The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

University should acknowledge Kenneka Jenkins’ death

Teresa+Martin%2C+mother+of+Kenneka+Jenkins%2C+second+from+left%2C+listens+as+attorneys+speak+on+behalf+of+the+Jenkins+family+during+a+news+conference+in+downtown+Chicago+on+Friday%2C+Sept.+15%2C+2017.+%28Chris+Sweda%2FChicago+Tribune%2FTNS%29
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)

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)

Photo Courtesy of Tribune News Service

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.

[email protected]

11 Comments

  • Mike

    Am I missing something?

    Acknowledge that a girl got drunk and died?

    What is this story about?

    • Bruce Brothers

      I kept re-reading the story looking for the UIUC connection. Does the university need to acknowledge every death in Chicago because there may be students of the same race/background? If so, there would be little time for anything else.

  • Illinois Alum

    This has to be the most pointless and ridiculous article ever released by the DI. How does her death have anything to do with the University? What would prompt the administration to make any official statement on the matter? What about this case is particularly different from the many deaths occurring every day in Illinois? Everything suggests her death was accidental.

    ‘My question to the University is: Does this five percent not matter’? Seriously? Where is this coming from. You’re being incredibly disingenuous and you should be ashamed for trying to draw some connection between an accidental death of a girl (who happens to be black) and U of I diversity initiatives. What does her race have to do with anything?

    It’s truly baffling how this article was approved by the DI editor.

    • The only thing I’m not sure about if this is accidental or not. upvote.

  • Eric

    This situation is certainly tragic. However, it’s not fair to expect the University of Illinois to release an official statement about it. As far as I know, Jenkins was not affiliated with the University in any way. If she was, that would need to be clarified in the story above.

  • Kayla

    Super confused, was she a student here? Did she work here? Why would a random school issue a statement?

  • Kayla

    So other schools sent out emails acknowledging this death? Just random schools that had no connection to her? I would like to see one of these emails, seems kind of weird to open up your email to a apology about a random person that no one had any connection too

  • NoJusticeNoPeace1964

    Was Jenkens even a student at Illinois? If the University really wants to help its students, it should warn about the epidemic of Black crime in Chicago, and publish information about how to stay safe.

    Maybe also connect Jenkins tragic death to the college epidemic of binge drinking and the tragic consequences that can ensue.

  • Lulu

    If she wasn’t a student, why would it matter aside from normal news coverage?

  • Shana

    Where is the video of her walking into the freezer that this article states?

  • What about all the other deaths in Chicago?