University Offering $500 To Student Who Can Make Chicago Seem Less Violent


The University of Chicago is offering students the chance to win $500 if they are able to “come up with a creative way” to make the city of Chicago seem like a safer place than it is, in actuality.

Colleen Belak, the assistant director of admissions at the university, emailed the opportunity to student tour guides. A copy of the email was provided to The Chicago Maroon by one email recipient, who asked to remain anonymous.

In the email, Belak suggests that either the national news or Donald Trump’s tweets are to blame for the negative portrayal of Chicago:

“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 writes. “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.”

The email goes on to outline some ideas the admissions office has for the project. It also implies that the winner’s project may be used to attract prospective students to the school if it downplays certain aspects of Chicago’s violence, an example being the city’s 762 murders in 2016:

“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… Keep in mind that the audience is a high school student and his/her family,” Belak continues.

The email ends with, “Good luck to you all,” probably because Belak understands that 66 reported shootings in Chicago in the first week of 2017 makes this task a very tall order to complete.

An image of the email can be seen below:


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