ICE Regulations Update, Things That Make You Go Hmmm… and More!

Dear Members,
The past week has seen minor victories and increased solidarity across our union. We have some updates on recent events, as well as upcoming meetings and a couple (brief) requests for member feedback. Read this email to find out more!

ICE Regulations Update

As we mentioned in last week’s newsletter, GSU stands in solidarity with all international students affected by ICE’s recent change in regulations, a shock to many members of our union and university community. While UChicago did eventually join in writing an amicus brief alongside Harvard and MIT’s lawsuit and the US government rescinded ICE’s order, the changes of the past week and half reveal how UChicago does not take student voices into account, often leaving them in difficult and precarious positions. We can see this with their stonewalling of our union, their lack of transparency about plans to reopen the university in the fall, and the lack of input from grad workers about fall plans. These decisions affect the health and safety of everyone at this university and in the surrounding community, and graduate workers–the people whose labor makes this university possible–need to have a say in the matter.

CARES Act Funds Survey 

As we reported previously, the University was awarded $6.2 million by the Department of Education as part of the Federal CARES Act, and decided to accept the funds and dedicate the entire amount to student aid. Even with that enormous amount of funding, students reported that they weren’t determined to be eligible, or that their application was denied. In fact, we learned that the university administration not only established eligibility criteria narrower than those stipulated by the CARES Act, but also pre-selected and contacted those they decided to be eligible, leaving many graduate students out of this process altogether. When members raised questions about this, they were turned back and forth between different administrators, to be eventually provided with insufficient answers and silenced. We will not allow that. 

We want to know how this policy’s limitations and lack of transparency has affected members, and especially assess our members’ experiences regarding the funds and application process. 

Please help us do this by filling out the brief survey here. Many thanks to those of you that have already filled it out!

TBT: GSU Disaffiliation Featured in the Hyde Park Herald

Shouts-out to Christian Belanger for his in-depth write-up about our vote to disaffiliate from AFT and strategy moving forward in the June 29th Hyde Park Herald. The article has a great overview of the history of grad worker organizing at private universities, the legal and material struggles that have led to this moment, and GSU members’ visions for what our union could become. If you’re out of the loop and are looking for a good rundown of where GSU is at, this article is a great place to start!

GSU Culture Survey 

As part of our reflection and self-evaluation of our newly independent union, we are looking into gathering feedback from members on various issues, including GSU culture. There are many exciting ways to get involved, but one, short, and very helpful one would be to fill out the anonymous short survey our dedicated working group prepared about GSU’s culture. It doesn’t matter how long or how deeply you have been involved! We want to gather as much feedback as possible in order to prioritize setting norms and values for work, creating structures of accountability. By filling out the survey, you will contribute to making GSU more equitable and inclusive, so we really value your participation. Thank you! 

Things that make you go hmm? Provost call leads to more questions than answers

Earlier this week, on July 14th, UChicago’s provost held a zoom call with the Covid-19 Student Advisory Board, consisting of Grad Council co-presidents and other students. This call highlighted the ongoing need for graduate worker input on Fall reopening plans, the same input that is often not taken into account. 

While there has been an outline for how the university will handle scheduling, with moving to a hybrid plan to the fall, labs and libraries are already open. Workers in those settings have a variety of safety concerns, but are left with uncertainty and a lack of guidance. Similarly, with the sudden shift online last Spring, many workers–both Masters and PhD–lost their work-study jobs. Does the university have a plan to somehow make more remote work or come up with other positions to intentionally make sure that students are able to access the financial support that they need to continue doing the research and education that makes this university possible? 

These questions are all left unanswered. What we need are fewer zoom calls and more deliberate actions taken by the university administration–things that could happen if they just recognized their workers as workers and were willing to bargain with GSU. If you want to help make that happen, here are some ways to get more involved:

Upcoming Events:
Happy Hour: Every Friday at 6:00PM
GSU is hosting a weekly Happy Hour/Solidarity Hour where you can come hang out and chat with your fellow union members, play some games, and talk with members of other grad unions around the nation! Email us for more information and join the weekly Zoom call.Meeting ID: 825 3495 0856Password: 7cWMiY

Steering Committee: Every Tuesday at 6:00PM
Steering Committee is where GSU’s “big-picture” work gets done, including work around GSU’s direction post-disaffiliation, grievances, and more. Currently Steering is working on recruiting new committee members and streamlining its operations, so much of the work Steering has been doing with regard to the shape of a newly independent GSU will be taken up this week in other committees. However, Steering is the place to come if you want to figure out how to get involved! This work is incredibly important, and there is something for everyone at any level of time commitment (synchronous and asynchronous work available!). Current projects include revising our constitution, communications and design, making GSU a more inclusive environment, and worker organizing (including member outreach, mutual aid, political education, and direct actions)! Please feel free to reach out and join the weekly Zoom call:Meeting ID: 542 212 576Password: 816543

Stewards Council/Organizing Committee: Every Monday at 6:00PM
Interested in getting involved in charting GSU’s path forward as an independent union? Stewards/OC is going to be using our regularly scheduled meeting this coming Monday to hold a Working Groups session where we will consider the future of GSU via small group discussion (topics TBD). We really want to see a lot of union members (not just stewards and DOs!) show up for this, so please try to make it out! Going forward this summer Stewards/OC will be alternating between our normal meeting and Working Group sessions, so if you can’t make it this Monday, we look forward to seeing you sometime later this summer!
Please reach out to Lilly Judge (lillianjudge1@gmail.com) if you have any questions or suggestions for Working Group topics in the future. Zoom link here.Meeting ID: 853 8180 0548Password: 658126

FORCe (Funding Overhaul Research Committee): Every Wednesday at 6:00PM
This summer, FORCe is focused on preparing for the fight against the coming austerity from COVID-19 budget cuts. This incredibly important work includes building organizing capacity around the university, brainstorming around potential future actions, working with other workers organizing on campus, and more! To get involved with FORCe or find out more, join the Zoom call here.Meeting ID: 602 861 460Password: 511950

Mutual Aid Committee: Currently deciding on a new time! Email gsu.mutualaid@gmail.com to get the Doodle poll link!
Our Mutual Aid Committee is one of our newest committees, which focuses on building membership and community solidarity through mutual aid. We are currently working on how to build solidarity with local organizations, identifying and compiling local mutual aid networks for members to get involved with, and providing information about the ongoing protests. Join the Zoom call here.Meeting ID: 821 1403 2598Password: 410160

Communications Committee: Every Tuesday at 2:00PM
The Communications Committee focuses on communicating with our members and the wider public about our organizing work and the issues facing grad workers and other university employees at UChicago and around the country and world. We are responsible for GSU’s social media presence, newsletter, and media representation. To get involved email us or join the Zoom call here.