Campus Safety and Security is available 24 hours a day to ensure a safe and secure environment for all City College students, staff members, and visitors.
—Truman College, Chicago
Truman College is a Chicago community college a few blocks from St Francis House of Hospitality where I periodically stay in the Uptown neighborhood on the North Side. Since the early 1990s Truman College has been an oasis for me. I’ve attended workshops and talks there, perused the walls for information about community events, eaten in the cafeteria, and read quietly and peacefully. Truman College hosted an exhibition of my photographs about Native Americans. A few days ago, I’d hoped to visit Truman for many of the same reasons, especially to learn about community events.
A big change: security. Private uniformed security officials sat at a desk immediately inside the main entrance, a twisted form of “Welcome Desk.” Electronic turnstiles admitted only those with sufficient credentials. I asked, may I come in? Why? To check bulletin boards for local events and grab a cup of coffee. No. Sorry.
Truman College, a public institution, is now gated. As is much of our nation.
Perhaps an incident occurred at the college that precipitated this security. A robbery or violent assault. Such incidents are often used to justify increased security. The “Shoe Bomber,” carrying an explosive of some sort, apparently attempting to blow up a plane, led to x-raying removed shoes at airports. Are such incidents, often leading to irreversible policy changes, sufficient reason to dramatically increase security?
Or the neighborhood which draws unhoused or homeless people. Are they a threat? They could be offered a safe place out of the maddening crowd, warm, a place to rest, use the toilet, perhaps sold a moderately priced cup of coffee. Similar to the neighborhood McDonald’s which seems, by comparison, inordinately hospitable.
As of this writing, of the 77 Chicago community areas, Uptown ranked between 39th (violent crime) and 61st (property crime), hardly a high crime area.
I recall airports with minimal security. No need to remove shoes, laptops, jackets, etc, to be scanned. I recall universities with open libraries for browsing (for decades I visited the architecture library at MIT to explore photography books, a major form of my photographic education.) I recall state and federal office buildings without security. I recall neighborhoods, including the South Side of Chicago where I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, where we kids played freely late into summer evenings. And I recall a time, an era, that was happily relatively open,relatively welcoming, relatively fearless.
The police fear Black people; thus we experience a wave of police murdering African-Americans, usually Black Males, often females as well, not as well-known. On my first evening in Chicago I attended a police accountability meeting in Uptown, one in a series to increase civilian supervision of police activity.
This nation, the most powerful in history, with a military costing more than the militaries of the next 8 nations combined, has become a people suffocated in fear. The president calls for a 10%, $54 billion increase in the military budget, while slashing money for housing, medical care, education, the environment. The military now demands more than $600 billion annually, enough to build thousands more schools, tens of thousands more homes, develop hundreds of miles of regional public transportation, and easily pay for an exterior paint job for St Francis House.
Fear rules the soul but wisdom can overcome fear. Wisdom, courage, bravery, and insight can open the doors of community resources. Truman College can once again be a refuge, a center of community activity, a beacon of what is best in the American people—welcoming, trusting, loving.
Since 1976, Truman College has been a vibrant and vital part of Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, delivering high-quality, innovative, affordable and accessible educational opportunities and services.