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May 14, 2018

Grad Students Push for Gun Violence Research On Campus

A gun violence research resolution presented by The Committee on Free Inquiry (CoFI) was unanimously passed during the Student Government (SG) Assembly on Monday.

CoFI—a group of 15 to 20 graduate students—has worked on gun violence prevention advocacy since this past fall quarter.

According to Kaitlin Ellis, a Pritzker student in CoFI, the group developed interest in doing research on gun violence around the time the new trauma center opened on campus on May 1. 

While conducting their research, CoFI learned of the Dickey and Tiahrt Amendments, which impose restrictions on funding and sharing data that trace a gun’s origin.

“[These amendments] created a culture in which [gun violence research] is looked down upon and is really hard to do,” Ellis said. “If you look at how much research has been done, there is not a lot compared to how much gun violence occurs in the United States every year.” 

Ellis added that, in her view, the amount of research currently conducted by the University and CoFI is minor compared to the amount of research dedicated to other public health issues.

Their resolution on gun violence research was first introduced during an SG assembly on April 23. Jason Castaneda, another Pritzker student in CoFI, commented that SG displayed a general consensus concerning their research, but it originally questioned the possibility of political backlash.

Castaneda discussed the issue of political backlash on Monday, saying that CoFI recently met with a UChicago Medicine expert on research funding who said that the risk of any federal funding cuts are low, because grants are typically awarded in rigorous, peer-reviewed processes.

He added that CoFI also discussed their proposal last week with Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser to former President Barack Obama and a current distinguished senior fellow at the Law School.

“We also met with Valerie Jarrett last week, to have her read this resolution and get advice on our advocacy campaign,” Castaneda said. “She was really supportive, and thinks the University would actually consider what we’re trying to do, as long as we have support from students and faculty.”

CoFI plans to meet with Michele Rasmussen, dean of students in the University, in the future to discuss involving University administration and faculty in order to gain the University’s support on gun violence research.

“We’re hoping to [include more faculty] perspectives, since we talked to students and Student Government,” Kavia Khosla, a Pritzker student in CoFI said. 

Ellis hoped to reach out to many faculty members for support, such as those who previously showed interest in gun violence research by signing a letter in 2013 following the shooting in Newtown, CT.

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