Obama library proposal to include partnerships with other schools

Several Chicago-area universities have proposed academic uses for the library, in collaboration with UChicago.

By Marina Fang

The University revealed details of its proposal for the Obama presidential library—including potential partnerships with neighboring universities and community organizations—on Monday, three days before the due date for submissions.

According to a statement, the University has received ideas for collaborations from at least six Chicago-area schools, including Northwestern, DePaul, Loyola, and Chicago State University, which submitted its own bid for the library but was ousted in the first round.

Most of the schools propose using the library to study issues concerning urban policy, including health care, homelessness, crime, education, and sustainability. Some have specific curricular interests. For example, Northwestern envisions using the library as a newsroom for graduate students at the Medill School of Journalism, giving them a base for reporting on the South Side. The Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) wants to use the library to research the role of technology in policy decisions, culture, and communication.

Various community organizations have approached the University with collaboration ideas. Many of these groups do work on the South Side, including the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago, the KLEO Community Family Life Center in Washington Park, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the DuSable Museum of African American History. In the past, the University has maintained that its bid for the library would highlight the South Side and include South Side community organizations and leaders. Some of them are members of an Obama library community advisory board, which the University convened in February.

The University is one of four finalists that have been selected to submit proposals. The other finalists include the University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University, and the University of Hawaii.

The proposal is due this Thursday, December 11, with the final decision expected early next year. Although the decision is up to Obama himself, the four finalists’ proposals will be submitted to the Barack Obama Foundation, headed by Obama’s close friend and Hyde Park resident Martin Nesbitt (M.B.A. ’89), 2012 Obama deputy campaign manager Julianna Smoot, and Wilmette businessman J. Kevin Poorman. After Obama decides on the winning proposal, the Foundation will plan the logistics and fundraising.

While no official announcement has been made about possible locations, The Maroon reported that the University plans to propose three sites: Washington Park near East 55th Street and King Drive, Jackson Park near Hyde Park Academy, and the South Shore Cultural Center on East 71st Street and South Shore Drive, according to community leaders working with the University on the proposal.