January 15, 2021
To: UChicago Chinese Students and Families
From: Robert J. Zimmer, President, and Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost
Subject: UChicago and Campus Safety
Date: January 14, 2021
This week our community is mourning the loss of Yiran Fan, an extraordinarily promising Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago. We extend our deepest sympathies to all those who knew him, especially to Yiran’s family members who are grappling with this heartbreaking news. The University is doing its utmost to help support the family during this profoundly difficult time.
Yiran represented the best tradition of a University of Chicago student-scholar. The University has welcomed people of all nations and cultures since its founding in 1890, and by the time Yiran arrived here he had already excelled at Peking University and the University of Cambridge. He was in the fourth year of our University’s Ph.D. program in financial economics, and was “beloved by all who knew him,” as Dean Madhav Rajan of the Booth School of Business said.
This tragic and senseless killing has understandably raised questions about student safety, particularly the safety of those who come to the United States from China and other nations. We know that whenever a student leaves for a new country, safety becomes a natural concern for one’s family and oneself. We are writing to reflect on how such a terribly sad loss could have struck our University community, and to affirm the steps the University has taken and will continue to take in support of safety and security.
The shooting that tragically took Yiran’s life appears to have been random – part of one individual’s violent rampage. The assailant shot Yiran in the parking garage of his off-campus apartment complex, then killed two more people and wounded four individuals in other parts of the city, before he was killed by police from the City of Evanston, which is adjacent to Chicago. There is no evidence to suggest that Yiran was specifically targeted. He was a bystander who became a victim of a senseless crime.
Unfortunately, such gun violence is far more common in the U.S. than in most other developed nations – but we do not accept it as an unavoidable part of our lives.
Upholding public safety is a vital aspect of our commitment to our University community and to the neighborhood and city in which we live. The University has worked over many years to enhance the security of campus and to protect our students and other residents of Chicago’s South Side. The University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) is a fully accredited law enforcement body made up of approximately 100 full-time officers, authorized by city ordinance to patrol our campus as well as an extended area beyond campus. UCPD’s efforts have contributed to steady decreases in violent crime in the Hyde Park-South Kenwood neighborhood over more than a decade. Separately, University researchers are working along many paths to understand and prevent gun violence.
Students, faculty, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers and staff from China make essential contributions to the University of Chicago’s remarkable intellectual community, and we are committed to the long-term exchange of ideas between our countries. We ask for your partnership as we continue the work of building a community that is even stronger, safer, and more vibrant. Today, we join Yiran’s family, all those in China, Chicago, and other parts of the world who knew him, our community and friends in China, and our entire community in Chicago, in mourning his death, and holding memory of his life dear.