Student Government (SG) recently announced that it is working with the UCPD to launch a smartphone app aimed at increasing the UCPD’s ability to monitor student safety in its patrol area. The app, called Pathlight, will offer students an easy-to-use way to increase their own safety. However, its success rests on whether students are informed enough to use it well. The University’s selective policy on reporting crimes through campus-wide security alerts undermines not only the app, but also the broader goal of risk awareness among students and, in turn, the level of security on campus.
Pathlight is developed by The CBORD Group, the same firm that maintains our campus’s ID-based building security system. According to SG, it “allow[s] students to opt into GPS tracking services for their phones.” If a student is walking across campus alone at night, all she needs to do is launch the app, enter a destination, indicate how long the walk will take, and press “Follow Me Now” to initiate tracking. The UCPD would then be able to remotely track the student’s presence and progress until the walk is over, enabling something that resembles patrol car Umbrella Coverage, but is less resource-intensive for the UCPD. In addition to the tracking itself, Pathlight allows users to silently alert police dispatchers if they need emergency help. In this way, Pathlight functions almost as a portable blue light.
The app is a step forward for campus security. However, it is not without some drawbacks. For one, it is only available to those who have smartphones. Also, it is only likely to be used by those who feel as though they need it—that is, those whose knowledge of area crime leads them to feel unsafe on our campus. The University currently does not issue University-wide security alerts for all violent crimes that occur in the vicinity of student activity. For instance, a recent homicide of unknown motive that occurred at 52nd Street and Harper Avenue was not reported in an alert merely because the victim was not University affiliated. Such rationale is puzzling: The presence of a murderer in the area increases the threat of violence to every resident of Hyde Park, regardless of whether they are University affiliated. In light of this policy, the fact is that, unless a student is regularly checking the UCPD’s Daily Incident Reports, she is constantly making personal safety decisions that are based on only a partial picture of how and where crime occurs in her own neighborhood. Setting aside the University’s reasons for the policy, it should absolutely be revised so that it mandates the issuance of security alerts to all students for all violent crimes that occur within Hyde Park and northern Woodlawn and for all muggings that occur within at least two blocks of the main quads.
The UCPD’s planned adoption of Pathlight is a laudable development in improving campus security resources. However, it is unfortunate that its positive influence will be curtailed by the University’s reluctance to be as transparent and informative as it ought to be with notifying students about crime. It wouldn’t take much additional effort to ensure that students are appropriately informed about the incidence of crime in the neighborhood they call home. And if the University intends Pathlight to be a success, it would do well not to shirk this small responsibility.
The Editorial Board consists of the Editors-in-Chief and the Viewpoints Editors.
Last week a man was shot and killed in Hyde Park. I found out about the shooting when a friend of mine posted a link to a Huffington Post story. The shooting occurred in the very early morning of April 30 in an apartment building at 52nd Street and Harper Avenue. The witness who was wounded in the attack was a close friend of the man who died. He said that neither he nor the deceased knew the shooter. The story was covered in the Tribune and other Chicago news outlets. Despite the relatively high-profile nature of this crime, the University has made no mention of the incident.
Though the University has been silent on this issue, officials have communicated about other security news. In the early evening of April 30th, the day following the shooting, Marlon Lynch sent out a “Spring Safety Update,” which reported that violent crime was down 33 percent from last year. He then stated that “in light of recent events” security would be increased on campus. It was unclear whether the “recent events” that Lynch referred to were the muggings earlier in the month or the shooting that had occurred that very morning, but it seems unlikely that Lynch would not have known about the attack.
Hyde Park is on the whole a relatively safe neighborhood, and I am quite thankful for that. But when something of this violent nature occurs, it must be a University priority to inform its students, faculty, and staff as soon as possible. While I understand that not every mugging is Security Alert material, every shooting should be. The University should re-evaluate its Security Alert guidelines to include alerts for all violent incidents in Hyde Park. We cannot make informed decisions about our safety if crucial information is missing.
A quick jaunt to the University of Chicago Safety and Security page tells us why the incident was not automatically a security alert: The crime did not occur on campus, nor was someone affiliated with the University injured. However, the facts that neither of the victims was affiliated with the University and that the shooting did not occur on campus do not mean that the shooter could not have posed harm to students, staff, or faculty. Many University affiliates live in that area or patronize the businesses along 53rd Street that are near the site of the shooting. It would be naive to think that the University bubble excuses our ignoring what goes on in the rest of Hyde Park.
This incident points to the difficulty of engaging in an informed discussion about crime within Hyde Park. It has been the trend of late to accuse the University of failing to participate in open dialogue about all sorts of issues, from the trauma center to police practices to its investment policies. In the case of dialogue about crime, the University is only partially to blame. Many students, myself included, don’t have a good sense of how safe or dangerous Hyde Park is; most of us rely on a combination of hearsay and security alerts to judge how safe we are and make safety decisions, and that’s far from a comprehensive view of crime.
However, I also do not trust the University to give us a clear picture of crime. It has a vested interest in presenting a certain image of Hyde Park: the image of a safe neighborhood where violent crime is not a problem. From the University’s perspective, a shooting is, in effect, a large P.R. problem. The cynical part of me wonders whether the University has been so silent about the shooting because it occurred near the new developments on 53rd Street, an area that it cannot afford to be associated with crime. Though I would not go so far as to say that the University intentionally made no mention of the incident, I would not be surprised if P.R. issues were a factor in its decision.
Setting these concerns aside, where they belong, the fact remains that student, faculty, staff, and community safety should be the University’s top priority. If the University had more common-sense guidelines for what crime information it should disseminate, we would all feel safer. After all, it is the gaps in our knowledge that are frightening: If we knew that the University would alert us to serious violent crimes, we could take no news as good news instead of a failure to communicate.
Maya Fraser is a third-year in the College majoring in sociology.
Photo: Sydney Combs/The Chicago MaroonThe Nile Restaurant, currently located at 55th and Lake Park, is moving to a new venue near 55th and University this June.New York–style corned beef sandwiches and classic Mediterranean cuisine are both coming to the East 55th Street and South Woodlawn Avenue block this spring.
Hyde Park veteran The Nile Restaurant will be heading westward from its current location on East 55th Street between South Cornell Avenue and South Lake Park Avenue into a currently vacant space next to Starbucks and Woodlawn Tap. Joining the Nile at its new location will be Bergstein’s NY Deli, transitioning its Hyde Park presence from an existing food truck to a full restaurant.
The Nile hopes to open in its new location by June 1, said chef Rashad Moughrabi, whose father opened the restaurant 22 years ago. According to Moughrabi, the move was prompted by a need for renovations to the Nile’s current building, which would have caused the restaurant to close for several months.
Moughrabi was drawn to the University-owned space at 1168 East 55th Street due to its larger size, outdoor patio area and proximity to campus. He felt that due to the Harper Court and 53rd Street development, business in Hyde Park was “moving west of the Metra tracks.”
Moughrabi also hopes the Nile will have a stronger connection to campus by being a place for students to drop in for lunch with an “updated, fun feel” in its new location.
Though the asking price to rent the spaces in the 53rd Street corridor was higher than what Moughrabi felt a small business like The Nile could afford, he was pleased to find his negotiations with the University over the 55th Street space to be a smooth process, saying he felt like the University wants to help small businesses open in their buildings.
Just next door, at 1170 East 55th Street, Bergstein’s NY Deli, another small business, plans to add a second location to its original restaurant in Chicago Heights. According to co-founder Billy Davis, his customers, as well as an employee who lives in the neighborhood, recommended Hyde Park as a good place for business. The recommendation led him to station the food truck in Hyde Park instead of in some of the more high-density areas downtown. After the success of the food truck, Davis thought it was “a natural fit” to expand to a restaurant.
In addition to the sandwiches, soups, and salads on the menu, Davis hopes to recreate the community atmosphere of its Chicago Heights restaurant in its new Hyde Park location. He said community events like open-mic nights have worked well in the suburbs and are being considered for the new location as well.
“We’re not just looking to open just a sandwich shop. We want to become a part of Hyde Park,” Davis added.
Photo: Jamie Manley/The Chicago MaroonDevelopers are proposing to build a 13-story apartment and retail building at the location of the Mobil gas station on 53rd Street.The proposed 13-story high-rise that may replace the Mobil gas station on University-owned property at East 53rd Street and South Kenwood Avenue has caused a stir among Hyde Park community members. The project, which is set for construction at the beginning of 2014, would create 267 new apartments along with 30,000 square feet of ground-level retail space.
Community members voiced their resentment at a March 18 community meeting at Augusta Lutheran Church, asserting that the development would negatively impact traffic patterns in the area, especially because Nichols Park and the Murray School are located directly across the street.
Citizens for Appropriate Retail and Residential Development (CARRD), an ad hoc neighborhood organization, reemerged after hearing about the high-rise proposal.
“It’s the wrong building in the wrong place. It’s too big; it’ll dwarf everything around it,” CAARD member Tom Panelas said in an interview with the Maroon. “We’d like to see something more suitable on that site, and we’d like the University to talk to the neighborhood honestly about it, not forge ahead unilaterally with a plan opposed by people living around the site.”
A recent text poll conducted by the Hyde Park Herald indicated that 61.95 percent of respondents do not support the development.
In response to the community’s reaction, the University reaffirmed that the development would incorporate features such as affordable housing, new retail options, and environmentally sustainable features such as a green roof and parking for bicycles.
“The project also would create more than 300 new construction jobs in Hyde Park and substantially increase tax revenues available to the community while requiring no public dollars to build,” said Calmetta Coleman, director of communications for the Office of Civic Engagement.
Fourth Ward Alderman Will Burns is required to rezone the area in order for construction to begin. Regarding the potential issues that some community members have raised, Burns said, “These concerns are completely natural, but I believe that the developers of this project have taken into consideration the community’s concerns and are working to address them.”
Burns insists that the development will primarily make shopping and dining out more convenient. “This development would be beneficial to the community. Many residents want to walk from their homes to shopping corridors. They are tired of having to drive to Roosevelt Road or North Avenue or 95th Street to buy groceries and clothes,” he said.
A study conducted by Anzalone Liszt Research found that, after hearing details about the proposed development, 71 percent “believe it would benefit the community.”
Panelas pointed out that the research was commissioned by the South East Chicago Commission (SECC), an organization funded by the University. On its Web site, the SECC affirms those facts and says the research was “an independent survey of Hyde Park and Kenwood residents.”
Panelas is concerned about the uncertain effect the building might have on the other 53rd Street developments.
“There’s a lot of building going on in the neighborhood right now. Things are changing fast…. We should be in no rush to add another major high-rise in the area before we know what kind of impact these other buildings will have…. Let’s take our time, do it right, and make sure we keep Hyde Park a livable neighborhood.”
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) representatives again fielded questions, complaints, and outcry from community members in the second and final community meeting regarding the announcement to close Miriam G. Canter Middle School in Kenwood.
“For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Mayor and CEO would suggest closing a safe school in a safe neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago,” said Beth Herring, a parent at Bret Harte Elementary, one of the schools set to receive Canter students.
The community members mostly blamed Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the imminent closing of Canter and 53 other CPS schools, a decision they saw as rash and ill-informed.
“My anger is not directed at you,” Herring said, pointing at the CPS representatives present at the meeting. “I hold Mayor Emanuel responsible for these reckless, unprecedented, and poorly planned school closings.”
“This is not ‘for the children,’ as Emanuel says. 35 kids in a class, for the children. Separate them from their friend group and making them question their own place of belonging, for the children. You think we’re dumb, Emanuel?” said Angela Paranjape, whose husband is a longtime Canter teacher.
Eileen Wasserman, a longtime Hyde Park resident whose daughters attended CPS schools, alleged that “this administration does not care for children.”
“Rahm Emanuel, what is he—an emperor?” she asked.
Many of the speakers at tonight’s meeting, held at Kenwood Academy, expressed frustration toward its format, which limited each speaker to two minutes and was meant for community members to merely raise their concerns rather than to receive direct answers from the three CPS representatives present at the meeting.
“We’re not here to answer your questions. We’re here to get feedback and take it back to [CPS CEO] Barbara Byrd,” said Erick Pruit, deputy chief of schools, one of the CPS representatives facilitating the discussion.
“You can’t even talk to us—I think that’s the craziest thing,” Wasserman said.
In addition to their skepticism about the meeting itself, many community members questioned the efficacy of CPS’s pledge that all “welcoming schools,” including Bret Harte and Ray Elementary, would receive improvements such as air-conditioning and other technology and security upgrades in order to accommodate students from “sending schools” like Canter.
Paranjape cited the air-conditioning as an example of “the things they’re using to bribe the schools.”
“Kozminski [Community Academy] was promised AC. They never received that AC,” she said.
Responding to audience members chanting “Speak!”, Fourth Ward Alderman Will Burns (B.A. ’95, M.A. ’98) took to the microphone, blaming state and federal fiscal woes for the CPS closings and funding cuts.
“Illinois has cut funding for education, money that we depend in Chicago so that we can provide high-quality education for our children,” he said. “The federal government has not lived up to its responsibility. It is in this milieu that these cuts are happening. The crisis does not come from the city of Chicago.”
These remarks drew agitation from audience members, who frequently tried to interrupt him.
“You asked me to speak, and I am going to finish my point,” he said.
When asked by an audience member what he plans to do to contest the CPS decision, Burns stressed his involvement in community organizations and his work to keep Reavis and Robinson Elementary Schools open when they were slated for closure.
Frustrated with Burns’ remarks, some of the speakers addressed him directly, including Canter social studies and language arts teacher Howard Fishbein.
“You can work with Rahm Emanuel, but you can also stand up to him once in a while,” he said to Burns.
Other speakers stressed the important role Canter plays as a transition between elementary and high school and as a safe haven.
Patrick Papson, a teacher at Canter, noted that many students come from unsafe neighborhoods in order to attend “a safe school in a safe neighborhood.”
“Kids who are in seventh and eighth grade, who at this point, their lives shift. Very easily, they can fall into the trap of gangs. We’re able to, in this school, really reach kids,” he said. “I honestly believe that we save a lot of kids, or at least help them prepare for high school.”
“I think it’s important for them to have the opportunity to move from one element to another. It’s really, really hard on the students when you close it,” said Stephanie Franklin, a retired high school teacher and community member.
She was also concerned that community members were not consulted in the CPS decision.
“Canter parents, were you surveyed before they decided your future?” she asked the audience members. “No!” many responded.
Community members pledged to continue advocating for Canter’s survival in anticipation of the final CPS public hearing on April 17, when CPS will officially decide which schools will close at the end of the year.
Evan Canter, the son of the school’s namesake, spoke of his mother’s legacy.
“Her concern was for the kids, and you must keep that in mind no matter where you end up. The Canters are proud of what the Canter school has become, and we urge you to continue to fight.”
“This is a community that transcends itself. This is much bigger than some mass CPS plan,” Paranjape said at the end of the meeting.
Community members expressed their grievances regarding the decision to close Miriam G. Canter Middle School, one of the 54 schools in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system set to close at the end of this school year, before CPS representatives at a forum held in Kenwood Academy’s gymnasium yesterday evening.
Canter Middle School, which serves seventh and eighth graders, is located at East 50th Street and South Blackstone Avenue. In order to accommodate the closure, CPS plans to expand two Hyde Park elementary schools, Ray Elementary, at East 56th Street and South Kimbark Avenue, and Bret Harte Elementary, at East 56th Street and South Stony Island Avenue, into K–8 schools next year.
The school was targeted to close based on its low 58 percent utilization rate. By CPS’s school utilization formula, the middle school is expected to educate 390 students, but currently there are only 223 students enrolled.
Though the school is classified as a “Level 3” school by CPS, the lowest score on CPS’s scale of student performance, the school was separately classified as “Well-Organized for Improvement,” the highest possible rating in the 5Essentials survey system developed by the U of C’s Urban Education Institute (UEI). The 5Essentials survey tool also rated Canter as “strong” for having effective leaders, involved parents, and a collaborative teacher culture.
“Canter is a good school,” said Reagan Allen, a current student who credits his time at Canter for motivating him to become academically successful after he struggled in elementary school. Several students began to openly sob while describing their experience at Canter and expressing their hope for it to remain open.
Parents, students, and concerned community members passionately argued against the closing, pointing to the school’s committed teachers and administrators, as well as the special attention students are able to receive because of its small size and focus on a narrow age range.
Janak Paranjape, a long-time teacher at Canter, spoke to the feeling of community in the school.
“Take a look,” he said, pointing to the audience in the bleachers. “This is the Canter community. If you close Canter, you’re going to divide this community. It’s my community.”
Isabelle Badili, mother of a former Canter student, also asked the CPS representatives to consider the people who will be affected by the closing.
“We’re talking dollars, we’re talking statistics, talk about numbers. Did we forget we’re talking about human beings?” she asked.
Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston expressed her frustration and offense to what she perceived as “disrespect” of her position by CPS.
“I was elected to represent the people… I matter, my people matter… We will not allow you to disrespect us,” she said at the microphone to the CPS representatives, drawing loud cheers from many in attendance.
According to Hairston, whose ward includes both Ray and Harte, she was neither consulted nor informed about the removal of Ray Elementary’s two principals nor about yesterday’s meeting to discuss the transition.
“It’s indicative of [Emanuel’s] administration,” she said in an interview with the Maroon.
Fourth Ward Alderman Will Burns (A.B. ’95, A.M. ’98), whose ward includes Canter, was also in attendance, though he did not sign up to speak in front of the microphone.
United States history is a rather underappreciated subject. This might seem like an odd thing to say, given that students in this country typically spend a large amount of time studying it throughout elementary, middle, and high school. However, being required to study U.S. history isn’t the same as appreciating it, any more than filing your taxes every year is the same as considering it a hobby. Firstly, there’s always going to be a contingent of people who think history of any kind is a useless subject of study. You know, the people who make snide remarks about how they’re going to be pulling down a six-figure salary at an investment bank right after graduation while you subsist primarily on ramen because you didn’t study something “real” in college. Secondly, there are the people who like all history but that of the United States. This particular sentiment prevailed at the high school I attended, and I admit that I used to share it too. We supposedly had an “international model for global teaching and learning,” and—let’s face it—saying that you want to study United States history doesn’t make you sound very cosmopolitan when other people talk of their interest in Mayan civilization or the ancient Mediterranean. Chicago or Cairo? The Civil War or the Warring States period? Two hundred years of history, or two thousand? The latter things seem a little more exotic and mysterious, while the former seem like things you learn about in first grade.
My pipe dream is for colleges to place a greater emphasis on United States history in their general education requirements. I do realize that there are several very good arguments against doing so. General education requirements tend to be fairly onerous as they are, and I have yet to meet other students who would be thrilled by the prospect of more required classes. Furthermore, it might seem a little chauvinistic to require non-American students to become familiar with U.S. history when the rest of us are taught relatively little about the history of their countries unless we specialize in those regions.
But college-level work in U.S. history is useful because our study of it when we’re younger is rather shallow, and often taught in a manner that might turn away even enthusiastic learners of history. For example, I remember being required to memorize the preamble to the Constitution. Currently, I can recite it as far as “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union….” I suppose that, in the process, I gained an appreciation of how well written it was, but otherwise the assignment seemed pointless.
Moreover, I think we tend not to think too much about how the place and time in which we grew up affects how we learned about United States history. When I went to school in Chicago, names, places, and events relating to industrialization, immigration, and labor movements were emphasized—for example, Hull House, Louis Sullivan, the stockyards, and the Haymarket riots. Since these terms show up in standard American history textbooks (such as the one I used, American Pageant), I didn’t realize until college that they might seem obscure to people not from this area. Likewise, I’m sure that I don’t know as much as people who grew up in other regions about United States history pertaining to, say, agriculture. Though our educations up to this point have probably covered the same basic facts and interpretations of American history, the aspects of it that loom large in our minds and most heavily influence how we see our country will probably vary depending on where we went to school. Consequently, discussions about American history and historiography are especially well suited for a college setting that draws people from different regions and types of schools.
I was glad to see last week that recent American history was being discussed extensively in the media through coverage of the legal challenge to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It might be a little tempting to treat history as a kind of temporal Las Vegas, where what happened in the past stays in the past. There are things that we take for granted because they seem so mundane, such as coed universities, basic workplace protections, or unadulterated food. However, to reclaim a much maligned phrase from last year, you didn’t build this. Millions of people did over the course of several hundred years. Though most of us are long past our last U.S. history class, we should still take time to think about historical context when we’re backing a cause or taking a stand against something. I’ve always believed that to make history, you should know history.
Jane Huang is a third-year in the College.
Hyde Park renters are paying heavily for their homes—more so than in recent memory—and the current supply of affordable housing may not be enough to keep people in the neighborhood, according to a study published last month of Census and housing data since 2000.
The majority of Hyde Park residents rent, but more than half of them are paying at least 30 percent, and even as much as 50 percent, of their income on rent alone, the study found. The trend is especially pronounced among the neighborhood’s lowest earners, for whom the costs of housing are disproportionately high and the shortage of affordable options is sharpest.
The threshold for what is considered affordable rent by federal guidelines is 30 percent of household income, adjusted for family size.
Families are facing particular difficulties, since few affordable rental units have three or more bedrooms, while the disabled and elderly have fewer options still.
The portrait that emerges from the data complicates the long-held impression of Hyde Park as a mixed-income neighborhood, according to the organization which commissioned the study, the Coalition for Equitable Community Development (CECD).
“People think of Hyde Park–South Kenwood as being [a combination of renting and owning], but it’s a renter community,” said Heather Parish, a consultant who was hired to conduct the survey.
Compounding the issue is the fact that the limited supply of affordable rental housing is concentrated in the western part of the neighborhood, between Cottage Grove and Woodlawn Avenues.
“Hence families, particularly those that are low to moderate income, are more likely to live in the West submarket,” the study says.
The suggestion is that Hyde Park may be losing some of its economic diversity, as different parts of the neighborhood solidify into blocs determined by income.
Perhaps the study’s most striking find is the considerable growth since 2000 in the number of the neighborhood’s lowest-earning residents who are “burdened” by their rent. Ten years ago, 43 percent of people making less than half of the area’s median income (or less than $37,900) were rent-burdened. Today, that number has grown to 58 percent, higher than the city average.
One fear is that high rents are driving the flight of low-income people—families in particular—from the neighborhood, which is projected to continue for at least another five years.
“People may be leaving the community in search of more affordable rental housing that is a better fit for their household size,” the study says.
The findings parallel similar trends in Chicago at large, where urban flight sapped the city of 200,000 residents between 2000 and 2010 (principally in the south and southwest), and foreclosures have thinned the rental supply.
The report does point a path forward, however. One option it suggests is to work within the neighborhood’s existing construction projects, catching works-in-progress and negotiating with developers to set aside units for affordable housing. Some 39 units were secured this way in City Hyde Park, the retail-residential complex going up at the former Village Foods site.
Antheus Capital, the company which owns as much as one-third of Hyde Park rental housing, put the City Hyde Park project under the charge of its local subsidiary, MAC Property Management. Both the CECD and MAC have touted the development as being the first in years to set aside below–market rate units for low-income renters, an arrangement called multi-family housing.
But Linda Thisted, who chairs CECD’s affordable housing advocacy committee, qualified that praise. She stressed the need to force concessions from private developers, such as the encouragement of Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) vouchers for low-income renters and the inclusion of affordable units in new buildings.
“For-profit developers want to make money,” she said, adding that affordable housing advocates need to continue to “push these guys…when we do have an opportunity to push them.”
Peter Cassel, MAC’s director of community development, pointed out that the company was under no obligation to put subsidized units within City Hyde Park, but chose to do so, at a loss, in order to work with the community. It would have been cheaper, he said, to circumvent the requirement for affordable housing by putting money into a fund for city improvements, as recipients of tax-increment financing are allowed to do.
Cassel also suggested that solutions to the problem may lie elsewhere than in subsidies.
“The most important element is addressing this from the demand side, and ensuring that people have good wages, so they can afford the cost of safe, quality housing,” he said.
However, according to the report, the most compelling reason for why so many households are cost-burdened is precisely the growing mismatch between supply and demand for affordable housing, not a poor economy in general.
This is especially the case for larger families, the report claims, since most of the affordable units in the neighborhood are one- or two-bedroom apartments. Just seven percent of apartments that are affordable to low-income families have three or more bedrooms.
The problem compounds itself: Families who cannot find affordable apartments that can accommodate them resort to entering the market for higher-cost housing (if they want to avoid doubling-up in cramped conditions or leaving the neighborhood), which places them in competition with higher-earning families who are already vying for a limited number of affordable units. Such families, the report contends, must either leave or become cost-burdened.
The shortage intensifies for the poorest families: For the 5,051 households in the lowest income bracket (those earning less than $22,740), there are just 154 affordable three-bedroom apartments. The vast majority cater to smaller families.
It is unclear how many residents are choosing to put up with high rents because they are attracted to Hyde Park’s amenities, its relative safety, and its schools, and how many are persisting for lack of options elsewhere. There is agreement, however, that people still want to live here.
“Who wouldn’t want an affordable rental in Hyde Park, where they know it’s safer for their kids and for themselves?” said Russel Riley, a frequenter of Leona’s restaurant on 53rd Street who rents in a section-8 housing development in Chatham.
Lorene Shiraiwa, who grew up in the neighborhood and still rents on South Dorchester Avenue, spoke to her own stubbornness.
“Hyde Parkers are a special type of creature,” she said. “For the same amount of money, you could live in Lincoln Park.”
Photo: Courtesy of Spencer BibbsThe 53rd Street Tax Increment Advisory Council formally received a long-planned proposal for a new high-rise apartment complex in Hyde Park on January 30 this year. Set for construction beginning in 2014 and ending in fall of 2015, the building will be thirteen stories tall with 30,000 square feet of space on the ground level. Once completed, the building will house 267 apartments along with a ground floor intended for retail locations.
Located at 1330 E. 53rd Street, the complex will replace the Mobil gas station and Hyde Park Mobil Car Wash, which are scheduled to be demolished later this year. The University has contracted the actual construction and development work on the site to Mesa Development LLC.
According to Calmetta Coleman, Director of Communications for Civic Engagement, while the plans for the complex have only taken shape in recent years, plans to improve the real estate of the area have been in the works for much longer.
“The proposed development… is part of broader ongoing efforts to redevelop the 53rd Street commercial corridor,” she said.
The University, which owns the property on which the building will be constructed, has been meeting with the City of Chicago along with Hyde Park community members and public officials since 2007 in order to find new means of economic development for the area.
“During those meetings, members of the community shared input on the kinds of businesses and amenities they would like to see on the street, and that input has helped shape redevelopment,” Coleman said.
In addition, Coleman said that the apartments would be rentals available to University students. She did not provide any information on whether the University’s ownership of the property would affect the availability of apartments for students.
The groundbreaking is scheduled to take place next January.
The University Community Service Center (UCSC) and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA) hosted student-led discussion groups in response to the January 27 protests on Saturday.
A crowd of roughly 40 people, composed of mostly University students and a smattering of community members, were split into small groups for discussions on issues including race, trauma care, and disparities in health care. According to Omari Moore, one of the eight discussion leaders from UCSC, the turnout was significantly lower than anticipated.
While the event was organized by UCSC director Amy Chan and the Civic Reflection Fellowship program, the idea originated from within the University administration. Moore emphasized that the focus was placed on student attendance and engagement, although he believed that goal did not necessarily best serve the purpose of the event and that it ought to have included people involved in the protests. The community members who were present were specifically invited to participate.
According to Moore, no members of the community organizations involved in the trauma center protests, Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY) or South Siders Together Organizing for Power (STOP), were invited.
One Saturday last quarter, my roommate and I got brunch at Salonica, the Greek diner a short walk from our apartment. This would be an unremarkable occurrence but for the fact that we had eaten lunch there the day before. And dinner. This “golden trifecta” was a consummation of our love for Salonica, which is so boundless that we didn’t realize we had eaten three meals in a row there until halfway through brunch.
I’m normally a harsh critic. Just read any of my bitingly witty tweets, which tear through the cultural landscape, shaking the very foundations of the world of social media (follow me @Horse_ebooks). The depths of my passion for Salonica surprised me: Why did I love it so? I decided to investigate.
Something that always fascinated me about Salonica was its sign advertising pizza from the shuttered Café Florian. I never saw anyone eating pizza inside, and there was no mention of it on the menu. But every time I walked past Salonica the sign called to me, teasing me, inviting me to bring some friends and some beer—yes, Virginia, Salonica is BYO, and many a dapper couple have shared spanakopita over a bottle of Treasure Island’s finest, cheapest white wine—and purchase two pies.
One Friday night, I stepped up to the challenge. I asked my waitress about the pizza-ordering process and she didn’t miss a beat. “Oh,” she asked me, pulling something out of her back pocket, “do you want to see the pizza menu?” Yes. I did want to see the pizza menu.
Inside the Salonica men’s restroom, there’s a corkboard strategically placed on the wall so that one can read the comics that have been pinned onto it while standing in front of the toilet. I always try to have a few too many cups of water during my meal, so that I can stand for just a little bit longer, drinking in the day’s “Garfield” and “Beetle Bailey”. Sometimes I challenge myself and try to solve the jumble, or figure out what the joke is in “Ziggy”.
Salonica is full of such surprises—quirks that remind you there are human minds and hearts behind the restaurant’s majesty. Before 11 o’clock on weekday mornings, one can order from a special menu, which features otherwise unadvertised options, like the Tony Soprano omelette (whack!) and Chef Claudio’s Special. Your server will be sure to warn you that Chef Claudio likes it hot, and that his special might be too spicy. Push ahead, young warrior, for you shall be rewarded for your pain.
They normally have a flowing supply of horchata and strawberry lemonade, but, once, the horchata had been replaced with a yellow drink labeled “Pineapple.” Intrigued, I asked for pineapple juice, only to be informed, “No, that’s pineapple water.” I’m still not sure exactly what pineapple water is, but it was delicious, and certainly not pineapple juice. One time, they played Beach House over the sound system.
Salonica also provides the personal touch and community connection that can be hard to find in our pedal-to-the-metal era of emoji and robot libraries. The staff members are universally charming and seem devoted to their patrons and employer. They’ll remember your name or just call you “friend,” they’ll smile as they bring you more saltines for your chili, and they’ll let you sit at the counter and cry when you hear the new Justin Timberlake song and realize there will never be another FutureSex/LoveSounds.
Pictures of old Hyde Park homes also hang on the walls of that same men’s restroom. Along with the clientele—a mixture of long-term Hyde Parkers, good-looking fourth-year sociology and Spanish majors, and that one crazy guy you see walking around sometimes—they remind patrons of this neighborhood’s historic beauty and complexity. At Salonica, one is welcomed into a community that can sometimes seem outside the grasp of UChicago students. The University’s presentation of Hyde Park as a residential refuge from the nation’s third-largest city suddenly rings true.
Sure, the food is delicious. Try any of the day’s soup selections, the baklava, or the moussaka, the French toast or the lunch special tortas that make this the best Mexican food in Hyde Park (unless you’re really drunk, in which case, yeah, it’s Maravillas). But my love for Salonica goes beyond the food. As the University erects soulless glass and steel structures around Hyde Park and plasters donors’ names onto beautiful old libraries, it can sometimes feel like our great institution is becoming a well-oiled Metcalf machine. Salonica offers a respite—a home with a human touch. So, you can have Five Guys and Clarke’s, Qdoba, and the corporatized Classics Café. I’ll be at Salonica, with a friend in my booth, bread in my basket, and joy in my heart.
Dan Reis is a fourth-year in the College majoring in sociology and Spanish.
Istria Café, located inside the Hyde Park Arts Center on South Cornell Avenue and East 50th Place, has closed. The decision was announced through a notice posted on its door last Sunday.
“We have poured our hearts into this enterprise, but have reached the difficult conclusion that we can no longer sustain operations,” Marc Pribaz, Istria’s founder and owner, wrote in the announcement..
This is the second Istria location to close. Founded in 2005, the Café began on 57th Street under the Metra viaduct. It expanded to a second location at the Hyde Park Arts Center in 2008. The 57th Street location closed in 2010.
Staff members from the Hyde Park Arts Center said they will work with Istria’s owners to find a replacement. They are also soliciting suggestions from the community.
“The Art Center is committed to ensuring that the space formerly occupied by Istria continues to be used as a welcoming place for the community to gather,” Brook Rosini, marketing and communications manager at the Center, wrote on their blog.
Photo: Kristin LinAfter failing to qualify for landmark status, the unmarked boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan, where he lived for a year at the age of four, is being demolished by the University to build a new parking lot. The University of Chicago’s plan to tear down an apartment building where President Ronald Reagan once lived has hit a wall.
The University bought the building in 2004, intending to demolish it and use the space to expand the medical and biological research campuses, according to a University statement. Located at 832 East 57th Street, the property stands on the site of a proposed parking structure for the Center for Care and Discovery, the University of Chicago Medical Center’s hospital pavilion set to open in February.
However, due to what some are alleging is its historical importance, the demolition has been delayed by the City of Chicago. The Reagan family lived in the building’s first-floor apartment for 10 months between 1914 and 1915, when the future president was three and four years old.
On December 27, Heneghan Wrecking & Excavating Co., Inc. applied on the University’s behalf for a permit to demolish the now vacant three-story apartment building. But because the Chicago Historic Resources Survey designated the building as possessing “some architectural feature or historical association” in 1995, the demolition permit was automatically delayed for a maximum of 90 days.
According to Peter Strazzabosco, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development, the City of Chicago’s Historic Preservation Division will use this time to “reach out to the property owner and discuss alternatives to demolition.”
Jack Spicer, who sits on the Hyde Park Historical Society board, supports the forced delay and believes the University should consider concerns from community members before tearing down the property.
“Respect ought to be paid whether or not you agree with [Reagan] politically,” said Spicer, who has actively spoken out against the demolition.
Despite these sentiments, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks had previously halted the preservationists’ cause, denying an appeal to grant the location official landmark status. Any building granted landmark status cannot have any features deemed historically or architecturally significant changed without approval from the City.
According to a report by the Commission, it decided the building “does not have sufficient architectural significance” and lacks historical value because it was “not associated with Mr. Reagan during his active and productive years.”
According to the University statement, administrators are considering placing a dedicatory marker on the site to signify the building’s presidential legacy.
From first-years to graduate students, there is a widely circulated myth that Hyde Park is an exceptionally unsafe neighborhood. We certainly see a lot of daily evidence as to this danger. Campus street corners seem to have more security and police patrol cars than most military installations. CTA bus drivers often remind students to keep their phones hidden while on the bus. A number of violent, high- profile robberies during the last year made it into both the Maroon and even Chicago Tribune pages. And let’s not forget Chicago’s nationally publicized 506 (or 513, depending on your source) murders in 2012, many of which occurred only a few miles from Cobb Hall. Between these constant reminders of imminent peril, it is no wonder that University members live with such crime anxiety. Fortunately, this fear is almost entirely unfounded.
As many students know, the University and Hyde Park are actually some of the safest places in all of Chicago, let alone on the South side. There are many factors contributing to this, including the exceptional officers of the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD), high property values, low poverty and demographic diversity. This reality is often obscured by the constant export of tragic, violent stories from surrounding communities, many of which do suffer from extreme crime rates. But according to Chicago Police Department (CPD), over the past five years, Hyde Park had one of the lowest occurrences of violent crime in any Chicago neighborhood.
As an example, consider 2008, the most recent year in which Chicago surpassed the grisly 500-homicide mark. Hyde Park had a violent crime rate of 558 per 100,000 residents. By comparison, the citywide rate was more than twice as much, at 1,263 per 100,000 Chicagoans. Of course, then there were nearby communities, many of which experienced a different sort of violence entirely, one far more tenacious and constant than we are accustomed to in Hyde Park. Take for example Woodlawn (1,904), Washington Park (3,138), and Englewood (5,405)—just a snapshot of “the other Chicago” that lies beyond our borders.
Trends over time tell a more complete story than just yearly snapshots, and that is as true of crime data as any other field of social science. The UCPD reports that Hyde Park violent crime steadily declined for the past decade. But did this trend continue into 2012, a year that saw awful spikes in violence across the rest of Chicago? Were Hyde Park and the University affected?
To answer this question, I looked at UCPD and CPD crime logs from 2011 and 2012. Although the data sets have overlaps in reported crime, there are often big differences; incidents called in exclusively to the CPD do not show up in UCPD reports, for example. This meant it was possible that UCPD and CPD data showed different stories about what happened in these two years. Because violent crime is so uniquely harmful to victims and a community, I only looked at robbery, battery, assault, and murder. Property crimes, although damaging, just do not cause the same sort of profound trauma.
In the end, both sources were in agreement: Hyde Park has gotten a whole lot safer from 2011 to 2012. According to the UCPD, there was a 12 percent decrease in Hyde Park violence, from 103 incidents in 2011 to 91 in 2012. The CPD, with a more comprehensive set of reported crimes, reported 758 incidents in 2011 but only 537 in 2012, a whopping 29 percent decrease. Admittedly, some readers might be very alarmed by these raw numbers, totals that still seem high. To put them in context, consider the hyper-affluent Gold Coast on the city’s North Side, a neighborhood that is widely acknowledged to be the safest community in the city. In 2011, the Gold Coast recorded 502 violent incidents, with 404 in 2012. These numbers are right in the range of Hyde Park’s, proving not only how safe our South Side home is, but also that it remains one of the safest places in Chicago.
Despite these statistics, our University is still in an urban area. Crime still occurs, especially violent crime. As head instructor in the UChicago Self-Defense Club, I always remind my students to remain vigilant and aware, even though crime in our area is thankfully so low. For those who are the victims of crime, these probabilities and percentages are little consolation. But for most students, alumni, applicants, professors, and Hyde Park community members, the facts about local crime are very heartening. In light of these findings, let’s all make a collective resolution in this new year to stop preaching the myth of UChicago and Hyde Park crime and danger. Also, returning to those wise CTA drivers, let’s actually put those iPhones and handheld devices away when we are in transit, whether walking or bussing.
Sheridan Lardner, A.B. ‘11, is a graduate student in the School of Social Service Administration.
A Hyde Park building that once housed former President Ronald Reagan is scheduled to be demolished later this month.
The University bought the now-vacant apartment building on East 57th Street near the University of Chicago Medical Center campus in 2004. The space it currently occupies will be converted into a parking lot for the Center for Care and Discovery, which is scheduled to open in February.
Reagan, who spent most of his childhood in northwest Illinois, lived in one of the building’s first-floor apartments for 10 months between 1914 and 1915, when he was four years old.
Preservationists had hoped to challenge the demolition, arguing that it has architectural and historical value. However, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks rejected an appeal that would grant the building landmark status, citing that it “does not have sufficient architectural significance” and that it “is not associated with Mr. Reagan during his active and productive years”.
According to the Sun-Times, the building’s history was only discovered through police records showing that when Reagan’s father John was arrested for drunkenness in 1915, he reported the building’s address as his home.
Aside from President Barack Obama, Reagan is the only American president to have lived in Chicago.
Last week, the Seminary Co-op Bookstore officially opened in its new location, at 5751 South Woodlawn Avenue. The move from the former Chicago Theological Seminary—slated to reopen as the University’s Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics—brings to an end a half-century of prominence for one of the most beloved and storied basements in America. Picking up books for classes, sadly, will never be quite the same. Yet, even as we mourn for the labyrinth of yesteryear, we hope for a bright future for both the Co-op and the building it once called home.
Most readers of this paper don’t need to be told why the Sem Co-op holds such a special place in the collective imagination of this University and this neighborhood. Its maze-like stacks were legendary for encouraging wandering and serendipitous discovery; its front table was always a good bet for finding a new and exciting volume. With over 120,000 titles in the humanities and social sciences alone, it’s hard to question its reputation as one of the best academic bookstores in the world. And between its helpful staff and cooperative ownership, which over the years has included thousands of students, faculty, and staff, it has engendered a sense of community that few shops can match.
Many of the faces at the new store, of course, will be the same. More than 50,000 people worldwide will continue to be proud stockholders. Yet, nice as the Woodlawn space is, with its ample natural light and warm wooden shelving, much of the magic, inevitably, has been lost. We’ll never have our favorite literary cave back.
But that doesn’t mean the new Co-op has to be just another bookstore. The new location has almost 10,000 square feet of floor space, more than double the old location’s 4,000. We hope the managers utilize this advantage, as well as the store’s inviting ground-level spot on a bustling street, to enhance the store’s already considerable prestige. We like the fact that the new location will have reading areas and a café; these should be used as a means to engage the neighborhood. The management has already announced plans to host author talks, but it should consider holding social events, such as open mic nights, book clubs, and other community gatherings, to help ensure that the Co-op continues to be a cornerstone of Hyde Park.
The former Theological Seminary building likewise presents a chance to open a space to a wider audience. Although most UChicago students knew its basement well, fewer have explored the spectacular rooms, cloisters, and corridors of the rest of the building. It would be a shame if only econ students and Becker Friedman staff got to enjoy them. Along these lines, we urge the University to create common spaces, such as reading rooms, so that all may benefit from the newest addition to campus.
It would also be particularly unfortunate if the building lost its original splendor. Preservation Chicago put the building on its “7 Most Threatened” list in 2011 thanks largely to the removal of several priceless stained-glass windows. While doing renovations, the University should diligently protect the Seminary’s aesthetic and historic heritage. If possible, it should restore the windows; this community is mature enough to contextualize the religious iconography that prompted their removal.
Change, as per usual, is not easy. This move, in particular, is a difficult loss; a piece of our shared history is gone. That being said, we hope that all involved—the Seminary Co-op, the University, and all those who call this place home—work to make these new and renovated spaces just as valuable to future generations as the old Co-op was to us.
The Editorial Board consists of the Editors-in-Chief and the Viewpoints editors.
Photo: Julia ReinitzChildren go trick-or-treating on "Professor's Row" on 52nd and Greenwood. Housing prices in this area are at least double what they are a few blocks south. The trick to securing a good haul of treats often depends on real estate, according to experts of the trade, and Hyde Park is prime candy-asking turf.
Every Halloween, the neighborhood is flooded with ghosts, ninjas, superheroes, and princesses. In particular, the usually calm 5200 block of Greenwood Avenue known as ‘Professors’ Row’ welcomes hordes of costumed kids and accompanying parents coming from Kenwood, Washington Park, Bronzeville, and Woodlawn.
On Wednesday evening, the block was teeming with activity as several residents stood outside their homes and greeted trick-or-treaters.
“They’ve been coming in big groups; some are from around here, lots of kids come from the elementary schools nearby,” fourth-year Ben Lange said as he handed out candy in front of his apartment building at 52nd Street and Greenwood Avenue.
For the trick-or-treaters, it’s all about the weight of the bag at the end of the night, and Professors’ Row is known for being especially generous. For parents, Hyde Park is the annual destination on October 31 because of safety concerns.
“We like [Hyde Park] because we don’t have the same problems here as we do in our neighborhood. We feel comfortable and we don’t have to worry about people messing with [us] or messing with the kids,” one woman said as her young daughter tugged her along.
The size of the candy bars given on Professors’ Row reflects the prices of the 20 houses on the Row: each is worth at least a million dollars. The most recent sale on the Row, by Carol Mosley Braun, the first ever African-American female senator, cashed in at $1.2 million, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Even off Professors’ Row, which was granted protected status as a Chicago landmark in 2004, the average price per square foot for homes in Hyde Park last quarter was $305, while the Woodlawn equivalent was $42, according to real estate website Trulia.
Take, for example, the value gap between two 5,300 square foot houses in each of the neighborhoods. The Hyde Park house, built in 1881, is a single family home with six bedrooms and three bathrooms and is worth $2.19 million. A multi-family home, built in 1886, on 60th street and King drive, just on the northern edge of Woodlawn, has six bedrooms and four bathrooms and is worth $260,000.
Diane Silverman (A.B. ‘58), who owns the brokerage firm Urban Search Realty Owner, said the difference in prices between homes that are only several blocks apart is partially due to craftsmanship. Many of the more valuable homes in Hyde Park, including those on Professors’ Row, were custom built for U of C professors who had a particular design in mind and specific needs for themselves and their families. The houses in Woodlawn, in contrast, are more cookie-cutter.
“Basically, there is a very large difference between the house stock in Hyde Park and Woodlawn because they are really different neighborhoods architecturally,” she said.
The difference in value is also the product of time, Silverman pointed out. Hyde Park and Kenwood, which is a historical landmark and home to President Barack Obama, flourished during urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s.
Meanwhile, the story of Woodlawn is less glamorous. As Hyde Park and Kenwood maintained their lofty economic status, Woodlawn declined for a number of years. It was not until a decade ago that Woodlawn experienced a “wonderful resurgence,” according to Silverman, during which new six-unit flats, 12-unit flats, apartments, and condominiums were built.
Then in 2008, when the recession hit, Woodlawn was especially affected, which made it more difficult for homes to maintain their value.
“With the recession, Hyde Park and Kenwood experienced more than just a dip, but they are still in wonderful shape, and I think an upturn in general in Hyde Park and Kenwood will help Woodlawn too,” Silverman said.
The annual October 31 exodus of Woodlawn residents up north vividly highlights this discrepancy between the neighborhoods for candy-askers and givers alike.
“It definitely feels safer in Hyde Park. I like it down here on Halloween, mostly because you see lots of police cars; cars are considerate, they stop when they see you walking through the street, and the people are friendly,” trick-or-treater Moriah Scott, 15, said.
Jake Interrante (A.B. ’12) recalls his first Halloween at his apartment on 50th Street.
“I went grocery shopping at Michael’s on 47th street, and on the way back this woman approached me and said, ‘Trick-or treat, can I have your groceries?’” he said. “I couldn’t believe how difficult the situation is for people who live so close.”
—Editor’s Note: Jon Catlin is a Maroon staffer.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, a small group accumulated in the lobby couches of the Biological Sciences Laboratory Center. The members’ backgrounds varied widely—one was a practicing doctor, one a junior at the U of C Lab School, another a law student. However, they were united by a singular identity: “We are all Eagle Scouts.”
Second-year Jon Catlin, current chairperson of the year-old RSO, Scouts at U of C, emphasizes the present tense of the mantra. After reaching Eagle Scout status, the highest rank, Catlin said, the scouts acquire a “lifelong commitment to give back to the troops.”
The group, which is a community service RSO open to anyone, aims to fulfill this commitment by offering the vast resources and facilities of the University to younger Scouts in the Chicago area.
Originally formed a few years ago by an Eagle Scout and then-medical student Andrew Phillips and faculty adviser Darrel Waggoner, the first few years of the unofficial group consisted only of medical students. They put together a clinic for Boy Scouts in the area to complete a medicine-themed merit badge, one of many awards given to Boy Scouts for exploring disciplines and skill sets through a list of set requirements.
“Fulfilling the requirements for a merit badge independently can be time-consuming and, frankly, expensive,” Catlin said. “If I were a Boy Scout now, I would have loved to be immersed with the fantastic facilities and resources the University of Chicago has to offer.”
It was only last year, when Catlin and second-year Adil Tobaa, discovered the unregistered club “through a Google search” as prospective students and began coming to meetings that the group evolved from the confines of the Medical School.
The organization now continues to grow. U of C Charter School, Donoghue campus P.E. teacher Derrick Brill and Director of Family and Community Engagement Todd Barnett approached the Scouts at U of C. They asked for assistance in their formation of a new Cub Scout troop for boys in first through fifth grade. “We don’t know how they found us,” Catlin said, “but we’re eager to help.”
Early last December, my computer died.
It didn’t crash, it didn’t stall, it didn’t freeze. It just died—and I had absolutely no idea what to do. Neither, apparently, did the University’s Solution Center, whose most helpful suggestion was a forty-something-dollar, this-will-take-five-to-ten-business-days service to run my computer through tests that may or may not have determined what was wrong with it.
Mac-versus-PC jokes aside, it was 5:30 p.m. and I had a paper due the next day. I had to take it to the Apple Store. Which, you know, meant I had to get to the Apple Store. Downtown. On Michigan Avenue. How the hell do I get to Michigan Avenue?
Pretty easily, as it turned out. But as a clueless first-year, I didn’t know that getting downtown would be as simple as a $2.25 bus ride. I had no idea how monotonous and predictable my day-to-day activities had become until a computer crash had forced a disruption to my regime.
Having been cooped up in Hyde Park for the past three increasingly freezing months, I hadn’t even begun to imagine all the life, joy, creativity, and wonder that I would encounter. From the shopping bag-toting tourists to the bright buildings and refreshingly enthusiastic interactions, it was an obvious contrast to our maroon-on-gray campus landscape.
More importantly, it was something new. Though I had been downtown a handful of times before I had come to college, I had never become so intensely and simultaneously aware of the bright lights, buildings, and people that the Mag Mile had to offer, and the counterpoint it presented to the campus experience. So much so that some detours were in order: I tried out the then-new iPad. I finally got to use my Panera Bread gift card to buy my first non-Med/non-Noodles off-campus meal in months (it was delicious). I visited an art store—an art store! For art supplies! How long since I’d set foot in one of those!
Because I’m sure you’re dying to know, yes, my computer was finally fixed, and yes, I did get that paper in on time. By the time I had gotten back to Blackstone, I had seen so many new sights and (re)discovered so many new buildings that creative words, arguments, and structures came to me with ease.
It wasn’t so much about the details as it was about the new environment—not its quality as much as the novelty of its presence. It certainly wasn’t that the sight of Macy’s had taught me more about the differences between Marx and Durkheim than my professor. But the brief trip did get my brain thinking about the world just a little bit differently. Beyond the surface-level dissimilarities—in the bus numbers, street names, and building locations—there was a marked difference in the feel and atmosphere. It gave me that last jolt of creative energy I needed to write a great paper, and to continue exploring and learning about the city I claim to live in.
In retrospect, my silly first-world computer problem became my crucial introduction to the importance of exploring. Though tens of inches of snow did prevent me from making many more trips that winter, my three days of post-exams freedom during finals week—coupled with unseasonably warm March weather—gave me an uninterrupted opportunity to explore 1.5% more of Chicago’s 200+ neighborhoods.
Hyde Park is not boring or depressing by any means. But like anything, it can grow old. The streets, buildings, and day-to-day experiences start to become fairly predictable. They mesh too comfortably with one another, into a routine distinguished only by the difference between Monday–Wednesday and Tuesday–Thursday class schedules. It’s so easy to descend into the comfortably predictable cycle of dorm-class-Reg-repeat.
I’m sure that when you first saw it, you found our campus architecture beautiful— perhaps even Instagram-worthy. But, as time goes by and buildings become more familiar, their designs seem less and less memorable. In March, Harper may have seemed like the dream study space. Now—or maybe two weeks from now, once classes really take off—it’ll seem like nothing more than a quiet room.
Keep yourself from getting too used to Hyde Park by exposing yourself to fresh stimuli now. It doesn’t matter if you come from out of the country, out of the state, or the suburbs. Even if you hail from the city itself, it’s likely that even you haven’t experienced its neighborhoods independently—that is, as a college student.
Don’t let the novelty of the University keep you from broadening your horizons even further. Sure, Second City will probably have a performance on our campus sometime this year, and yes, some bands you’ve heard of (or even better, haven’t heard of) will probably be at Summer Breeze. But don’t let the expectation that novelty will come to you keep you from seeking out new experiences for yourself, elsewhere. It’s just a bus ride away.
Anastasia Golovashkina is a second-year in the College majoring in economics.
Running the length of 53rd Street from Dorchester to Kimbark, this past weekend’s Oktoberfest was the latest event in the “Celebrate Hyde Park” series from the Hyde Park Vitality Committee, a partnership between the University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement, the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, and the South East Chicago Commission. This year’s fest added on an extra day, featuring an even greater variety of Chicago-area performers and youth activities, as well as food and other wares from local vendors. Events like Oktoberfest and the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, which is also supported principally by the U of C’s Office of Civic Engagement, draw large crowds of all ages, and as a result, provide some of the best opportunities for students to engage with the community. Yet student attendance at these events tends to be low, and more could be done on both sides—from University organizers and students—to ensure greater involvement.
Students nearly universally pronounced last week’s Institute of Politics’ #Informed2012 a huge success, with particular praise directed at the event’s smart, efficient organization, emphasis on student participation, and incorporation of social media. If the organizers of the “Celebrate Hyde Park” festivals could similarly incorporate these successful elements—using social media to advertise, integrating student involvement within the structure of the event— potential for revenue would increase greatly as students, a major source of Hyde Park business, would gain more exposure to local performers and businesses.
One possibility for increasing involvement would be to encourage RSOs to either set up booths at festivals or add performance RSOs to the event programming. This would give students a stake in the festival and help diversify offerings without betraying the local focus. In addition, more students would be made aware of the event, and be more motivated to attend in support of their peers.
The initiative should also extend beyond RSOs: Individual students should volunteer in one of the better opportunities to engage in an unmediated, culturally significant Hyde Park event. Sure, much of this year’s festival was child-oriented: Petting zoos, face-painting, and pony rides were scattered throughout Nichols Park, attracting droves of Hyde Park kids. But the fest also included a popular beer garden, live music from the likes of South Side percussionist Taylor Moore, and booths upon booths of cheap, delicious food. Community service organizations like University Community Service Center and Alpha Phi Omega could lead campus calls for festival volunteers, which would both help the event’s infrastructure and ensure heightened attendance without forcing the festival’s programming to specifically cater to the student body.
If the University’s Office of Civic Engagement examines successful events in the past year—the recent Logan Center party and #Informed2012, to name just a few—and incorporates the elements that worked into marketing and promoting these local festivals, the result could be immensely beneficial to students, Hyde Park residents, and local businesses. On their end, students should make a more concerted effort to attend these events. Harper Court is officially opening next summer, and will provide many new venues for Hyde Parkers to eat, work, and play together—but we don’t have to wait until then to start doing so.
The Editorial Board consists of the Editors-in-Chief and the Viewpoints Editors.