The University of Chicago admissions office is offering a cash reward to any student who is able to downplay the city's reputation as "scary" or "unsafe" to prospective students and their families.
In an email obtained by the school's newspaper, the Chicago Maroon, the university's assistant director of admissions, Colleen Belak, said the school is willing to pay any student tour guide $500 cash if they can "find a creative way to dispel the negative perception" about Chicago's violent crime epidemic.
In the email, Belak cited President-elect Donald Trump's tweets as one reason prospective families might think attending school in downtown Chicago is not safe.
"If you’ve paid attention to the national news (or Donald Trump’s tweets) over the last few months, you’ll notice that the city of Chicago is often painted with a broad brush as an 'unsafe' or 'scary' place to reside," Belak wrote to the school's campus tour guides. "Of course, certain realities should not be ignored, but at the end of the day most of us are proud Chicago residents with a deep love of the city."
"With that spirit in mind, we have an opportunity for you to win some money — $500 to be exact. If you are able to come up with a creative way to approach this negative perception, be it a video series, blog post, photo, or something else (and better) entirely," she added. "Keep in mind that the audience is a high school student and his/her family."
A screenshot of the email. (Image source: The Chicago Maroon)
In 2016, Chicago recorded 762 murders — more than two per day. It was the deadliest and most violent year in nearly 20 years. In fact, the number of people murdered in Chicago in 2016 was greater than that of New York City and Los Angeles combined. The city also saw more than 4,300 people injured by gunfire in 2016, which was more than double the number of those injured by gunfire in NYC and L.A. combined, according to crime statistics analyzed by the Chicago Tribune.
According to the Maroon, the university has worried about Chicago's high crime rates for at least the last four decades, dating back to the crime waves in the 1970s, which drove down enrollment numbers.
Still, Hyde Park, the neighborhood where the school is located, is one of the safest neighborhoods in all of Chicago — even seeing a decrease in crime rates last year.
From the Maroon:
According to Chicago Police Department’s CLEARMAP, Hyde Park is 52nd in incidents of violent crime of Chicago’s 77 community areas in the last year. The nearby Woodlawn and Washington Park neighborhoods rank 22nd and 27th respectively. The Hyde Park Herald recently reported that violent crime was down in Hyde Park in 2016.
However, despite the decrease, the university announced last July an investment into its campus police force. They expect to increase the police force by 28 percent in the coming years to help combat and prevent crime.
According to the latest enrollment numbers, nearly 16,000 students, both undergraduate and post-graduate, attend the university.