October 31, 2014

University gala disturbed by trauma center protests

While the University celebrated the public launch of its major new fundraising campaign, activists from the Trauma Center Coalition protested outside the private event. Over a hundred students and community members demonstrated near Reynolds Club, where the event took place.

The protest featured several stages: the rally began at the corner of 57th and University, moving through Hull Gate and through the main quad to Eckhart facing Hutchinson Courtyard. Some students from Students for Health Equity (SHE) stood outside the reception entrance dressed in suits, distributing pamphlets about the trauma center movement with the University seal on the cover.

The reception itself celebrated the start of the university’s new fundraising campaign, “The University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact.” The campaign has so far raised over $2 billion of its $4.5 billion goal. The event celebrated, among other items, recent investments in the College such as the developments for Campus North and the recent expansion of financial aid, and the University of Chicago Medical Center’s latest advances in cancer research.

UCPD lined up before traffic barriers but took no further action to stop the protesters.  An officer who requested anonymity said the UCPD decided not to stop the protest.

“The protesters were just trying to get a point across, exercise their First Amendment right, and we let them,” he said.

Outside of Eckhart, SHE member and Ph.D. candidate Emilio Comay del Junco addressed the protesters. One of the select students invited to attend the event to speak with donors, he said that at the event it was announced that the Board of Trustees had singlehandedly raised $128 million so far.

“They have raised enough money in there alone to run a trauma center for 20 years,” he said.

According to Comay del Junco, University staff acknowledged the protest as a part of free and open University discourse in an announcement before the festivities began. At the event, donors and alumni were sitting in Mandel Hall when they overheard the protesting. A few members of the audience examined the brochures protesters distributed.

University spokesperson Jeremy Manier said the protest “did not disrupt or interrupt the event.”