After university-wide budget cuts were announced, library organizers created a petition demanding transparency around the UCPD budget.
By Jade Yan, Staff Reporter
South entrance of the Joseph Regenstein Library. ©2019 Kenneth C. Zirkel
A petition, titled “Open the Books on UCPD,” calls for university administration to disclose the budget for UChicago’s private police force, gathering almost 3000 signatures to date.
Started by UChicago library employees on July 23 in response to cuts to the library’s budget, the petition argues that the police force has “failed to create a safe environment” and cites alleged incidents of “police brutality” in the library. It aims to see, therefore, whether the UCPD has undergone similar cost-cutting to “understand the spending priorities of the University.”
The cost-cutting, announced by president Zimmer on June 10, furloughed some staff, reduced salaries (including Zimmer’s annual earnings of $1.192 million by 15%), and froze contributions to employee pensions. The austerity measures also included cuts to the Library’s collections budget, which pays for resources like books and journals.
The petition was started by an employee organizing group, Library Activist Network. The group includes eight library employees who are directly involved in the campaign, according to John Kaderbek, an employee who is part of the group and works in the library’s Bookstacks department.
Kaderbek sees policing as “pretty much a racial justice issue”-- he identified the cited incident of “police brutality” as a student arrested and held in a chokehold in the Regenstein Library for “making too much noise” in 2010.
“If President Zimmer wants our community to do the work of ‘[a]ddressing racism and creating positive and sustainable change,’ then we need immediate concrete steps to dismantle racist policies and policing on campus,” states the petition.
In the petition, library employees aligned themselves with #CareNotCops, a campaign lobbying the university to redirect funds from the UCPD, and the Maroon Editorial Board, in demanding that the university disband its private police force and “transition to an unarmed, emergency management service that is aligned with anti-oppressive principles.”
In a transcript provided to Exploring Race of a regular meeting and Q&A between library administration and employees, one employee asked whether the library’s administration supported the petition.
Library Director Brenda Johnson responded that “Library Administration has not received a letter or petition, nor would it be appropriate for us to respond to petitions that fundamentally concern other units of the University.”
The network has not yet submitted the petition to university administration, said Kaderbek. “We'd like to hit 3000 before delivering to admin, and potentially check with overlapping campaigns to see if there's a time near the start of the academic year to collectively present this and other demands regarding UCPD,” he said via email.