UIC students in D.C. to present bid for Obama library, museum

UIC students meet with staff in Rep. Danny Davis office in Washington, D.C., June 16 to discuss bid for Obama Presidential Library

UIC students meet with staff in the Washington, D.C., office of Rep. Danny Davis June 16 to discuss UIC’s bid for the Obama Presidential Library.

A delegation of UIC students and administrators is in Washington, D.C., today to present UIC’s bid to become the future home of the Obama Presidential Library and Museum.

UIC’s proposed sites for the future museum include Harrison Field, at Harrison and Halsted streets, and a location in the Illinois Medical District at Taylor Street and Ashland Avenue.

Both sites are accessible by public transit — the UIC/Halsted Blue Line stop is steps away from Harrison Field and the Polk Street Pink Line station is a short walk from the west campus location.

“As Chicago’s only public research university and one of the most diverse campuses in the nation, UIC is the ideal institution to host the Obama Presidential Library and Museum,” UIC Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares said.

“Our candidacy follows the recommendation of a task force of deans, administrators and outside advisers who agreed that UIC’s diversity, research, outreach and central location make it uniquely appropriate for the library and museum honoring President Obama’s legacy.”

Other local bidders who have announced plans to submit proposals before today’s deadline include the University of Chicago, Chicago State University and private Chicago developer Dan McCaffery. Columbia University in New York City and the University of Hawaii also stated their intent to submit proposals.

UIC is taking a personal approach, making its case to congressional officers, staffers and the Barack Obama Foundation during today’s visit. Members of the delegation include Barbara Henley, vice chancellor for student affairs, university librarian Mary Case and UIC students Michael Belmonte, Kris Fuentes Cortes, Jauwan Hall, Mikita Lee, Danielle Leibowitz and Arthur Nishimoto.

Obama Presidential Library Harrison site

The proposed site at Halsted and Harrison streets.

UIC would be an ideal site for the future library and museum because its goals align with President Obama’s agenda, Case said.

“UIC is very social justice driven, its student body is highly diverse and many are the first to go to college in their family,” Case said. “Our research is geared toward innovation but also toward working with populations with disparities in health care and economic status — issues that we believe resonate with President Obama’s agenda.”

After UIC’s proposal is presented, the university will await word from the Barack Obama Foundation on which bidders are invited back to present more detailed plans, Case said.

Obama Presidential Library Ashland site

Taylor Street and Ashland Avenue is another proposed site.

Having the library at UIC would enrich the intellectual life on campus, she said. The UIC community could hear from world leaders visiting the presidential library, students could find volunteer or internship opportunities there and community groups could use it as a platform to spark conversation on issues such as poverty, hunger and violence, Case added.

Leibowitz, UIC’s student trustee, came up with the idea of sending students and administrators to D.C. to personally pitch the university’s proposal.

“I thought it would make UIC unique,” said Leibowitz, a senior in the teaching of mathematics. “Having the library would really reaffirm the kind of work that we do. Part of the legacy that Obama is going to leave behind is one of trying to improve equity and that is a large focus, if not the central focus, at UIC.”

Belmonte, a second-year medical student in the urban medicine program, plans to tell Congressional staffers today how UIC’s health care mission mirrors Obama’s agenda.

“One of the best things about UIC is that we’re able to really provide care to anyone and everyone, regardless of whether they can pay, are citizens, or have insurance,” Belmonte said.

“The library would recognize the university for all the good work it’s doing.”

Cortes, a junior in communication, wants to talk about the work UIC students do in the community. Cortes volunteers as a health educator at nearby Chicago Public Schools.

“UIC has so much to offer, not only in terms of its students but also the community,” she said. “We are one of the most diverse campuses and there are so many neighboring schools that can foster future UIC students. We are students, but we are going to be professionals at work and in research. We are going somewhere.”

Having the library on campus would provide another reason for students and employees to be proud of their school, Cortes said.

“It’s not just a library but a monument and something that could really bring some light and attention to us,” she said. “It’s something that would instill a lot of UIC pride.”

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christyb@uic.edu