My name is Caroline Heller, and I am a fourth-year doctoral student in English Language and Literature. I support Graduate Students United (GSU) because with a union I’ll have a seat at the table when decisions are made that affect my life, including where I live.
When I started at the University of Chicago in 2014, one factor that shaped my decision was the availability of affordable graduate student housing with dog-friendly options – a huge relief in my cross-country move.
This relief didn’t last long.
In October 2015, the university sold my apartment building and eighteen other graduate student and faculty properties to Pioneer Acquisitions, LLC. I was eventually forced out of my home because I couldn’t pay the additional $400 a month that Pioneer was demanding. The hours I spent searching in vain for an affordable, dog-friendly place interfered with my studies and caused me considerable mental stress and anxiety.
The elimination of subsidized grad housing is deeply upsetting. Hyde Park has become unaffordable for graduate students because our wages haven’t kept up, forcing many to move to remote neighborhoods. The administration claims that it wants grads to live closer to campus to speed degree completion and facilitate access to university resources. If this were true, the university would not have sold these buildings to real estate speculators who want to convert the units to upscale housing. If the administration cared, it wouldn’t have sold thirteen more graduate student complexes to Pioneer last fall, which will almost certainly lead to further rent increases and a decrease in affordable options.
It’s clear to me that the administration doesn’t have our interests at heart on an issue that is so close to home. I’m glad that GSU does. That’s why I urge you to sign our public Vote YES petition and cast a ballot for our union on October 17-18.