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Amid violent crime, UChicago to host convicted murderer who touts redemption, reform

The University of Chicago, situated in one of the most deadly cities in the nation due to violent crime, is scheduled to host a prison reform advocate who preaches on the value of hope and redemption and the power and importance of engaged fathers, loving families and safer communities.

The invitation has drawn some criticism, however, as the guest scholarly fellow, Shaka Senghor, spent nearly 20 years in prison for second-degree murder and will soon be feted in a city racked with gun violence.

Senghor will be hosted through the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. He is slated to serve as a visiting fellow from October 26 to 28.

Senghor, who spent seven years in solitary confinement, argues it is cruel and unusual punishment, and has also written about “racist cops.”

He also penned two books, “Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison,” and his most recent, “Letters to the Sons of Society: A Father’s Invitation to Love, Honesty, and Freedom.”

Published in January 2022, it “unpacks the toxic and misguided messages about masculinity, mental health, love, and success that boys learn from an early age,” according to its online description.

“He issues a passionate call to all fathers and sons—fathers who don’t know how to show their sons love, sons who are navigating a fatherless world, boys who have been forced to grow up before their time—to cultivate positive relationships with other men, seek healing, tend to mental health, grow from pain, and rewrite the story that has been told about them,” it adds.

Reached for comment online, Senghor told The College Fix he would be open to an in-person, on-campus interview.

In mid-September, a prominent conservative student at the school, Daniel Schmidt, questioned the timing and selection of the invitation.

“My college @UChicago is paying a guy who spent 19 years in prison for murder to lecture students on criminal justice reform,” he tweeted Sept. 13. “Keep in mind three UChicago students have been murdered by thugs in the past year and a half.”

Schmidt’s tweet gained some traction as he pointed out that Senghor now also heads diversity, equity and inclusion at TripActions, a corporate travel company. However, several responses also argued Senghor has paid the price for his crimes and is working to atone for them.

Senghor’s story has been told on Oprah, the Jordan Harbinger Show and on Tedx.

Reached for comment, Schmidt said via email he stands behind his comments but that he is willing to attend Senghor’s talks and keep an open mind.

“As I said in my tweets, I just think it’s a bad look for my university to pay a guy who was in jail for 19 years for murder to lecture students about criminal justice reform, especially when three students have been murdered by thugs in just the past year and a half. However, I will have to hear him speak before I make any judgments,” he said.

Senghor has made social media posts that appear to run afoul of what some would contend is a left-leaning narrative. For example, on an Instagram post on May 13, he argued against falling for public figures who use the concepts of oppression to their advantage:

“Be cautious and pay attention to the information you receive from these overly woke celebrities and pastors. Their vitriol is rooted in the language of the same system they are fighting against, they just know how to make it sound cool and accessible, because they have mastered the art of speaking to your trauma.”

However, Senghor has also weighed in on racism and police brutality, arguing that white culture and cops have oppressed black people.

Additional fall fellows slated for the University of Chicago Institute of Politics this fall include Rana Ayyub, Luis Gutierrez and Laura Dove.

MORE: University of Chicago faculty demand more cops after students killed

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About the Author
Thomas Stevenson -- Brigham Young University