#BlackLivesMatter Protests Locally

Along with others across the nation, people of Champaign-Urbana have held protests, die-ins, and marches. Below are photos from some of the events. On Tuesday, November 25, CU Citizens for Peace and Justice held a demonstration outside of the county courthouse and blocked off Main Street for an hour.

Black Lives Matter lg

On Monday, December 8, UIUC students held a die-in at the Alma Mater.

UIUC Die-in (Credit: Jeff Putney)

UIUC Die-in (Credit: Jeff Putney)

(Credit: Jeff Putney)

(Credit: Jeff Putney)

(Credit: Jeff Putney)

(Credit: Jeff Putney)

Students at Centennial and Central High Schools in Champaign organized protests. On Wednesday, December 10, Central students marched after school.

Central High School students march

On Friday, December 12, Students for Justice, made up of students city-wide, held march with people lining Springfield Ave. in Champaign.

Students for Justice along Springfield Ave. (Credit: Danielle Chynoweth)

Students for Justice along Springfield Ave. (Credit: Danielle Chynoweth)

BLM poster

 

 

 

Posted in Policing, Voices of Color | Comments Off

Neo-Liberalism and a UIUC/Carle Medical School

It is no longer necessary to argue that corporatization, the neoliberal application of business practices to the university, is occurring at UIUC. The latest example is the proposed public-private UI-Carle medical school spearheaded by Chancellor Phyllis Wise. “This article resonates with me because our goals of a COM [College of Medicine] in Urbana-Champaign will rely predominantly on our convincing many of our generous and passionate donors of the critical importance of our project.”

Andrew NYT article redone

“This article” refers to a New York Times piece linked by Fox-Atkins CEO Peter Fox in a March 14, 2014 email to Wise, which she commented on and forwarded to 14 folks. The article, “Billionaires With Big Ideas Are Privatizing American Science,” describes how since the 2010 Tea Party takeover of Congress, the previous “bipartisan consensus” that lead to federal science funding “rising steadily for decades” has “eroded,” leading to an approximately 25 percent fall in spending on basic research in 2013, “one of the sharpest declines ever.”

Not only do Fox, Wise, and their cronies see nothing wrong with this Tea Party-driven defunding of public research and concomitant increased funding by billionaires. They cynically embrace it, seeing it as another golden business opportunity, to profit still more from the American for-profit healthcare system.

Conservatives like to complain about what they see as big government over-regulation and slow-moving bureaucracy. But at least the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation make an attempt to allocate research funding based on rigorous professional standards, open competition, and peer review. Their overall goal is improving the general welfare of everyone.

“Fundamentally at stake,” however, “is the social contract that cultivates science for the common good,” as the Times says. For today, the more research is privatized, the more money targets the personal interests, and pet projects of the super wealthy. This is especially true of medical research, where “a number of the campaigns, driven by personal adversity, target illnesses that predominantly afflict white people — like cystic fibrosis, melanoma and ovarian cancer.”

CCU facility fee

Meanwhile, taxpayers in Urbana are reeling from Carle going off the tax rolls, because it successfully lobbied Springfield through the Illinois Hospital Association – which Carle CEO James Leonard headed at the time — to expand the definition of so-called “charity care” in 2012 legislation. After paying $4.6 million taxes in 2009, Carle paid zero in 2013.

This is the exact opposite of what Leonard and Carle Clinic CEO Bruce Wellman pledged in 2009 when the two entities were merged into a non-profit. “If a merger bringing the currently for-profit Carle Clinic under the not-for-profit organization of Carle Foundation Hospital is approved, Carle plans to make payments in lieu of taxes at the current tax level.”

Back in 2002 Carle agreed to make a lump sum payment to Urbana in lieu of taxes, generally referred to as PILOT, of $450,000 to the school district and $175,000 to the park district, plus $20,000 per year for the next five years. Late in 2014, and long after Urbana had taken Carle to court over nonpayment of taxes, Carle independently made its own guessestimate of what it owed Urbana, and cut checks totaling $100,800. With a pending lawsuit, Urbana tore up the checks. However, they would have constituted only a drop in the bucket compared to the nearly $5 million dollars Carle had paid previously.

That’s not all. Medicare is fining Carle for readmitting too many patients within 30 days of their initial visit for medical issues requiring treatment. Carle is weighing whether to do what is necessary for the government to recognize it as an Ebola treatment center, a certification that the UI Chicago medical center – with whom they are competing for the proposed UI medical school — has already received.

CCU yard sign2

In addition, the Chancellor sent staff to testify in July 2014 in support of Carle’s request for additional surgical beds, a request that had nothing to do with the UI-Carle medical school. After the staffer in question was criticized for conflict of interest, she tore up rather than cash the checks Carle wrote to reimburse her.

No wonder Urbana-ites have formed Concerned Citizens of Urbana (CCU) to push back against Carle. They have created a website, organized community meetings, and dotted Urbana with yard signs. “My Family Pays Carle’s Share of Taxes,” says one. “Carle’s ‘Charity’ Medical Care Paid for by Urbana School Children,” reads another.

CCU yard sign

Attention has focused, therefore, on Carle. But the 800-pound gorilla in Urbana’s room that goes mostly undiscussed is UIUC. As a nonprofit, the University also does not pay taxes. Some years some chancellors have made some payments in lieu of taxes, de facto PILOTs. Below are the annual amounts paid to the school district (first column), from which an amount went to the library (second column):

1994-1995 $158,000 $14,950
1995-1996 through 1999-2000 $317,000 $30,000
2000-2001 through 2009-2010 $365,300 $34,500
2010-2011 $240,000 $22,560
2011-2012 through 2014-2015 $100,000 $9,400

Chancellor Wise’s office has informed Urbana that funding will end in 2015.

North Campus 1985

Moreover, UIUC has bought up significant amounts of land between 1985 and 2005. The National Center of Supercomputing Applications, the Seibel computer science building, plus the parking structure east of the Beckman building – all were built on land formerly on the tax rolls.

North Campus 2005

To top it off, Urbana is home to the research park that didn’t happen. That’s right: along with what is referred to as the South Campus research park in Champaign, there was discussion of a North Campus research park in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In May 1999, a 50-plus page Request for Proposals for a “Science & Engineering Technology Commercialization Initiative” for both a North and South center was issued, with what response is unclear.

Libby RFP

While Chancellor Wise is ending PILOTs in Urbana, she also has raised the possibility of “a ring of [tax-paying] businesses associated with biotech” surrounding her proposed medical school. What she did not tell Urbana is that if such a venture materializes the smart money is on it being located in the Champaign Research Park. Rubbing it in, she declined Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing’s invitation last month to meet and discuss Carle in a public forum.

Meanwhile, the Wise-led public-private proposed medical school has hit some road bumps. For as long as the Steven Salaita affair continues – and it continues unabated – it acts indirectly as a powerful drag on getting her medical venture off the ground, and getting “generous and passionate donors” on board.

The UI Board of Trustees has also raised more questions than the friendly audiences in Champaign-Urbana. It has charged UI President Robert Easter with evaluating the competing UI-Carle and UI-Chicago medical school proposals in March. Given his loyalties to the Urbana campus — including loyally seconding the Chancellor concerning the Salaita matter — this assignment will certainly put his professional judgment to the test.

Wise faces a similar test, although she likely sees it simply as business as usual. When she was named to Governor Bruce Rauner’s transition team, the consensus of her supporters was that UIUC was ensured thereby a seat “at the table” of the deciders. Her Republican and neoliberal views fit Rauner’s neo-liberalism-with-a-vengeance to a T. A private sector member of the top 1/10 of one percent of all Americans governing the public sector, Rauner intends “to use the governor’s residence to do the government’s business… and I’m going to entertain them [companies] at the governor’s residence… and make it a nice place to do the people’s business.”

Rauner will generously serve the people for an annual salary of $1 and no benefits. To fight “corrupt” public sector unions, he has already amassed $20 million in his PAC, including $10 million of his personal fortune, for his new, right-wing, anti-union campaign. All this springs from his idea of “ethics,” his wanting the state to act “ethically.” Like the business practices he pursued in becoming wealthy.

The ethically-challenged do not understand by “ethics” what the rest of us do. Wise — the decades-long serial self-plagiarizing researcher, sending her staffer to lobby for Carle — engages in prima facie conflict of interest by sitting simultaneously on the UI Research Park Economic Development Advisory Group with the Busey Corporation board president, and on the Busey Corporation board. As Chancellor, sees no contradiction in overseeing annual ethics training at UIUC from the top down, but not from the bottom up.

Given the virtual certainty of Rauner’s impending higher education spending cuts, how exactly will Wise spin her role? Voting to slash the budget of UIUC, the institution that she was hired to serve?

It all comes together in neoliberalism, “capitalism with the gloves off.” A proposed public-private UI-Carle medical school. Chancellor Wise acting in concert with Carle’s Leonard, the Research Park’s Fox, and Busey Corporation’s board president. But not consulting faculty regarding Salaita. Taking a page from the national Tea Party playbook concerning billionaires, who pursue their private research agendas that dovetail sometimes with those of the general public. Not to mention wealthy donors. Carle and UIUC refusing to compensate Urbana for lost revenue from properties they have rejiggered off the tax rolls. All the while, their economic interests trumping good citizenship.

Is Phyllis Wise a public sector CEO? A private sector Chancellor? Is there any difference? Yes, yes, and no.

January 13, 2015

 This is the second in a series of articles. The first can be found online at www.http://publici.ucimc.org/?p=50834

2014 10 30 fur ball FullSizeRender

David Prochaska formerly taught colonialism and visual culture in the UI History department

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Groundswell Organizing and Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration

After President Obama signed his executive action on immigration last November, immigrant activists commended the president for his decision, which might help up to 4 million undocumented immigrants normalize their status, and at the same time emphasized that this action is not enough because it leaves another 7 million behind.  This new executive action follows a similar action in 2012 that protected “DREAMers”, or undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children, which is estimated to benefit 1 million residents.

With these actions the president is trying to rebrand himself as an advocate of immigrants. And while his executive action will clearly benefit many families and communities, it does not erase his track-record of fracturing families through 2.3 million deportations, more than any other president in US history.  This record has rightly earned Obama the title of “Deporter-in-Chief.”

The majority of deportations over the past 5 years have been processed through a program with the Orwellian title of “Secure Communities.” Far from protecting local communities, it has led to the fragmentation of immigrant families, and in large measure contributed to 3 million children orphaned by deportations. “Secure Communities,” or “S-Comm”, was designed during the Bush administration but implemented under Obama.  With his recent executive action, the president has now discontinued “Secure Communities,” and he replaced it with a program he claims will protect most immigrants (that is yet to be seen).

Obama’s Mixed Record

The national media is now caught up with the question of Obama’s legacy: will he be remembered as the “Deporter-in-Chief” or as the president who helped 5 million undocumented immigrants?  Is he a friend or a foe of immigrant families?

Personally, I think this is the wrong question to ask.  President Obama is a political actor, and as such, he responds to political pressures based on how he thinks it will affect him politically.

Obama’s policy record on immigration, like his record on the many other issues of our time–perpetual war, mass surveillance, the criminalization of communities of color–is mixed at best.  Yes, in some ways his policies have curbed Bush era policies. And at the same time other Obama policies have entrenched and even expanded upon Bush. With his executive actions, Obama’s policies will help immigrants, and through “Secure Communities” he has broken up millions of families. Given the totality of his record, there is no reason to give the president much credit.

The real issue is not whether President Obama is a defender of immigrant families or not. The story of the day is how immigrant activists successfully pressured the president to be in a position where he had no other option but to take decisive steps.  As Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of the immigrant advocacy organization Presente, said, “this was not a victory for President Obama and the Democrats. This was a resounding victory for the grassroots, for immigrants and Latino families.” And I might add: this was also a victory for immigrants and allies in our own community.

Grassroots Power

In 2010, I began organizing with local leaders, undocumented students and allies at UIUC, immigrant families and advocates, and together we founded the group that is now known as the “C-U Immigration Forum”.   Through this campaign I met and learned from activists, such as Andrea Rosales, an undocumented student leader at UIUC who was part of the student group La Colectiva, and who in 2011 participated in a civil disobedience action in Atlanta.  She and seven other undocumented youth from around the country sat down in the middle of the street to block traffic.  They were protesting the failure of Congress to pass the DREAM Act, as well as national and state policies that criminalized undocumented students.  They were arrested and held for possible deportation, but then released due to a well-organized pressure campaign.  The bold actions of Andrea and other immigrant youth activists, who risked being torn apart from their families and friends through deportation, was what eventually forced Obama to grant administrative relief to undocumented youth in 2012.

I also met and worked with another student member of La Colectiva, Jesse Hoyt.  Jesse was interested in expanding the work of La Colectiva beyond campus, and these initiatives helped give rise to the Immigration Forum. Later, in 2013, Jesse organized a community coalition of mostly black and Latino residents to stop the construction of a for-profit immigrant detention facility in Joliet, Illinois.  And more recently, Jesse was the Field Director on Carol Ammons’ successful campaign for State Representative (IL-103), which was similarly a bottom-up campaign of grassroots coalition-building and community power.

Starting in 2010 and with the members of the “C-U Immigration Forum”, I designed and organized a campaign to pressure the Champaign County government to opt-out of “Secure Communities”. While “S-Comm” was a federal initiative, it relied on local authorities to hold immigrants without a warrant in county jails.  Under “Secure Communities”, the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office began holding hundreds of immigrants per year.  Through Freedom of Information Act requests, we learned about this practice and brought it to broader attention.  We also organized mass know-your-rights trainings and town hall meetings to pressure local officials, and specifically Sheriff Dan Walsh, to sever ties with federal deportation agents. And in 2012, after an ongoing campaign of shaming the Sheriff’s Office, and community organizing drives designed to build our collective power, Walsh eventually caved and agreed to stop holding immigrants.

Because of our successful campaign, an estimated 200 immigrant families per year in Champaign County have escaped the ordeal of being torn apart because of a held or deported family member.   Our local campaign was actually a national pioneer. With our 2012 victory, our county became the 7th nationwide to opt-out of “Secure Communities”. Since then, local campaigns around the country have succeeded as well, and an additional 257 localities stopped enforcing the program. Now this movement has reached the White House. “S-Comm”, which was originally touted as a more “humane” deportation policy, intended only to target criminals (a thoroughly debunked claim), is now a source of shame for the administration.

Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and hence the nation’s highest-level deportation authority, wrote in conjunction with Obama’s executive action: “The goal of Secure Communities was to more effectively identify and facilitate the removal of criminal aliens… But the reality is the program has attracted a great deal of criticism, is widely misunderstood, and is embroiled in litigation… Governors, mayors, and state and local law enforcement officials around the country have increasingly refused to cooperate…”

Of course, immigrant and ally activists did not “misunderstand” the so-called “Secure Communities” program. Through its effects on our families, our friends, and our neighbors, we became keenly aware of the violence and tragedy that it brought to our communities. But Secretary Johnson did get something right: it was not Obama or the Democrats that won this victory, it was our own communities that stood up against it, spoke truth to power, forced local authorities to discontinue cooperation with the federal government, and by extension forced the Obama administration to finally act, and to grant administrative relief to 5 million immigrants and to discontinue the disastrous and shameful “Secure Communities” program.

And yet, there is still much organizing to do… La lucha sigue!

Aaron Johnson-Ortiz has worked as a labor and community organizer in Champaign-Urbana since 2010.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Immigration, Latino/a, Politics | Comments Off

The Conundrum Over ISIS: The Issue of International Responsibility

In the November/December issue of the Public i, my colleague Susan Shoemaker wrote a very compelling article against the use of U.S. military strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  After citing opinion polls finding that while 73% of Americans favored bombing ISIS, only 51% thought it might actually “work,” she asks a very poignant question: “What are the moral implications of a people that approves of bombing other countries even though they are not confident that it will help?”

Before probing the issue further, I will say at the outset that I completely agree with Susan that US interventions in other countries, from the overthrow of democratically elected government in Iran and Guatemala in the 1950s to the invasion of Iraq, have been a disaster morally and politically.  The one exception to that in my mind was Clinton’s decision to join other NATO countries in trying to stop the Serbian encirclement and bombardment and sniping of civilians in the multi-religious and multi-ethnic city of Sarajevo.

Since I did think that the military force used against the assault on civilian citizens in Sarajevo was the right thing to do, it is obvious that while I hate war I am not a complete pacifist.  The default position for me has always been against war.  But, under certain conditions, I do think that nation states that have the capability to do so are under an obligation to attempt to come to the relief of victims of those who commit gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

Gross Violations
ISIS engages actions that, taken as a complex, constitute a height of humanitarian law violation that is well beyond the norm even for habitual violators. Some of my progressive comrades have contended that it is just media hype, some have tried to diminish the significance of those violations by analogies to rights violations in or by the United States or other Western countries.  I have been extremely critical of those as well, but I think that ISIS represents something much worse.  For a more complete rendering, I would refer the reader to Amnesty International’s report on ISIS, “International Humanitarian Law and the Conduct of the Islamic State,” and to the Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, called “Rule of Terror: Living under ISIS in Syria.”  These are not documents put out by the U.S. State Department.  Indeed, Amnesty International has been very critical of U.S. human rights violations, both domestic and foreign.

Prelude to an ISIS beheading

Prelude to an ISIS beheading

In summary, these reports substantiate that ISIS uses its military might to kill people who are not Muslims or who do not conform to their special brand of Islam, to rape and capture women in these other groups in order to place them in sexual slavery, to execute prisoners it takes, to decapitate hostages (including American civilians) and distribute the videos of this hideous process over social media, to torture and kill people who speak out against their actions, to oblige children to watch and sometimes participate in their atrocities so they will become willing recruits in the barbarity, to forcibly displace people on the basis of their ethnicity or religion, and to destroy the cultural heritage represented by mosques, churches, monuments, and other cultural relics that have survived over centuries.  In other words, what the Nazis did to the Jews, ISIS does to everyone who falls under their control and refuses to accept their religious and ideological beliefs.  ISIS represents genocide on steroids.

International Obligation
It is rare that states act out of pure altruism.  Aside perhaps from the very generous development and humanitarian assistance programs provided by the Scandinavian
countries in the global South, some calculation of interest is mixed with altruism.
But if we admit that ISIS is as bad a violator of humanitarian law and human rights as I and international human rights organizations contend they are, and if we admit that there is a moral obligation to try to spare as many people as possible from falling under their control, we are going to have to rely upon the intervention of the military forces of states that have the capacity.  It would be nice if the United Nations had such a force, but it does not.  It can supply “peace keeper” soldiers from countries willing to offer them.  But these Blue Helmets are not an offensive fighting force, as was evident in the 1995 Srebrenica massacres of approximately eight thousand Bosnian men and boys by a Serbian force that the peacekeepers could do nothing to stop.  Thus, both UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and the U.N. Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, have called for nations with the capability to come to the aid of the people of Kobani.  De Mistura said: “You remember Srebrenica. We never forgot and we probably never forgave ourselves for that.”  (New York Daily News online edition, October 10, 2014)

No internal force in either Serbia or Iraq could have come to the assistance of the Yazidis
(members of a Kurdish religion linked the  Zoroastrianism of ancient Mesopotamia), other Kurds, Christians, secularists, or non-ISIS Muslims.  The only countries able to do that were countries that had a significant military air capacity.  The U.S. had the greatest capability, but at least five other states have engaged in air attacks against ISIS.
I think that there was a moral obligation to do just that, even if that also served other US interests.  It is obviously in the interest of the United States to not have Iraq and Syria controlled by ISIS governments. I think that is a legitimate interest, and one that is widely shared internationally.

Will it “Help”?
Let’s go back to Susan’s question: “What are the moral implications of a people that approves of bombing other countries even though they are not confident that it will help?”  What do we mean by help?  If by “help” we mean will it assist democratic movements, or nondemocratic but secular movements, or just moderate nonaggressive movements to come to power in either Iraq or Syria–maybe a little in the longer term, but maybe not.  On the other hand, if we mean by “help,” does it help people avoid being victimized in the brutal way that ISIS victimizes people who don’t join or submit to them, then the answer is yes.  At least some people, although I can’t give a precise number, have been helped to avoid death or a fate of subjugation when ISIS’s advances have been stalled or when ISIS has been routed from territory they held.  Furthermore, it could prove to be of help to the Iraqi national forces by giving them time to regroup and become a more effective force to counter ISIS.

I think that those nations that have the capacity to be of this kind of “help” also have the moral obligation to so. Now, national interest might restrain some from doing it, as has been the case of Turkey despite pleas from UN and U.S. officials for it to be of military assistance.  But since the U.S. has the capacity to do it, and since President Obama was willing to do it, whatever the combination of morality and national interest I think he did the right thing in attacking ISIS from the air. At the same time, I do share the worry of Susan and most Americans about an escalation into another ground war with U.S. troops, and I agree that any military action involves some collateral casualties. I don’t take those downsides lightly. But the only thing I detest more than military force is genocide and the kind of wanton cruelty exhibited by ISIS and the Serbian militia that slaughtered mainly Moslem civilians in Bosnia.

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The Lessons Ebola Is Teaching

whitecoat

Greg Damhorst is an MD/PhD student in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign . His graduate research involves the development of diagnostic technologies for HIV/AIDS. Greg is also a co-founder of the Global Health Initiative at the University of Illinois, an academic community that seeks to build multi-disciplinary efforts around global health issues.

As an MD/PhD student who works with pathogens on a daily basis, I can appreciate a virus for what it truly is: a sub-microscopic assembly of biomolecules – the same building blocks which make up all of life. Viruses – “organisms at the edge of life” – are non-living yet possess the cunning to infect, replicate, and destroy. It’s exciting to me, in a purely academic sense, when a virus becomes headline news. But if we truly listen, the things Ebola has taught us in 2014 are much more than a biology lesson. Unlike the virus itself, the inequalities that Ebola has exploited, highlighted, and perpetuated cannot be bleached away or combated with a good vaccine. If we listen, these are the lessons that the Ebola outbreak is teaching.

DSC_0077

The current epidemic was first beginning to talk hold in Guinea last February when I was visiting neighboring Sierra Leone. The purpose of my visit was to meet with colleagues at Njala University, an institution planted by University of Illinois faculty in the 1960’s fulfilling a USAID program. Our goal, as we joined in celebrations of Njala’s 50th anniversary, was that collaboratively we could identify opportunities for partnership in health-related academic research, training, and outreach. This brief visit introduced me to a university community emerging from the devastation of a civil war, eager to expand its impact as a leader within Sierra Leone and a peer amongst academic institutions globally.

I met students training in Njala programs like agribusiness and nursing – future leaders who perhaps embody what their country needs most. Today, their campus is shut down by the outbreak. I traveled roads which were improving rapidly and saw first-hand the evidence of rising infrastructure, much of it driven by foreign developers who today are unlikely to be found. Their absence may be just a fraction of the toll Ebola is taking on West African economies. The first lesson that Ebola is teaching is that the conditions which have predisposed the region to this outbreak are being perpetuated by its presence.

The second lesson involves the world’s response. When American doctors and nurses contracted the disease, they had options not available to West African patients. They benefited from evacuation to the U.S., advanced facilities, and experimental treatments. It is critical that we do not forget the challenging questions these series of events raise. Attempt to place yourself in the shoes of the patient who laid in the bed next to the white missionary doctor in an Ebola treatment center in Liberia: As he is transferred to an ambulance and driven to a medivac aircraft, you remain in a makeshift facility for which the term “inadequate” is an insufficient description. When word reaches you that the Americans are receiving experimental substances and recovering from a disease for which there is no specific treatment available – a disease from which you are expected to die – the situation must be all the more disheartening.

It’s difficult to make a blanket statement against the handling of Western Ebola patients. The import of cases to the U.S. provided the opportunity to study the disease at a depth never possible before. The costs, meanwhile, are not entirely clear. While I found the preferential treatment of Western patients unsettling, I wondered to what extent previously arranged insurance may have covered the expense of evacuation. The administration of experimental therapies, meanwhile, raises ethical questions that may not have correct answers. But another lesson we must learn from Ebola is that while the Western missionary doctor can purchase relatively low-cost medical travel insurance, no such option exists for the Sierra Leonean, Liberian, or Guinean. No aircraft is waiting to take them to a state-of-the-art facility. The American is privileged with access to such resources, while the West African would be lucky to be granted a tourist visa to the U.S. should she be able to afford the application fee. This is a structural inequality that was in place long before patient zero.

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Many people have undoubtedly wondered why a vaccine or treatment for Ebola did not exist before this outbreak. The simple answer, unfortunately, is that Ebola is not a large enough disease, nor does it affect wealthy enough people, to carry the economic incentive for pharmaceutical companies to develop such a drug. The third lesson Ebola has taught us – and one for which I am extremely ill-equipped to offer any suggestions for solutions – is that the economics of pharmaceuticals needs to be reimagined. Activism has made a difference in increasing access to pharmaceuticals in the past – perhaps this is another moment when the world must demand change.

Our society seems to have an obsession with firing the head coach in response to a losing football season – we are obsessed with blaming leadership for a lack of better outcomes. Yet our mistake is in thinking that a change in leadership represents a solution. In many ways it has been the same with Ebola. The Ebola crisis has been wielded as a political tool in just this manner (did anyone else notice a reduction in media hype following the midterm elections?).

Possibly the biggest lesson we must learn from Ebola is that it is a disease which targets the people we like to forget by exploiting the conditions with which we’ve grown too comfortable. While we celebrate this year’s responders at the front line of the crisis, we need to realize that those who are in it for the long-haul are the heroes who would prevent the next episode, including those who seek to train where there is a lack of physicians and educate where there is low literacy. Blaming our leaders for the problems Ebola has caused is a convenient distraction from asking ourselves what we can do to address the underlying problems, while our true failure is that of forgetting to invest in the empowerment of our neighbors. Perhaps it is the responsibility of campus-communities like Champaign-Urbana to seek out ways to further partnerships, to hold in high regard the expertise of our colleagues at institutions like Njala, and to leverage the globalization of our century toward novel ways forward together.

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Perhaps the radio silence that follows when American hospitals have released the last cases and when fueling hysteria is no longer useful as a political tool will give us an opportunity to examine these lessons. The world will solve the Ebola problem – and I pray it’s sooner rather than later – but the vaccine or treatment or the public health education and containment which will ultimately stop this epidemic will not cure the underlying problems which made West Africa vulnerable to the largest outbreak in history.

My hope is that we will think beyond fear, that we’ll respond to the need to build-up and empower individuals in West Africa and low-resourced regions around the world through partnering, educating, and creating opportunities. These are the lessons Ebola is teaching – are we listening?

 

 

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ACLU Screening of “OverCriminalized”

OverCriminalized

Tuesday, Feb. 10th, 7:30PM.
Art Theater, downtown Champaign,

Champaign County ACLU is sponsoring this free showing of a film on alternatives to criminalization. Panel discussion to follow.

OverCriminalized profiles three promising and less expensive interventions that may actually change the course of people’s lives. It’s time to roll back mass criminalization and focus on what works.

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Why the Republicans Were So Successful in the Mid-Term Elections

It is obvious from the recent mid-term elections that the Democratic Party nation-wide is in crisis. The corporate media states that the Democratic Party must become more “centrist,” meaning that the Democratic Party needs to be more like the Republicans. The liberal publications on the other hand, perform an elaborate contortion act of an analysis blaming everyone from the Republicans to “ignorant voters.” In both cases, neither wants to talk about the real cause of the Democratic Party’s defeats.

Confusing Message from the Voters

Yes, the Republicans kept their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, obtained control of the U.S. Senate, and elected several new Republican Governors, but what about the voter referendums that passed? Referendums to raise the minimum wage passed in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Illinois and parts of Wisconsin, as well as in the cities of Oakland and San Francisco, California.

In addition to the above referendum results, a survey of voters on election day, conducted by the HART Research Group, found that 62% favored raising taxes on the wealthy, 75% favored increasing funding for education from preschool to college, 69% opposed financial deregulation, 82% opposed raising the eligibility age for Medicare, and 83% opposed cutting Medicaid or social security benefits.

So how can it be possible that Republicans won so many elections when they are opposed to all of these issues and referendums that a majority of Americans support?

Corporate Influence vs. the People

Since the Presidency of Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party in general has become more concerned with corporate campaign contributors than with the well-being of the average American. Many of the policies that Bill Clinton and the Democratic National Committee promoted, and passed into law in partnership with the Republican Party, has slowly but systematically lowered the standard of living of working people and increased income inequality. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) alone has resulted in the loss of over one million U.S. manufacturing jobs that paid union wage rates and caused a 20% decline in overall U.S. manufacturing wages. The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, that restricted the affiliation of commercial banks with investment security firms, was also supported by Bill Clinton and many Democrats and is considered the main cause of the 2008 financial crisis.

Following the Clinton administration and the eight disastrous years of the George W. Bush presidency, Barack Obama won the presidential election in 2008, swept into office on promises of “Hope and Change” with an unprecedented level of voter registration and turn-out, even winning Republican states in the South like Virginia and North Carolina. Two years earlier, the Democrats had also taken control of the U.S. House and Senate. From January 2009 until January 2011, the Democrats had control of all three branches of government, but nothing changed for the better.

The same corporate-friendly policies of the Bush and Clinton years were not just continued but expanded, to the detriment of working Americans.

Fast Forward to 2014

By 2014 overall unemployment was lower as a result of an expansion of jobs, but these jobs were mostly low-wage service sector jobs with no benefits, and overall wages were stagnating for most workers. In addition, attempted theft of public sector workers’ pensions had increased in states nation-wide, not only by Republican governors but Democratic governors as well, like Jerry Brown in California and Pat Quinn in Illinois.

The 2014 mid-term election season began with concerns by many Democratic senators that the unpopular Affordable Care Act (a health care law written by Liz Fowler and the corporate health insurance industry) was going to hurt their prospects for re-election. Later into the campaign, Republicans began to attack certain Democratic U.S. House and Senate candidates for their support of the Obama-appointed Simpson-Bowles Social Security and Medicare cuts committee―policies that the Republicans of course supported as well, but were now using as a weapon against the Democrats. This was used with particular effectiveness against incumbent North Carolina Democratic senator Kay Hagan, a multimillionaire banker who supported Simpson-Bowles.

In this recent 2014 election, 64% of eligible voters stayed home. Of the 36% who did vote, many abstained from voting for either Democratic or Republican candidates in certain races or voted for a Republican in order to punish the Democratic incumbent. Among voters surveyed by pollsters, 87% said that the economy was the number one reason for voting for whom they did, and that their wages were flat or falling.

Since 2008, 5.5 million more Americans live in poverty, the median household income has declined by almost 5 %, but corporate profits are at their highest rate ever and the effective corporate tax rate is at its lowest since 1929.

The Republican election victories do not represent a shift of the American voters to the right, but it do represent the failure of the Democratic Party to affect real change for the better for working Americans. People are frightened and angry but they see few if any ways of changing things for the better.

What Will it Take to Turn Things Around?

Elections alone will not create systemic change, and blindly voting for someone just because of their party affiliation has not been working. In this Orwellian age of corporate media doublespeak and superficiality, we cannot support any candidate who accepts corporate money. And in addition, we should only support candidates who have proven themselves to be worthy of our vote and support.

In Illinois, two Democratic Party candidates for state representative bucked the national trend of Democratic Party defeat: Carol Ammons, an African American community activist from Urbana, and Will Guzzardi, a community activist from Chicago. Both not only won their elections as first time candidates, but also inspired a significant number of people to register to vote and to turn out on election day. Both candidates ran grassroots campaigns with little money during the primary election against well-funded candidates who had the backing of corporate interests and the state Democratic Party. Both candidates were also the victims of vicious and slanderous personal attacks. Both candidates were successful because they were known in their respective communities as fighters for economic and social justice for many years before their decisions to run for elected office.

It will be candidates like Carol Ammons and Will Guzzardi, regardless if they run as Democrats, Greens, Socialists, or whatever, that will begin to make the difference. But this is only if we support them and not believe the lies and fear mongering that is waged to keep the corporate special interests in control and the rest of us effectively disenfranchised.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UC-IMC’s Own Aaron Ammons Receives Pardon

Aaron Ammons SEIUOn Monday night, January 12, 2015, Aaron Ammons sat in the front row of the audience at the Urbana city council meeting. The purchase of Tasers for police was being discussed. He got a call and stepped out of the room. He came back and sat back down. During public input on the topic, Aaron spoke of his opposition to Tasers, which he and his group CU Citizens for Peace and Justice, has fought for a decade. He also announced that he had just received a pardon from outgoing Governor Quinn.

In the early 1990s, Aaron took a plea bargain to a felony drug offense. This felony, what he calls the modern day “scarlet letter,” has followed him ever since. Today, Aaron is not afraid to talk about his past in the underground drug economy. He performs poetry about his time on the streets at SPEAK Café, which he founded and MCs. He also started the group Citizens With Conviction, made up of those with felony records. In Spring 2014, they successfully won a “Ban the Box” initiative in Urbana, eliminating the question about felony history on job applications. Congratulations to Aaron!

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Is a Viable Third Party Still Possible?

​After the lowest midterm election turnout since World War II, it is obvious that many Americans are fed up with politics as usual and that we are facing a “crisis in democracy“. Both the Republicans and the Democrats are now “wholly owned subsidiaries” of Big Money. Many Americans seem to be aware, at least on some level, that the current dysfunction in Washington benefits the elite Big Money interests which now make our political system an oligarchy rather than a democracy.

For progressives, it won’t do to simply elect another Big Money -sponsored candidate with possibly good intentions. When Obama took Big Money to get elected in 2008, he effectively rejected the center-left consensus of the time and revived the Wall Street Wing of the Democratic Party initiated by Bill Clinton in the 1990s. That left both the Democrats and the Republicans dependent on Big Money. As long as these two corporate political parties are our only choices at the ballot box our political system is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. This fact is demonstrated by the lack of legislative movement on issues that most Americans support, such as getting Big Money out of politics in order to end our current system of legalized corruption.

A majority (58%) of Americans think we need a third major party because the Republicans and Democrats “‘do such a poor job’ representing the American people.” By 2014 political Independents outnumbered either major party, with 42% calling themselves Independents while only 31% identified as Democrats and 25% as Republicans according to a Gallup poll.

Given the current disgust with politics as usual, the time may be ripe to try to build a viable third party. However, it is extremely difficult to launch a third party in this country. A “major impediment that was there even before big money was as important as it is now…is really key to the viability issue at the national level and it has been for a very long time.” That is the single-member district (SMD) system, which discourages plural parties. “Most countries that have viable multi-party systems have either only proportional representation (PR) or some combination of SMD and PR” according to Belden Fields. Another main reason, of course, is lack of financing for third party campaigns. In addition, because of winner-take-all rules and the Electoral College, no presidential candidate for a third party is likely to be elected. Ballot access laws that require petitioning and/or registration fees may stymie Congressional third party candidates. Debate rules also may exclude third party candidates.

In 2012, Americans Elect, using borrowed money from wealthy sympathizers in addition to small contributions, overcame some of these barriers. They mounted a $35 million operation in which they gained ballot access in 29 states. Their online primary was a disaster, however, with no candidates being advanced and Americans Elect basically closing down before the elections. This was due to a needlessly complex system that resulted in no real platform and no clear winners. And, of course, from their beginning they excluded everyone who didn’t have or choose online access.

A viable third party would need to avoid such needless complexity and appeal to large numbers of voters, whether independent, conservative, or progressive. One aim for such an independent citizens party could be to pass legislation in accordance with the people’s wishes, which are currently being ignored by Congress. That could be accomplished by having a platform based on polls that already show at least 60% agreement on the issues among the American public.

A Third Party Platform

Here are some of the things a third party platform could address which are supported by at least 60% of Americans according to national polls:

Get Big Money out of politics (74%), either through a Constitutional amendment (which would be extremely difficult to pass) or statutory laws on the federal, state, and local levels, such as much stronger disclosure laws; laws that corporations that do business with a particular level of government cannot spend money to influence election outcomes on that level of government; and laws against corporate spending on elections without the consent of shareholders. Lawrence Lessig says we need to convince voters there is something they can do to change the system, such as a bill for small dollar funding of public elections that would eliminate the need for a constitutional amendment and be perfectly constitutional.​
● Enact higher taxes for the rich.
● End corporate welfare for oil companies and other big business interests.
● Cut military spending and put the saved money into infrastructure and education.
● Protect the social safety net, strengthen Social Security, and provide improved Medicare to everyone in the United States.
● Transition to a clean energy economy and reverse environmental degradation.
● Protect worker rights, create jobs, and raise wages.
● Raise the Minimum Wage (78%).
● Create a meaningful jobs program that includes massive infrastructure investment.
● Legislate common sense gun reform.
● Stop trying to act as the world’s police force.
● Pass immigration reform.

What Would Need to Be Done

Money. The key to having a third party that is independent of Big Money would be to have it depend solely on small contributions (say, no more than $1,000 per donor). This would obviously put the party at a financial disadvantage which would have to be made up for in other ways. Quite a lot of money could be raised from small donors, as Howard Dean did in 2004. In the age of crowd-sourcing even more money could be raised, perhaps enough to jump-start petition campaigns, pay registration fees, hire a few staffers, and run enough TV ads toward the end of the election campaign to make sure that voters know there is an alternative to the do-nothing Congress and Washington dysfunction.

Volunteer Efforts. Such a third party would need a tremendous volunteer effort in order to show up at community events to publicize the party, arrange for local assemblies, recruit good candidates, get onto state ballots, get candidates into congressional debates, contact registered voters, and run a good ground game. Generating word-of-mouth about the party would be an important part of the effort.

Social Media and the Internet. Much of the work of a third party would need to be done on social media and various Internet sites that attract politically-oriented people.

Viable third parties are not unprecedented. In Spain, the Podemos Party, started in January 2014 by a group of political science professors, is now leading the polls a year before national elections. One of their organizing tools was setting up hundreds of local assemblies where citizens meet weekly to discuss issues and vote on what they want to do.

Putting in the necessary energy, time, and money that a viable third party would necessitate might be quixotic and could deflect efforts from other worthy movements. On the other hand, if we don’t take democratic control soon, there is the possibility that we will lose more of our technically guaranteed rights, just as we have lost the right to privacy to the National Security Agency. In this time of mass protests, since besieged governments typically respond to threats with repression, violence, and “perception management“, we may be running out of time to exercise the rights we still have, especially since the recent terrorist attacks in France are serving as an excuse for more government surveillance and undermining of our rights.

A third party movement might also help build a larger community dedicated to furthering social justice in this country.

An old saying goes, “organized people are the best antidote to organized money.”

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How Public & Private Work Together Today: A UIUC/Carle Medical School?

University of Illinois (UIUC) Chancellor Phyllis Wise, already at the center of the Steven Salaita affair, is proposing that UIUC and Carle partner to build a medical school. A public university pursuing a large-scale project with the private sector is again all about the neo-liberal corporatization of the university. An already large, expanding corporation selling health has everything to do with the American for-profit healthcare system.

For some, Wise’s plan is a game-changer of limitless opportunities with nothing but upsides. For others, “the devil is in the details” of a tiny number of individuals engaging in largely out-of-the-public-eye discussions, possible conflicts of interest, and unethical dealings that, nonetheless, will impact the public at large.

From Front Story to Back Story

The UIUC/Carle proposal is clearing administrative and political hurdles on its way to becoming a reality, if its backers have their way. With Chancellor Wise in the lead, UIUC is spearheading the project slated to open in fall 2017 with an initial 25 students that would meld bioengineering, biomedical, and related UIUC strengths, with a research-based medical school. Carle is to provide $100 million, and UIUC would seek donors for $135 million.

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According to an October 2014 publicly released business plan, classes would be held initially in upgraded buildings at Carle or on campus, whereas an earlier plan called for a new $100 million facility. Meeting since at least last February, and likely earlier, an Economic Development Advisory Group convened by Chancellor Wise that includes Provost Ilesanmi Adesida, Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement and UI Foundation Senior Vice President Dan Peterson, UI Research Park developer Peter Fox, UI Research Park administrator Laura Frerichs, Carle President and CEO James Leonard, Busey Corporation board chair Gregory Lykins, and local businessman Richard Stephens, has led to speculation that the medical school would be sited in the UI Research Park. A February 2014 letter from the Fox Development Corporation CEO to the Research Park director states that it “is very supportive of the proposed Carle [redacted] Facility in the Research Park,” but the October 2014 business plan skirts the issue, saying a new facility is yet “to be determined.”

Carle in Resch Pk Feb 2014

So far, a succession of institutional bodies have signed off on the proposal, including the University Senates Conference, and the UIUC Academic Senate, with the UI Board of Trustees (BOT) still to go. Meanwhile, the project has garnered enthusiastic approbation on and off-campus, including from the local business booster community, speaking primarily through its mouthpiece, the News-Gazette. Chancellor Wise: “Without a college of medicine, we are less competitive…We think this is a defining moment.” Local entrepreneur, I-Hotel owner, and Jimmy John’s multiple-franchise-lessee Peter Fox: “I think [the idea] is the salvation of the community.” Carle CEO Leonard is “absolutely committed.” News-Gazette publisher John Foreman: a UI-Carle medical school is “a dream worth living.”

With everybody who is anybody apparently on board, what is there not to like? The University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) does not like the plan. It proposes “a competing vision” that would partner with UIUC to offer expanded engineering-centered doctor training through the existing UIC medical school, whereas Wise’s plan would create “conflicting, competing entities.” UIUC has bluntly said “no” to UIC’s alternative plan.

Provena Presence Hospital does not like still more competition from rather than cooperation with Carle, which it says is trying to “drive [it] out of business.” Last summer Carle wanted to add 48 medical/surgical beds, but Provena objected, arguing that the state itself had determined that there was already an excess of beds in the region. At first the state rejected Carle’s request, but after Carle lobbied, with help from the Chancellor’s office, it was approved.

Residents in Urbana do not like the fact that Carle’s property tax-exempt status, effective 2012, has resulted in plummeting city revenues and a 10 percent spike in 2013 individual property tax bills. Pushing back, Urbana-ites have formed Concerned Citizens of Urbana (CCU), which has created a website, organized community meetings, and dotted Urbana with lawn signs. As part of her meetings with area stakeholders, including Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, Chancellor Wise has raised the possibility that “there will be a ring of businesses associated with biotech” surrounding the new medical school. If so, Urbana wants the school sited in the city so as to receive any additional tax revenue.

Dr. Andrew Scheinman does not like the Chancellor’s office lobbying in favor of Carle’s bed expansion. An Urbana native, UIUC grad and local patent attorney, Scheinman has galvanized residents into action through CCU. He argues that it is unethical for UIUC to involve itself in Carle’s bed expansion, and that Carle supplied talking points to and paid the Chancellor’s office to lobby on its behalf. He has filed complaints alleging unethical conduct with the University Ethics Officer plus Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office.

Carle enjoys a reputation as a center for medical research, although not everyone agrees. In 2009, Carle’s Leonard fired then-recently-hired Vice President for Research Dr. Suzanne Stratton, who had accused a Carle cancer researcher of systematic ethical violations in a story that made the New York Times. Wise herself has published research in medicine that has been called into question. Numerous stories have appeared in, among other places, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Retraction Watch, and Electronic Intifada, that report on Wise’s “self-plagiarism,” the practice of publishing research results more than once. On a number of occasions between 1990 and 2006, Wise allegedly republished entirely, or in only very slightly altered form, previously published work. In at least one instance, she admitted as much. “The author wishes to correct a number of serious errors in the writing of her [Neuroscience 2006] publication,… the paper is written in a way that misleads the readers to think that it is an original article. The author wishes to correct that impression with the following changes in the text of the published paper…” Such self-plagiarism can occur in all academic fields, given the pressure to “publish or perish.” It is especially pernicious, however, in fields such as medical research where an artificially inflated number of article citations could have real-life consequences for prescribing drugs, establishing medical procedures, and the like. Both the Stratton case and Wise’s self-plagiarism revolve around medical research ethics.

Wise retraction

“Super Surprising”

The other side of the coin of Wise lobbying for a medical school is her simultaneous campaign, along with President Robert Easter and the UI Board of Trustees (BOT), against appointing Professor Steven Salaita to a tenured position. The anti-Salaita people are literally falling over themselves to line up behind the Chancellor’s initiative, while pro-Salaita folks are either not involved, or not consulted. Moreover, Wise began pushing her proposal last spring around the time that the Provost, seconded by other high administration officials, refused to reappoint another faculty member, adjunct professor James Kilgore, whom they also anathematized. The same anti-Kilgore individuals then are anti-Salaita now. Having ratified Wise’s decision not to appoint Salaita at their September meeting, the BOT, in a surprise decision at their November meeting, voted to allow Kilgore to be reappointed. Clearly, the BOT is deeply divided. After four hours in executive session engaged in what they themselves termed a “robust debate that represented a wide range of divergent viewpoints,” they failed to reach a consensus. In fact, it is not too much to say that the BOT is in disarray, at war with itself. The implications for the Salaita affair are not lost, moreover, on Kilgore supporters. “In light of the recent abrogation of academic freedom in the de-hiring of Professor Stephen Salaita… this [paving the way for rehiring Kilgore] is a very small step forward… We must continue to back his [Salaita’s] cause.”

Wise is at the center of both the Salaita affair and the medical school plan. Clearly, she sees the medical school as her signature achievement. Wise appears caught off-guard by continued faculty and student opposition over Salaita that has forced her into damage control mode. Certainly, BOT Chair Chris Kennedy was caught off-guard, saying that the response the university had received was “super surprising.” Were the reputation of Wise – not to mention that of the university – continue to suffer due to the ongoing Salaita affair, then her standing to lead the medical school plan would suffer by association.

Lifting All Boats, Or A Tub Sitting On Its Bottom?

The more we learn about the medical school proposal and how Wise is handling it, the more questions arise. Where does working for the common good leave off, and conflict of interest begin? When she was University of Washington provost, Wise was criticized for simultaneously sitting on the Nike board. Now at UIUC, and still on the Nike board, she was paid $290,000 in 2013 alone. Since the beginning of 2014 she also sits on the Busey Corporation board. She leads simultaneously the aforementioned Economic Development Advisory Group that also includes the Busey Corporation board chair, which appears to be a conflict of interest. Wise gave a keynote at a Republican Congressman Rodney Davis event held last July in the midst of his 2014 reelection campaign. Governor-elect Bruce Rauner has named her to his transition team. The machers, big shots, make out, and seem fine with it. Their politics and worldview nestle with their agendas like Russian dolls.

Rodney Davis

How did we get here? The short answer is short. It is all about the neo-liberal corporatization of UIUC at a time when state budget support has fallen to an execrable 12 percent. It is all about a corporation selling health as part of the American for-profit healthcare system in the era of Obamacare.

These are national issues, reproduced locally. And locally, the Champaign/Urbana elite, like all-too-many others elsewhere at other times, acts as though what is best for them is best for everyone. They do not notice, or do not care, that their socioeconomic calculus leaves out somewhere between Mitt Romney’s 47 and Occupy’s 99 percent of the population. However you calculate it, this amounts to a disproportionately high number of the lower classes, women, and minorities.

This is not new. The history of American philanthropy is the history of trickle-down, paternalistic largesse. An online comment in the News-Gazette gets it right. “There is a consistent push by the ‘movers and shakers’ in C-U’s economic development plans that local residents and particularly those that are mid-to-low incomes [sic] can,… for the foreseeable future, well,….uh,…just leave, and make way for out-of-town people who are wealthier. Thanks. Here is a map to Rantoul or Tolono if you need re-locating options.” In contrast to UI-Chicago’s larger, more inclusive medical school student body, UIUC’s would be smaller, and tuition would cost at least 20 percent more. The October 2014 business plan projects annual tuition at Urbana ranging from $45,000 for in-state students (UIC $35,442), to $60,000 for out-of-state residents (UIC $72,442), and $75,000 for international students (plus $9,000 in fees). The new college of medicine dean would make $500,000, top administrators between $100,000 and $250,000, and 75 new faculty between $140,000 and $270,000, not to mention 40 to 50 new Carle physicians.

Carle is largely tax-exempt, largely because of their “contribution” – read: “lobbying” –rewriting the 2012 state law concerning charity contributions. Yet they cannot cough up from their $1.8 billion in assets a voluntary “charitable contribution” to Urbana, otherwise known as payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT). Instead of making up anything close to the $5.8 million Urbana lost in 2013 tax revenue, Carle has voluntarily cut checks for $100,800, based on their own calculation of their fire and police costs.

Locally, it is mostly Republicans who stand to profit from the medical school project, but these are not Democratic vs. Republican, or even conservative vs. liberal issues. Look at Barack Obama, his former chief of staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former Chicago schools chief and current Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and their neo-liberal ilk. In this country in 2014 it is “radical” to be a post-1945 European social democrat. “Radical,” not radical, because in the late 1940s Europeans creating single-payer health-care systems and the rest of the then-new welfare state were not radicals, but liberals. Similarly, European universities charge students even today a fraction of what both public, as well as private, U.S. colleges do. The difference between then and now is a measure of how much we have eviscerated the state, and undermined its legitimacy in pursuit of the chimera of the “job creator,” “free market.”

Are there other ways of doing business? Of running a university? Of course. And they are not theoretical, but empirically tried-and-true ones. For the last 65 years, European and Canadian social democracies have been delivering, despite scattered objections and cutbacks, the overwhelmingly popular social goods of single-payer health insurance, and largely state-subsidized university education.

November 14

This is the first of two articles.

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David Prochaska formerly taught colonialism and visual culture in the UI History department

 

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