Rachel Otwell

Rachel's reports focus on the arts, community & diverse culture. 

She's a graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield, and while obtaining that degree she spent a legislative session covering news for Illinois Public Radio with a focus on fracking. Rachel also holds degrees in Liberal & Integrative Studies, Women & Gender Studies and African-American Studies. She's tutored Rwandan refugees in Ohio, volunteered at a Kenyan orphanage,  served as an activities assistant at a nursing home and volunteered at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. 

Rachel started a career in public media in 2011 when she interned for the National Public Radio program Tell Me More with Michel Martin in Washington, D.C. Her reports have also appeared on NPR's Weekend Edition, NPR's All Things Considered, NPR's Morning Edition, WorkingNow.org, and 51%.

A University of Illinois law professor previously accused of sexual misconduct and slated to return to teach in January will instead go on "university-sanctioned leave."

A University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign committee released on Tuesday its recommended changes to how the university handles claims of sexual misconduct against faculty.

A University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign graduate student and lecturer has filed a lawsuit against the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, alleging the university withheld public documents regarding faculty sexual misconduct that should have been released through public records requests.

Former University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor Gary Gang Xu assaulted and threatened students while university officials downplayed complaints, a lawsuit says. He ultimately resigned, taking $10,000 as part of his separation agreement.

This article was produced in partnership with NPR Illinois, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

After NPR Illinois and ProPublica found that several University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professors who violated policies were allowed to quietly resign and take paid leave with their reputations intact, lawmakers called for reforms.

We’d like to hear about your experience with misconduct on campus, or if you were subjected to it but did not or could not file a report. We need help understanding flaws in the systems intended to hold perpetrators accountable.

This article was produced by the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

NPR Illinois and ProPublica found several sexual harassment allegations against University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign faculty that haven’t been publicly reported. Here's a rundown of the accusations, the consequences each faced and their responses.

This article was produced in partnership with ProPublica Local Reporting Network .

A new report says Illinois lacks comprehensive guidelines when it comes to dealing with sexual misconduct cases in elementary and high schools.

Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker and a new crop of legislators will take office come January. Those crafting state education policies say they will continue one of the biggest fights in recent years, finding more funding for teachers, students and schools.

The Illinois Statehouse is looking festive this year, with its annual outdoor lights descending from the dome to the ground. But on the inside, things look a little less traditional.

Students across Illinois are calling for tougher campus policies on sexual harassment and misconduct as the Trump administration proposes changes to federal law that victims’ rights advocates say would weaken guidelines that are already lacking.

In an especially contentious election year, there are a couple alternatives to the major party candidates in the race for Illinois governor. But, even some backers of third parties say they aren’t great options either, though that’s not where they want the story to end.

'Hell No to the Memo' rallies have popped up in response to word from the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services that it wants government agencies to limit the way gender is categorized. That information came out via a leaked memo reported on by The New York Times. Trans-rights’ activists say it’s a move that would unravel work they’ve accomplished. They say gender is not binary and their identity is valid.

This month marks a year since the Me Too movement went viral as a hashtag on social media (after having first been started in 2006 by Tarana Burke.) This week, we've been hearing from several women in Illinois whose work in government has been affected. 

This month marks a year since the Me Too movement went viral as a hashtag on social media (after having first been started in 2006 by Tarana Burke.) This week, we hear from several women in Illinois whose work in government has been affected. 

This month marks a year since the Me Too movement went viral as a hashtag on social media (after having first been started in 2006 by Tarana Burke.) This week, we hear from several women in Illinois whose work in government has been affected. Today we hear from State Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez of Springfield who is the Republican spokesperson for the House Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Task Force

This month marks a year since the Me Too movement went viral as a hashtag on social media (after having first been started in 2006 by Tarana Burke.) This week, we hear from several women in Illinois whose work in government has been affected. The first woman we spoke to is Susana Mendoza, state Comptroller and member of the Illinois Anti-harassment Equality and Access Panel.

States like Hawaii, South Dakota and Alaska have replaced Columbus Day with the designation of 'Indigenous Peoples’ Day.' It's a trend that goes back decades, and in 2017 a law was signed that brought Illinois up to speed with that trend. Sort of.

Flickr Commons: Public Domain

The next debate for Illinois nominees for governor is this Wednesday in Chicago. But two candidates are being left out this time around.

At an NBC Chicago roundtable last month, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner sparred with state Senator Sam McCann, who is running under the banner of the Conservative party.  That's something that won't be happening at the forthcoming debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, since McCann and Grayson "Kash" Jackson, the Libertarian nominee, did not meet the criteria to attend.

 

There are two third party candidates for Illinois governor. And while four names will be on the ballot November 6th (or now, if you choose to vote early) - the efforts to get out messaging is one where odds are certainly stacked heavily against Sam McCann of the Conservative party, and Grayson "Kash" Jackson, running as a Libertarian.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

The Illinois Governor’s Mansion is recently renovated and has re-opened for tourists, who tend to go for the historical significance. There’s also a new reason for art enthusiasts to check it out.

Russell Hurst

Earlier this month, we reported on the 1908 Race Riot in Springfield and what's being done to remember and reconcile 110 years after the violence broke out. As part of that reporting, we spoke with Kelly Wickham Hurst, CEO and founder of the advocacy organization Being Black at School.

FLICKR User Brianna Laugher

Planned Parenthood of Illinois is speaking out against proposed changes to the only federal program that provides funding for birth control. Those changes include a so-called "gag rule" that could affect thousands of Illinois residents.

A first-of-its kind study is being done to track ticks in Illinois. Researchers want to know where certain illness-carrying types are most prevalent.

FLICKR User Victoria Pickering

In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld President Trump's so-called travel or Muslim ban. A proposal that passed the Illinois General Assembly aims to protest that policy.

In Illinois, a proposal called the Anti-Registry Act would prevent state officials and agencies from assisting in federal efforts to collect demographic information of people based on their religion or national origin.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

As news has centered on the plight of hundreds of families who have been separated while trying to enter the US through Mexico, concern has been raised over the ultimate destiny of about 1,500 children being held in detention centers and shelters. There are at least 66 of those children in Chicago, according to Heartland Alliance, a non-profit with nine shelters for unaccompanied minors there.

Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois

Immigrants' rights advocates are close to celebrating what they consider a win in Illinois, especially for domestic abuse survivors. They are hoping Gov. Bruce Rauner will sign 'The Voices Act' soon, as it passed out of the state's General Assembly during the final days of the spring legislative session.

Eric Rogers / NPR Illinois

A theatrical and punk rock venture in Champaign–Urbana has become an empowering part of the arts scene there.

Madeleine Wolske, whose wrestling persona is known as Dewy Decimator, heads CLAW. Wolske explains her character as a "librarian from hell."

She says that, since its inception in 2015, CLAW has become a colorful part of the local community. "The majority of large shows we do are benefits," said Wolske. "We’re wrestling in order to give back to the community."

On Wednesday, Illinois ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed change to the U.S. Constitution — 46 years after Congress approved it.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Governor Bruce Rauner has signed an executive order he says will mean more minority-owned businesses will get government contracts. But some are skeptical about his true intentions.

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