University should acknowledge Kenneka Jenkins’ death


Photo Courtesy of Tribune News Service

Teresa Martin, mother of Kenneka Jenkins, second from left, listens as attorneys speak on behalf of the Jenkins family during a news conference in downtown Chicago on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

By Myla Cook, Columnist

This past weekend, nineteen-year-old Kenneka Jenkins was found dead in a freezer in a Rosemont Hotel. Security footage shows her letting herself into the walk-in freezer where she eventually died.

The story started trending on Twitter and has garnered attention from numerous activists and celebrities all across America. Jenkins’ death has jolted many members of the black community as well. 

While my friends received emails from their universities and historically black colleges miles from here acknowledging this particular loss, our University has yet to release any statements about Jenkins, a Chicago-native like many of the University’s student population, and her death.

According to the Illinois campus facts page, there are roughly 33,500 undergraduate and 11,500 graduate students on our campus, thousands of whom are from or live near the Chicagoland area. Of these approximately 45,000 students on this campus, five percent are black.

My question to the University is: Does this five percent not matter? Does this young girl, whom some of us could have known or could have become, not matter?

This University administration has taken it upon itself to start a program called Inclusive Illinois. A part of this program’s mission is to, as stated by the Inclusive Illinois page, “actively (address) issues of intolerance and insensitivity when they impact any member of our campus community.” So, is this program Inclusive Illinois or Selective Illinois?

While Jenkins’ death is surely a tragedy, there is a way for us to ensure that it does not fall on deaf ears.

We can encourage each other as members of registered student organizations all over campus to inform one another of Jenkins’ story. We, as students on this campus, can finish what the University started, leading by example. We can remind one another that while some of us are two hours away from home, being here does not mean we have to neglect what’s going on back there.

Moreover, we can emphasize the value of friendship and the importance of uplifting each other as community members, the same way other universities have. We can advocate for the five percent of underrepresented students on this campus by telling the stories that need to be told. All is not lost — there is hope, and Kenneka Jenkins’ name will not be forgotten.

Myla is a sophomore in LAS.

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