Georgia shooting sparks conversations at the University of Illinois

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Champaign- Urbana, Ill.. (WCIA) —

“To allow all of our residents to find safety and community and joy in who they are and where they come from,” Illinois Governor J.B. Prizker said.

That’s the goal, but some in Central Illinois are worried about hate crimes after a shooting in Georgia killed eight people.

Today, Governor Pritzker addressed the shootings. They happened last night in Atlanta. Most of the victims were Asian women. The suspect claims this wasn’t a hate crime, but police say it’s too early to rule out if it was or wasn’t.

With a big number of Asian students at the University of Illinois, they said they want to make sure students feel safe on and off campus.

“This mass shooting is an attack on all of our communities,” Governor Pritzker said.

A gunman opened fire at three spas in Atlanta, Georgia, killing eight people. Six of them were Asian women.

“Unfortunately, this is nothing new to to our society. This is nothing new to U.S. historical cultures either rate. It’s something that several Asian American communities have had to deal with for centuries,” Shawna Patterson-Stephens, associate vice chancellor at the University of Illinois, said.

Over the past year, 38 hundred hate incidents have been reported by Asian Americans.

“I have not seen an increase in incidents on campus, not to say they’re not happening this means we’re just not seeing reports,” Patterson-Stephens said.

“Illinois stands with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Ours is a welcoming state, today and always,” Governor Pritzker said.

The University of Illinois has more than 8,000 Asian American students, so even though the shooting happened over 600 miles away,, people feel the impact of it in Champaign-Urbana.

“We’d be hard-pressed to believe it’s not having an impact on them. So we’re trying to find different ways to make sure that we’re providing them with the support they need,” Patterson-Stephens said.

Patterson-Stephens says she wants students to feel safe on campus, but its hard when hate is happening off campus and on social media.

“This is definitely impacting our students, and we’re trying to make sure that we offer them the opportunities to think through what it means to be protected of their psychological and physical space when it comes to those things,” Patterson-Stephens said.

The University wants students to not only feel safe on campus, but also living in this state, and this country.

“We believe in the ability to live without fear of hate,” Governor Pritzker said.

Patterson-Stephens says another step to ending hate is by education. The University has recently done education on and around Anti-Asian sentiment, and how its related to anti-racism sentiment. They want to educate students and the community about other cultures.

The University has worked with several partners across campus including the Asian-American Cultural Center. They’re hosting an event April 9th. The University also meets with groups and campus safety and security bi-weekly to ensure safety for students.

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