The University’s Response to Undocumented Portrait Exhibit Vandalism

Below are two statements released regarding the vandalism of the “I Define Myself: Undocumented and Unafraid.” The first is a stement released by the Gender and Sexuality Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago on April 22, 2013. The second, is a message from the University Chancellor, released on April 25th, 2013.

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Statement from the Gender and Sexuality Center

Good afternoon,

We are writing to share news regarding the “I Define Myself: Undocumented and Unafraid” portrait exhibit.

This exhibit has been traveling around the UIC campus for several months through collaboration between the Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change, the Jane Addams Hull House Museum and members of the immigrant campaign, Coming Out of the Shadows. Last week some of the portraits in the exhibit were vandalized and the interpretive panel was stolen from its location on the outside of BSB.

From the evidence at the scene we cannot determine the intention behind this act, but it will not deter us. We are even more strongly committed in our work to raise visibility around the complex issues for and the multiple identities of people who are undocumented.

Last week the GSC hosted a public program focused on the journey stories of individuals who identify as undocumented and queer. It was a powerful event attended by students, faculty, staff and community members and was a model of the way in which education and dialogue can be transformative.

The Gender and Sexuality Center is currently working with the Office of Diversity and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services to restore the damaged portraits to their original place within the exhibit.

We thank you for your support.

Sincerely,

Megan Carney, Director
Liz Thomson, Assistant Director
Moisés Villada, Program Coordinator

The “I Define Myself: Undocumented and Unafraid” portrait exhibit was co-sponsored by the UIC Social Justice Initiative and the Honors College

 

Statement from Paula Allen-Meares, UIC Chancellor

Dear Students and Colleagues,

Symbols, and symbolic acts, can be powerful.

Last week, Provost Lon Kaufman and I proclaimed this campus’s commitment to diversity and social justice as we joined other U.S. higher education leaders in calling for immigration reform. This act was real — we want to persuade the federal government to let talented scholars study and stay here in our state and across our nation. It was also symbolic of UIC’s long tradition of welcoming all.

Unfortunately, also last week, a senseless act of vandalism left some in our community feeling personally attacked and marginalized. A portrait exhibit, “I Define Myself: Undocumented and Unafraid,” which has been displayed around campus for several months through a collaboration of the Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change, the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, and the immigrant campaign Coming Out of the Shadows, was defaced. Some of the portraits were damaged and the interpretive panel was stolen while the exhibit was on display outside the building where the Gender and Sexuality Center is located.

The destruction of property — of art — was real. What we cannot know is whether it was also symbolic. It may have been random; the vandals left no message and have not yet been identified. But the pain inflicted on the artists, the portrait subjects, the sponsors and other supporters of the exhibit’s message of hope and strength is real.

The Gender and Sexuality Center is working with the Office of Diversity and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services to restore the damaged portrait exhibit. This may be finished as soon as tomorrow.

To help restore our community’s sense of mutual respect and shared values, we have scheduled an open campus forum next week to discuss our hopes and expectations of inclusion, support, and freedom of expression (see below.)

We know this is a time of year that is both busy and stressful. We hope you are able to attend the forum, but in any case, please take time to reach out to friends and colleagues to renew bonds of trust and shared ideals.

Sincerely,

Paula Allen-Meares
Chancellor

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