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University of Chicago students and professors protest Tuesday amid recent violence in Hyde Park – CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) – A crowd gathered on campus from the University of Chicago on Tuesday, calling for new security measures after a shooting that killed recent graduate Dennis Shaoxiong Zheng last week.

As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported Tuesday, the students want to implement new safety plans, and they say the university has not done enough to protect them or include them in discussions about safety plans.

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And the students are not the only ones who complain. More than 300 teachers also signed a letter calling for real change.

With signs as loud as their voices, the U of C group of students, parents, and teachers marched across the Main Quad to the Harper Memorial Library at its southern end along 59th Street, saying they are fed up.

"It's not safe," said a protester through a megaphone.

The crowd wants to see immediate changes on campus.

"We are scared and we are angry," said student Iris Xiao.

This follows the daylight shooting that killed Zheng, a recent master's degree in statistics, at 54th Place and Ellis Avenue on Tuesday, November 9.

Dennis Shaoxiong Zheng (Credit: University of Chicago)

Alton Spann, 18 years old , accused of shooting Zheng in the chest by a cell phone that he later sold for $ 100, is behind bars and faces felony charges.

But Zheng was the third U of C student to be killed in less than a year.

In July, Max Lewis was shot and killed on the Chicago Transit Authority Green Line near 51st Street. Lewis was hit by a stray bullet while traveling on the Line Green.

Lewis, 20, was in his third year at the University of C University. He just accepted an investment banking offer he had been working on.

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In January, Ph.D. 30-year-old student Yiran Fan, 30, was shot and killed when Jason Nightengale embarked on a massacre from Chicago's South Side to Evanston. Fan was a student in a joint program at the Booth School of Business and the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics.

Fan was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Regents Park Building, at 5035 S. East End Ave. in a section of the East Hyde Park-Kenwood neighborhood known as Indian Village. A total of five people were eventually killed as a result of the Nightengale shooting wave before Evanston police shot and killed him.

And Zheng was killed by gunfire less than a block from the Ratner Athletic Center and the Court Theater. – found along Ellis Avenue just across 55th Street.

"It could happen to anyone," said concerned visiting mother Andrea Ji. "I believe that both the city and the school must do more."

Jiaxiu Han organized the rally to ask for more from the university.

"The tragedy last Tuesday was personal," Han said. "The webinar did not give the students a decent opportunity to express what they were thinking."

He is talking about a campus wide security webinar hosted by the university, which did not allow for questions or comments.

"We don't think it's enough," Xiao said.

University spokespersons said the University of Chicago police patrols have increased and are working with city officials on security strategies.

We take a closer look and run the numbers. It turns out that crime has increased in Hyde Park, with more than U of C students affected.

Robberies increased by about 30 percent and robberies increased as well. There have been homicides in the last two years, but there have been three in 2021.

Representatives from the U of C said Tuesday night that they will have an update soon for students to discuss safety issues with staff. They released this statement and security plan:

“Our community has been terribly shocked by the tragic murder of Shaoxiong 'Dennis' Zheng, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends and loved ones . some. The problem of violence in our city has reached the level of a public health crisis and demands an appropriate response. We share the concerns of faculty and other members of the university community, and their input is actively helping to inform our ongoing actions to address public safety. People must feel safe where they live, study and work, and this is one of the main priorities of the University.

“The University has taken important steps this year to improve safety, but we must do more. We are implementing a number of additional actions, some announced in a campus wide security webinar this Thursday, including:

Increase in police patrols – UCPD and CPD have coordinated to increase traffic safety enforcement in the extended patrol area and increase foot and vehicular patrols on and near campus and throughout Hyde Park. This includes joint patrols targeting theft and an increase in traffic law enforcement involving security breaches. UCPD has an extended patrol area approved by the City Council. The University has also expanded its Safety Ambassador program to nearby communities.

Arrest of Suspect – The Chicago Police Department (CPD) announced Friday the arrest of a suspect in the murder of Dennis Zheng. We are very grateful for the diligent work of CPD and the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD).

Additional Use of Security Technology – CPD is temporarily adding additional Police Observation Device (POD) camera technology to the Hyde Park area. The University is working with CPD and local councilors to develop a long-term strategy to add permanent technology solutions to the areas surrounding the campus. The University already operates a large number of security cameras and fixed license plate readers.

Lyft Program Expansion – The Lyft Ride Smart program offering free Lyft rides for students in the Hyde Park / Kenwood / Woodlawn area has been temporarily extended from Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to seven nights a week. This is in addition to the University's extensive transportation program.

City and Community Planning – The University has been in close contact on safety issues with Mayor Lightfoot, local councilors, and other Chicago public leaders, and UCPD is working closely with CPD on these issues. The City is formalizing, with the participation of the University, a series of short-term and long-term public safety strategies specifically for Hyde Park and the surrounding communities. We will share the details soon.

Compilation of input – The University is collecting input on public safety from all parts of the university community, and we will soon communicate about additional opportunities to discuss these important issues. ”

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CBS 2's Molina also contacted Chicago police several times on Tuesday about implementation changes or if there are any collaborations that are happening with the university at this time. Chicago police said, "As a precaution, we do not disclose deployment or patrol strategies."

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