Our Petition, Fair Tuition, Trustee Liaison Endorsement, and the Return of Things That Make You Go 🤔!

Solidarity with UChicago for Fair Tuition

Early this month, GSU circulated the UChicago for Fair Tuition petition for tuition relief in the midst of the current economic crisis. Now we’re excited to announce that our steering committee has voted to endorse their campaign.

The University of Chicago has enough money to support all those who work and study here. That includes funding doctoral students in this crisis, and providing tuition relief to undergrad and AM students, as well as cancelling the hefty fee charged to upper-year doctoral students known as “advanced residency tuition.” The Fair Tuition campaign has been clear that they will not accept tuition reduction at the expense of workers, including grad workers. Such trade-offs are not necessary—the money is there.

COVID Petition: One Member’s Testimonial

Last week we launched our new petition enumerating basic COVID-19-related demands for the University. The petition has already garnered a lot of response, including testimonials from grad workers whose research has been affected by the outbreak. Member Hilary Barker sent us the following:

I was five months into a fourteen-month archival research stint in Rome when I returned to the States in late February for a short visit with my family and found myself unable to return to Rome. My project is entirely formulated around archival work which may not be possible to resume for many months. I was lucky enough to be fully funded for the proposed research period by two external fellowships, one of which is now “on pause‚” and the other one is continuing but obviously contributing to my current at-home expenses rather than funding time in Rome. It’s a serious question when I’ll be able to resume onsite research and whether I will be able to stick to my planned schedule for completion as it will be difficult for me to write significant sections of the dissertation without the archival data from which to draw conclusions. Furthermore, because my trip home was scheduled before the lockdown in Italy began and I had thought I would be able to return, I left nearly all my possessions including books and research materials in an Airbnb there, which I am having to continue to pay for to ensure that the owner does not dispose of my things.

Many of us have been feeling increased work pressure as the pandemic has limited our access to labs, libraries, archives, and field sites—this is why our first demand is an extension of time to degree and funding for all grad student workers.

In the following weeks, we’ll continue to share members’ stories as we work collectively to advocate for COVID-19 relief measures. If you’ve been experiencing issues with your research or work, you can contact us at gsu@riseup.net with your story. Even if you don’t want to share your story publicly, our union is here to offer assistance. Recently our organizing efforts helped a member fight for—and win back—a teaching job that had been offered by the University and then unfairly revoked.

And if you haven’t already, read about the petition on our website and sign it here!

Get more involved!

GSU’s strength is in the work of members. And though we aren’t able to gather in person, that work still continues, in union committees and throughout departments. Cliche as it may sound, the need for organizing in the current may be greater than ever before. So we invite you (yes you, reading this!) to get more involved. This form from last week’s General Members Meeting offers a number of ways to plug in. Let’s come together across social distance to defend our rights as workers. Join in!

Vaughan Collins for Trustee Liaison

This week, the GSU Steering Committee voted to endorse Vaughan Collins’s candidacy for Graduate Liaison to the Board of Trustees. Vaughan is a first-year Masters student in the School of Social Service Administration and served on the Advisory Committee to the Office of the Dean of Students at their previous university. You can read Vaughan’s candidate statement here, and contact them directly here to share your concerns or comments.

The Graduate Liaison serves as a representative to the Board for grad workers, bringing our concerns and recommendations directly to the University Trustees. We’re excited to support Vaughan’s campaign, and to continue building coalitions across the university so that we can advocate for our members, even as we keep fighting for recognition.

Things That Make You Go 🤔

Tuesday morning, we got an email from the Provost that inspired us to dust off the “Things That Make You Go 🤔” feature of this newsletter. With three bullet points proclaiming the university’s financial support, there were only two direct links. One of those led to university web page which linked to other FAQs geared specifically to undergrads; another linked to emergency funding programs from the Bursar that max out at $3,000. Grad workers who might be facing greater expenses were referred to their deans of students—a suggestion that neatly ignores the difference in available resources between departments and divisions. Moreover, whatever the official policy, we’re getting reports that members are being denied assistance.

But the questions really started to flow in the latter part of the Provost’s message. In response to questions about why the admin claims to be unable to reduce tuition, she wrote that “the vast majority of the university’s endowment is legally restricted.” But “vast majority” is a vague term. On its own, the Impact and Inquiry campaign that ended in December raised $5.43 billion. Even if 90% of that were hopelessly restricted, it would leave $543 million. That covers our funding packages MANY times over. And might that be more in line with the mission of the university than, say, subsidizing a neighborhood luxury apartment building? It kind of makes you go 🤔