May 23, 2014

Trauma drama

Students have been disingenuous and administrators absent—both must learn from mistakes in order to break the stalemate.

In protest of the lack of a Level I adult trauma center on the South Side, the Trauma Center Coalition (TCC), an umbrella term for a number of advocacy groups, has staged a series of activist events—the Week of Action­­—across campus over the past week. Both trauma center protesters and University administrators have made efforts over the past week that show they are well-intentioned and want to move this conversation forward. But both sides have erred in their handling of the situation. In attempting to move the conversation forward, protesters have become increasingly unfocused and disingenuous, to the point of hindering discussion and distracting from their original message. In conjunction, the administration has also poorly dealt with situations surrounding the Week of Action by failing to adequately engage in conversation.

There has been a trend of obfuscation and misdirection in the way that TCC has represented its actions to the public. Earlier this month, University administrators barred TCC members from holding a prayer circle in the University Hospital. TCC members responded by objecting to their removal as unjust and unnecessary, stating that the prayer circle was forced into the political sphere only as a result of this administrative action. TCC members have argued the University’s stated reason for the barring—that the circle caused an impediment to patients—is invalid, but the fact remains that the UCMC has certain safety and security protocols to follow. While they have characterized the University response as unreasonable and political, the TCC has been reluctant to characterize their own political motivations honestly and forthrightly. The prayer circle, an act which cannot be disconnected from the broader political aims of the TCC, was represented instead as apolitical and purely spiritual. All activities under the TCC’s purview are inherently related to the goal of securing a trauma center on the South Side. Indeed, a prayer vigil was included during the Week of Action.

While TCC protesters have not necessarily handled the situation in the best away possible, if all sides are to move forward from the current situation in a positive manner, both sides must adjust the way they handle similar situations. When asked at Wednesday’s Dissent and Protest Panel who were the University administrators that made the decision to remove the protesters on Monday, Associate Dean of the College Eleanor Daugherty named Executive Vice President for Administration Nim Chinniah and Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Karen Warren Coleman, neither of whom were present at the panel. While University administrators obviously have many tasks to attend to, if the University wants to truly engage in dialogue over the trauma center and protest, administrators who make important decisions like the ones made on Monday must be present at these meetings. Their absence not only impedes discussion over how protest should take place on campus, but only worsens the TCC’s sentiment of not being heard that led it to feel the need to protest in the first place.

In efforts to move forward conversations on campus, both related and unrelated to the trauma center, protesters must make steps toward presenting an honest, unobstructed, and focused dialogue, and in turn, University administration must be present and receptive in these conversations.

The Editorial Board consists of the Viewpoints Editors and the Editorial Staff.