Lawmakers seek probe into UIC dental professor's alleged racism

2020 07 02 15 51 4005 Washington Dc Capitol 400

U.S. and Illinois legislators on November 21 called for an investigation into claims that a University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) College of Dentistry professor uses "disturbing racist imagery," including a presentation that allegedly features a picture of a noose.

U.S. Reps. Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Danny Davis (D-IL) and Illinois State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) condemned this purported behavior and sent a letter to Timothy Killeen, the president of the University of Illinois System, which includes UIC. The representatives requested a meeting to discuss the issue, called on officials to investigate the entire educational system for biased teachings, and urged the university system to condemn the use of racist imagery and tropes in teachings.

The legislators, who did not identify the professor who continues to teach at the university, have requested a response by November 30. At the meeting, lawmakers want the university to explain when they learned about the professor's alleged racist behavior and what steps have been taken to address it, the letter states.

"This unacceptable behavior has no place in our society, let alone in an educational setting," the lawmakers wrote in the letter. "UIC College of Dentistry prides itself as one of the most diverse public research universities in the nation. Therefore, we expect the school's leadership to do the right thing in response."

In the letter, the legislators write that students and alumni state that racist teachings and the unequal treatment of students has been ongoing for years. According to a Chicago Tribune article, the legislators learned that a presentation by the professor reportedly includes an image of a noose with the caption, "How do you measure neck circumference in a dental office?"

Students of color reportedly continue to be targeted at the university in multiple ways, including being asked about their natural hair to "being called the n-word," according to the letter. Furthermore, the lawmakers reminded officials that the school prides itself on being diverse and therefore has a duty to promote a culturally competent curriculum that produces dentists who will reduce oral health disparities.

"The practices of this professor are harming these efforts by creating an environment hostile to students of color and promoting harmful explicit bias in students who will eventually provide care to patients of color continuing, and even strengthening, systems of oppression," they write in the letter.

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