Grief and questions


Responding to Monday's fatal early-morning shooting of chemistry graduate student Amadou Cisse at 61st Street and S. Ellis Avenue, VP and dean of students Kimberly Goff-Crews and VP for community and government affairs Hank Webber convened a community gathering that evening to discuss the shooting and two other incidents—two young women were robbed and a man was shot at—that occurred near campus that morning. The meeting, packed with students and staff, took place in Reynolds Club's McCormick-Tribune Lounge; Goff-Crews, Webber, and Rudy Nimocks, chief of the U of C Police Department (UCPD) made up the panel to discuss community safety.

The meeting began with an acknowledgment of the community's shared grief. "There is no correct way to grieve," said Goff-Crews; Cisse's murder, a reminder of life's transience, also provokes feelings of outrage and fear. To cope with those feelings, she said, "we all need to engage in dialogue."

Discussing both short-term and long-term safety improvements, Webber began with the most immediate changes: police will increase their patrols, especially in the south campus; the University will add more late-night vans for students; and the UCPD will construct a temporary substation at 61st and Drexel. Longer-term safety plans, Webber said, include doubling the UCPD coverage from 55th to 64th streets, hiring some 20 new police officers, and working with the community to "craft a policy" for installing security cameras on campus.

Opening the floor, the panel fielded questions, comments, and suggestions from the audience. Students should have instant access to safety alerts, one woman noted, without having to sign up to the Crime Alert Listserv. "Err on the side of annoying people," another student suggested. Students also asked how increased UCPD presence will affect the University's relationship with the surrounding community. "I live in the neighborhood one block from the shooting," Nimocks responded. "The neighbors all want more police cars."

The shooting an hour before Cisse's death occurred in a cul-de-sac between 60th and 61st on Kenwood, one woman noted; the target, a University staff member, was trapped in a construction zone. "That almost made two deaths last night," she said, leading to a discussion of the crime risks associated with campus construction. The new police substation will be located on a prominent south-campus construction area, Nimocks said, helping to make the area safer; police need to be concentrated in those areas.

After 90 minutes Goff-Crews closed the forum, offering the audience the opportunity to speak one-on-one with members of the panel.


Photos: Hank Webber, vice president for community and government affairs, answers questions about student safety as VP and dean of students, Kimberly Goff-Crews, and University chief of police Rudy Nimocks (seated, behind Webber) look on; students gather in the McCormick-Tribune Lounge.

November 21, 2007