EVANSTON, IL — Northwestern University representatives announced plans Wednesday to continue its practice of contributing $1 million a year to programs in the city of Evanston for at least one more year, while establishing a new program set to offer $500,000 in grants next year to support collaborations between people affiliated with the university and groups in Evanston and Chicago.
Northwestern's Good Neighbor Fund has been rebranded as the Good Neighbor Racial Equity Fund. School and city official said in a joint statement they have agreed to "invest this year’s $1 million gift in programs that dismantle systemic barriers faced by historically marginalized communities in Evanston."
The university last year concluded its five-year commitment to the fund. Since the fund was established in 2015, University President Morty Schapiro and Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty have determined how much money gets allocated following closed-door discussions.
Dave Davis, executive director of the University’s Office of Neighborhood and Community Relations, said the university has not decided whether to extend the fund beyond this year.
"Those conversations will take place later this year. However, given the urgency of this crisis, we felt it was vital to act immediately and support the communities we call our home," Davis said in emailed comments. "For this reason, the funding allocations will be announced much earlier than in previous years to help protect our most vulnerable population from falling further through the cracks in our social safety net."
Neither city nor university officials specified where the money will go. The goal of the program is to improve outcomes for non-white people in four priority areas — economic opportunity, justice, infrastructure and public health, according to the joint statement announcing the fund’s new name.
In a June 14 statement, university leaders announced a total of $1.5 million from the school's Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget would be spent in efforts toward "advancing social justice and racial equity in Evanston and Chicago."
In previous years, Schapiro and Hagerty have announced annual Good Neighbor Fund allocations in November. Last year, they agreed to spend $250,000 of the money covering the city’s fire department budget, $150,000 paying for improvements to the interior of the city’s Fleetwood-Jourdan Community Center, $135,000 for existing job training programs and $100,000 for youth outreach programs.
In the joint statement announcing the rebranded fund, Hagerty said the municipal government would build on existing anti-racist efforts and invest in programs to uplift the entire city.
“Advancing racial equity and eliminating the social and economic disparities that have been present in our city for decades requires a communitywide commitment,” Hagerty said.
Schapiro said the university was increasing its financial contributions in order to strengthen both cities where its main campuses are located.
“As Northwestern’s Evanston and Chicago homes continue to grapple with two historic challenges, COVID-19 and systemic racism, the University is in a position to help lead the way in finding a solution, and it has a duty to do so,” Schapiro said,
The $5oo,000 Northwestern Racial Equity and Community Partnership Grant program will begin awarding grants between $25,000 to $75,000 to projects that encourage innovation in areas of public safety, health disparities, youth, housing, education and criminal justice, according to the university.
An advisory committee consisting of representatives of the university, city and community will be formed next month and meeting in September and October to develop funding priorities and schedule the next steps in the process. According to the joint statement, grant recipients will pilot new programs that could be leveraged for greater impact, advance research or address local issues.
Applications are scheduled to be available in November and due in January. Davis, who directs neighborhood relations for the university, said the one-year pilot program would be evaluated at the end of 2021 to determine how to move forward.
As a private school structured as a nonprofit, Northwestern is exempt from paying property taxes on the land it owns, although the Evanston City Council has over the years sought to negotiate payments in lieu of taxes with the university — especially when it purchases property that would otherwise contribute to the city’s property tax base.