University explores relations with city

By Juliana Wu

The University will host a conference this weekend focused on future community development in the South Side. The two-day event, called Cityspace, hopes to bring in a diverse crowd of students and faculty, urban developers and planners, and community members in general.

The conference will begin Friday afternoon with opening remarks from Danielle Allen, professor in the departments of Classics and political science, and the committee of social thought, and incoming dean of the division of the Humanities. Allen will discuss reasons for holding the conference and present questions that she hopes the conference will address. “I want people to start to think about what it means to be a thinking person in an urban setting,” Allen said.

Following Allen’s opening speech, Arnold Hirsch, research professor of history at the University of New Orleans, will present an introduction to the past of urban renewal. Hirsch graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Ph.D. in urban history, with a research focus on issues related to race and housing, urban politics, and the civil rights era. “My talk will center on urban renewal’s more general background, and, especially the national context that shaped local events,” Hirsch said.

Author of Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960, Hirsch will focus on the intent and results of national policy during the Eisenhower era of the 1950s, when the federal government began the urban renewal movement. By placing the issue in a national theater, Hirsch hopes to show that “racial outcomes in Hyde Park are just an example of what’s happening on the national level.”

Ideas for the conference began in the fall of 2003 as a collaborative effort between Angels of Def, a student organization concerned with responsible urban development, and the University’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture.

Cityspace aims to promote student and faculty awareness of community issues, such as affordable housing and the future of the University’s relationship with the rest of the community.

When asked whether he felt that U of C students currently identify and integrate well into the South Side community, Ryan Hollon, an active member of Angels of Def replied, “It’s hard to get rooted with the transient lifestyle that we have. The lifestyle and privileges that people have are not integrated [into the community] when they revolve around a 10-week quarter system.”

Cityspace will continue through Saturday with six different workshops that will hopefully draw a diverse crowd interested in numerous issues in community development.

Hollon, who is a graduating third-year anthropology concentrator, is helping organize two workshops called Creative Community Intervention and Coalitions. Hollon hopes that these interactive sessions will bring Cityspace beyond a strictly academic conference.

Community-based artist Michael Piazza will lead the Creative Community Intervention workshop. Piazza will talk about how aesthetics, such as public murals, may be used as a medium through which community members can create a visual outlet for opinion and criticism.

The Coalitions workshop aims to bring together a plethora of different affordable housing coalitions from all over Chicago. The workshop will give a chance for the different coalitions to exchange ideas with other partnerships in the city as well as help them move toward an effective citywide grassroots response to the current Chicago housing crisis.

While the University has established agents to positively integrate the school into the rest of the community, such as the Neighborhood Schools Program, University Community Service Center, and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, Hollon believes that it could do a lot more.

“The University has an active role in the rising housing taxes which are displacing lower income families. I would like to see them be a real advocate for affordable housing.”

As the largest employer in the South Side, Hollon believes that the University has the political power to help the affordable housing situation.

Following workshop sessions, President Don Randel will present “The State of the University in the Community,” which, for the first time, will provide a public account of the University’s position on issues of community development.

The conference will be held at the International House and is open to the public. More information can be found at