PI Original La Risa Lynch Monday June 9th, 2014, 5:31pm

University Of Chicago Alumni: No Donations Until Trauma Center Gets Opened (VIDEO)

A group of University of Chicago alumni want to put a dent in the school’s wallet by withholding donations from their alma mater as a way to pressure the Hyde Park institution to open a trauma center on the city’s South Side. 

A group of University of Chicago alumni want to put a dent in the school’s wallet by withholding donations from their alma mater as a way to pressure the Hyde Park institution to open a trauma center on the city’s South Side. 

The group, U of C Alumni for a Trauma Center, plan to divert all donations that would have gone to the university to an organization that has been pressuring the school to open a level 1 adult trauma center for the last four years.

And the group has already begun making good on their promise. They presented an oversized check in the amount of $1,000 to Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), a member organization of the newly formed Trauma Care Coalition.

“This $1,000 is just the beginning,” said Mark Goldenberg, a 2006 U of C grad and director of Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP). “We are going to be setting up an escrow account which is going to be growing. Our plan ultimately is to send President (Robert) Zimmer a bill every month to show how much this is going to cost them.”

The group used the university’s annual alumni weekend festivities to make the announcement outside of Zimmer’s home on the 5800 block of South University Ave. About 100 alumni have signed on to the cause, Goldenberg noted.

Veronica Morris-Moore of Fearless Leading by the Youth, or FLY, thanked the alumni for supporting the campaign and taking a stand for justice. But she was realistic in her expectation of how the university will view the $1,000 loss. For fiscal year 2013, university alumni and friends made new gifts and pledges totaling $459.1 million, according to the university’s website.

“I think they look at this $1,000 like it’s not nothing, but our point isn’t to get the university to pay attention because they know we are here. We’ve been here for four years,” she said. “Our goal is to get the community and the population at large to pay attention.”

Morris-Moore said FLY, a member organization of STOP, wants to build a strong coalition among community residents, faith leaders, elected officials and U of C’s doctors and nurses to sway the university’s position on establishing a trauma center on the South Side.

“If we can organize enough alumni to not donate and give it to us instead, it will cause a problem for the university, [but] we don’t expect this alone to hurt them,” Morris-Moore added.

Goldenberg said the issue is bigger than money. It’s about the university valuing the lives of African Americans and being responsive to the needs of the surrounding community that is besieged by gun violence, he explained.

“They have a unique opportunity to save lives,” Goldenberg said of the University of Chicago Medical Center. “There is a gun violence epidemic in the neighborhoods surrounding them and they are the most resource-rich hospital, and they have a responsibility ... for the people who are dying at the door literally.”

U of C student Emilio Compay Del Junco applauded the alumni for joining with students and community members on this issue. Often, he said, the university defends its actions “by saying it is in the best interest of students.” But that is not the case for the trauma center, said Del Junco.

“This is not the kind of university we want to see,” Del Junco said. “We want to see a university that is committed to addressing health inequities, committed to ending racist disparities in the way health care is given on the South Side.”

Here is more from the U of C alumni action:

The death of a FLY co-founder in 2010 sparked the movement to pressure the U of C to open an adult trauma center. On August 15 of that year, Damian Turner was shot in a drive-by shooting less than four blocks from the University of Chicago Medical Center. Paramedics transported Turner to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which is nearly nine miles away, where he died 90 minutes later.

In 1988, the university’s medical center closed its level-1 adult trauma center, after being open just two years, but still operates a pediatric trauma unit. While the South Side has several community hospitals including Advocate Trinity, St. Bernard Hospital, South Shore Hospital and Jackson Park, none of them have a level-1 adult trauma center. The nearest adult trauma center is located in south suburban Oak Lawn.

A study by a Northwestern Memorial Hospital physician found that longer transport times to a level 1 trauma center increases the likelihood of death from traumatic injuries such as gunshot wounds.

The alumni’s action also comes as the university’s president announced a massive $4.5-billion fundraising campaig for its bid on the Obama presidential library. Morris-Moore questioned the university’s priorities seeing that it has extended manpower and resources to build the library, but yet has no money to sustain a trauma center.

“We need a trauma center,” she said. “We also need the Obama library. It will bring jobs. It will bring resources. We want it on the South Side too. But I do not feel the University of Chicago has a right to continue to make requests for things that come with such prestige and honor, but then keep overlooking the need for trauma care.”

Morris-Moore added that it appears as though the pressure on the university is working. FLY and other community groups have conducted actions, including die-ins, sit-ins and marches to bring attention to the fact that the South Side lacks a trauma center.

In May, FLY held a week of protests including blocking construction on a parking garage for the University’s new $740-million hospital building. They even attempted to hand deliver a letter to President Obama detailing the group’s push for a trauma center, although that effort was to no avail.

“We do believe the university feels some type of pressure,” Morris-Moore said. “But we feel like there’s a need for more pressure because we need for them to do something and not just be worried about us crashing their events.”

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