only way this isn’t going to blow over is if enough of us speak up.”

Director of the University Community Service Center and longtime Woodlawn resident Wallace Goode said the UCPD has a history of racial profiling.

“What occurred has been part of the UCPD’s M.O. ever since I can remember, and students often hear the story of when I was by harassed by the UCPD when I was a sophomore in high schoolthat’s 1968.”

Goode said he saw “frustration, concrete examples of unfair treatment, a desire to be a part of the solution, and doubt that the University will successfully address the situation” at the forum, but he had hope that the situation would finally be addressed, not least of all because he had expected the discourse to be more heated.

“This is a real opportunity for Kim Goff-Crews, Marlon Lynch, and a committed student community to turn this around,” he said.

  • anon

    Photo looks like someone on Judge Joe Brown

  • Ann O’Nymous

    I think the police officer did the right thing. I simply don’t understand what the big fuzz is.

  • Anthony Mouse

    I don’t think there was ever a time when Maurice wasn’t ‘unusually loud’

  • Sarah Fishbein

    The story about a police officer questioning the white female who was meeting her black friend, to make sure she was ok, is not strong evidence of anything.

    I, a white female, have been asked by a police officer if my white father, a university professor, is with me of my own accord.

    Police should follow their suspicions WITHIN REASON. Humans use stereotyping to organize their information processing toward efficient judgment as situations necessitate that they do so.

    However, not following protocol–like not asking for an ID and putting a student in a choke hold–especially when the student is not being physically aggressive is a REAL problem. It’s just not clear from the information in this article whether that’s a result of the failing of that individual police officer or the training of the majority of the force.

  • Anon.

    And he wasn’t arrested for being a nuisance, he was arrested for criminal trespass – he was asked to leave by the officer and was not complying.

  • tsion

    obviously no one that has left a message thus far actually attended the meeting this week. due to this fact, the ill-informed comments currently posted on the website are totally unproductive and ignorant of the facts a general level. the fact of the matter was that a STUDENT, not emphasizing the point that he was a black (male) student, was unjustly physically abused, arrested, and detained over night by the (university) chicago police department should be an issue of concern to the entire university community. i don’t know why anyone here is pretending to know mauriece, or the details of that night, because if you did have any knowledge of the facts you would have either (a) provided an interview to assist in advancing the ongoing investigation or (b) attended the public forum. moving forward, we need students from all the communities on campus to voice their concerns on a public level, and not just as anonymous voices on a website. if you feel that strongly, then i would suggest that you take the initiative to take advantage of the SEVERAL opportunities that have been provided for students to voice their responses regarding the arrest and detention of the student in question.

    i would expect uofc students to be more informed with respect to illinois law and university protocol. the university clearly expressed that they thought this was something that should not have happened, and certainly should and will not happen again in the future. and despite the fact that you think this would/could not happen to you, it could. and that is the focus of student organizing at this point – to make sure this does not happen to another student, irrespective or race, gender, sexuality, whatever. we are all students, please recognize and respect that fact.

  • TSION

    PS
    sorry for the typos…but the ignorance got me heated. have a great finals week! read a book.

  • Nathan Wilmers

    Thank you to Tsion, for injecting some sense into this conversation. It is baffling to me that the comments above ignore the basic structure of the situation: a student refused to be bullied by some out-of-control cop, and he was put in a choke hold and locked in a small room all night. If you take a second to consider the brutality, and likely trauma, involved in this disproportionate response, it might help to stem the hemorrhaging ignorance reflected in the previous posts. This entire incident is shameful to the UCPD, which has long been a blight on the U of C community. Let’s come together as students and try to build some positive change out of this disaster.

  • Annon2

    So what can be done? How do we rally?

  • TSION

    the witnesses present that night testified that the officer employed a chokehold, which is why that is what was reported in the maroon. and you are incorrect in assuming that even the majority of those witnesses were mauriece’s friends, because i have talked to several witnesses who had not met mauriece prior to that night.

    that being said, i think we should all just try to educate ourselves on the facts of the case – and the underlying issues regarding safety and security on campus – as we try to move forward from this event. as mauriece stated, this was not an isolated incident, and that fact is what should be at the heart of this discussion.

  • Lindsay

    The University of Chicago Card

    The University of Chicago card is an official identification card and its use is subject to the regulations of the University. The card identifies a person as either a student or an employee, but not both. Students whose cards identify them as employees may obtain a quarterly supplementary card identifying them as students from the Office of the University Registrar. The card is not transferable and must be presented upon demand to a University official. A student is subject to disciplinary action if he or she fails to identify himself or herself adequately upon the request of a University official. Misuse of the card will result in its forfeiture and may be subject to disciplinary action.

    Q.E.D.

  • Brittany

    Please excuse me, but I didn’t realize disciplinary action involved a headlock and a night in jail.

  • P.B.S. Pinchback

    To the distinguished “Alumnus” that posted above:

    Are we supposed to be impressed by the fact that you can Copy and Paste from the Penal Code? Or simply distracted? I ask because it seems that the conclusions that you draw cannot be logically inferred from the assumptions that you provided. This, of course, excepts the fact that you also assume eyewitness testimony that “no questioning or verbal exchange was made” is correct – a dicey gambit, given that everyone seems to agree upon the fact that the A-Level was extremely loud that night. But I guess this is what takes place when you draw your conclusions before arranging the “facts” to fit your point.

  • What are my rights?

    “Mr. Dawson was removed and spent the night in jail because he was in a building that he swiped and identified himself to get into”

    This is the part that puzzles me the most. Maurice was arrested for trespassing based on the assumption he could not provide a UCID. However, he obviously had to present his UC ID to get into the library in the first place. So then, what exactly are the grounds for his arrest?

    As effective as it is to rally against injustice and raise our voices for changes in UCPD conduct, I think it is also just as effective to educate students on their rights during encounters with the police. The more informed we are as to our rights in certain situations, the better we can make well informed decisions that protect us from police malpractice. I’m not quite sure if this is going on already, but in addition to the open forums of discussion and student rallys I for one would love to sit in on a seminar that educates me on my basic rights when interacting with the UCPD and police in general.

  • anon

    Re: “Alumnus” and “what are my rights”

    I’ve walked into the Reg many times without my UCID. To get in without swiping, you simply pretend to swipe your card, squeeze your legs between those clear door-like things, and walk in in in hurry as most students do. Sometimes the door-things fail to open all the way, or at all, when you swipe.

    So it is improper to assume that just because you’ve gotten past the UCID-scanner and are in the Reg that you’re allowed to be there.

  • Seeker of Logic

    Lindsay, QED implies logic. You provided a quote.

    1. It has yet to be ascertained whether Mauriece was asked to show his ID. Multiple witnesses suggest the contrary.
    2. If he was specifically and clearly asked to show his ID, ‘disciplinary action’ can mean:
    a. Forfeiture of card
    b. Request of removal from premises
    c. Physical removal from premises
    d. Headlock and pinning to floor without any sign of physical threat
    e. Jail time
    f. Monetary Fine
    g. Physical or Verbal abuse
    3. You have not specified what appropriate ‘disciplinary action’ entails. Does it entail physical restraint? Use of firearm? Verbal abuse? (NB: I am not saying that any or all of the above happened, but your ‘proof’ lacks any definitional basis.)
    4. QED implies a proof has been set up: premise, argument, and conclusion.
    5. If #1 and #2 are unclear or untrue, then you have failed to provide a premise, argument or conclusion.
    6. Therefore, your quote does not demonstrate a ‘quod erat demonstrandum’.

    QED