Advocates say U. of C. can afford trauma center, presidential library

As conversations heat up over whether the Barack Obama Presidential Library will be located on a spot like the Midway Plaisance, pictured above, on or near the University of Chicago campus, local activists are making a case for including a trauma center in the plans. -Marc Monaghan

As conversations heat up over whether the Barack Obama Presidential Library will be located on a spot like the Midway Plaisance, pictured above, on or near the University of Chicago campus, local activists are making a case for including a trauma center in the plans.

-Marc Monaghan

By LINDSAY WELBERS
Staff Writer

Some South Siders would like to see the University of Chicago have the Barack Obama Presidential Library, but want a trauma care center first.

Advocates on the South Side of Chicago have been lobbying the university to add a Level 1 adult trauma care center to its medical center since 2007. Members of the Trauma Care Coalition, a group of community organizations demanding a trauma care center on the South Side, gathered at a rally at University Church, 5655 S. Unviersity Ave., on Thursday.

Veronica Morris-Moore, who spoke for Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), said they do not oppose the Barack Obama Presidential Library coming to the neighborhood, but the university has to show it values the community.

The university is considered a top contender to host the presidential library. The Barack Obama Foundation is seeking a location for the prestigious building. Hawaii and New York City are also expected to bid.

The University of Chicago Medical Center is the biggest hospital on the mid-South Side. It did run a Level 1 trauma care center briefly but closed it in the 1980s, citing budget reasons. It currently operates a pediatric trauma care center that admits patients up to 16 years old at the Comer Children’s Hospital, 5721 S. Maryland Ave.

Obama has shown that he cares about the neighborhood, Morris-Moore said. She pointed to his February 2013 speech at Hyde Park High School, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., on the topic of violence after the shooting death of Hadiya Pendelton and Becoming A Man, the president’s dropout and violence prevention program for at-risk male students in grades 7 through 12, as evidence.

If the university is unwilling to listen to the neighbor’s concerns and open a trauma care center, “Do they deserve something like the first Black president’s memorial library?” Morris-Moore said.

Timuel Black, who sits on the U. of C.’s Community Advisory Board for the Obama Presidential Library, said the prestigious building should be constructed on the South Side.

“It would give a chance to illustrate successes beyond race and gender … so there would be an extension that would make it easier to understand the emergence and success of Obama,” Black said. “I doubt he could have risen to where he did as rapidly as he did in any place except the South Side of Chicago because there are so many examples and so much support for people like him.”

Black said there is a moral obligation to have a trauma care center that would serve patients on the South Side, but that it is cooperative with the library and not competitive.

Associate professor at the School of Social Service Administration Virginia Parks said the university does not exist in a vacuum where its actions do not affect the surrounding neighborhoods.

“Large institutions don’t exist as an island. They always exist in relationship to the surrounding communities so there’s always a responsibility that flows from that,” Parks said. “They do benefit from the fact they’re located in Hyde Park and the South Side, and I think there is a responsibility back to the community.”

l.welbers@hpherald.com