Victory and Follow-Up Organizing in the Student Services Fee Campaign

Celebrations are in order this week for GSU members and PhD students across the University: as announced by University administrators on January 25, starting in Autumn 2022 grads in Humanities, Social Sciences, Crown, and Divinity will join their counterparts in Physical and Biological Sciences in having Student Services Fees covered as part of their funding packages. This victory in our SSF Refusal Campaign is, without a doubt, the result of our union’s diligent organizing and collective activity. 

If you had any part in supporting this campaign, make sure to give yourself a pat on the back: you just won what amounts to a significant raise (about 4%, plus a cost-of-living increase) for doctoral students next year. We have achieved one of this campaign’s major original goals: reducing the material burden that the SSF represents for graduate workers. 

As usual, the University has refused to acknowledge GSU’s role in forcing the administration to do the right thing, instead formulating the victory as the result of their own generosity and value for graduate education. But we know that GSU has actually been advocating for the elimination of this fee since 2014, and that this change in policy would have happened much sooner if the administration was compelled by collective bargaining to actually respond to the needs of its graduate workers. 

For this reason, we continue to organize. While the administration has made a major concession, GSU members still owe over $100,000 to the University as a result of withholding payment over the last year, and this campaign has uncovered major issues in transparency relating to financial policies and the Bursar’s office. Our union is governed democratically, and our next steps moving forward in this campaign rely on deliberations among our members, to be voted on at the next General Members Meeting, to determine the best strategy for future organizing. Please stay in touch with your Departmental Organizers to discuss the status of the campaign or reach out to us at graduatestudentsunited@gmail.com with any questions. 

Care and Accountability Committee Seeks New Member

The Care and Accountability Committee (CAC) is seeking a new member to take up a position on the committee for the next two to three quarters. CAC was formed to address conflicts that often arise in principled organizing work in a way that promotes healing, understanding, and accountability in our union and minimizes harm. We provide spaces for informal personal check-ins, confidential conversations and mediated meetings, and we aim to work collaboratively to address systemic issues within the union. As a new member, you can help us do this important work, build our capacity as a committee, and envision new ways forward. You can check out this one-pager describing CAC in a little more detail. If you’d like to learn more, email us at care.gsu@gmail.com. You can anonymously nominate yourself or a colleague for this position here

Re-Upping our Fall Statement on Violence and Campus Safety

UChicago and Hyde Park community members are, sadly, again reacting to and grieving the impact of violence in our neighborhoods as a result of the UCPD shooting last week. As debates on the meaning of security and safety continue, and as our allies in Care Not Cops work toward a vision of community safety that rejects white supremacist logics of violence and incarceration such as the University’s reliance on increased surveillance and private policing throughout Hyde Park, we would like to remind members of our statement on violence and campus safety from last fall. As always, GSU resources and spaces are available for graduate workers who wish to create initiatives around collective mourning or community-based safety; don’t hesitate to reach out to graduatestudentsunited@gmail.com

Resources Regarding the Return to In-Person Instruction

This week saw the return to in-person instruction on UChicago’s campus after two weeks of remote learning. While reactions to this change were understandably mixed among different populations of students and workers at the University, the conversation at last week’s GMM made clear that the administration needs to do more to protect its students and workers. In one egregious example, the University only agreed to distribute free surgical masks after it was already one-upped by the Undergraduate Student Government, which utilized its own funds to provide N95 masks to students. 

As we have since the beginning of the pandemic, we continue to advocate for flexibility in deadlines and expectations, the ability for instructors and students to choose their mode of instruction, sick leave for those who become ill or have to quarantine as a result of COVID exposure, improved disability accommodations, and more support for graduate student parents. Do not hesitate to reach out for help advocating for yourself if you are struggling as a result of COVID or the return to in-person instruction. 

In the meantime, we would like to share these resources compiled by the UChicago Labor Council for those seeking accommodations and this remote advocacy toolkit compiled by Crown students disability advocates organizing for virtual learning. Please be in touch with any questions or to learn more. 

Hardship Fund

Our Hardship Fund is more important now than ever as we assess how best to move forward in addressing the outstanding debts that GSU members owe due to their participation in the SSF Refusal Campaign. Donations to this fund will help support and protect members as we continue to face possible retaliation from administrators. 

We are now accepting donations! If you have some money to spare to help your fellow union members, we would deeply appreciate your contribution. Otherwise, be sure to share the link to the fund on social media and distribute to your networks. Any remaining funds not distributed as part of our SSF Refusal Campaign will be used to provide emergency aid to graduate workers experiencing financial hardship.

Get Involved with GSU this Quarter

GSU has a number of ways to get involved, from organizing to committee work! All meetings are open to all members. Below you can find the new Winter Quarter meetings and times for our regular committee meetings, but also feel free to get in touch with one of your department’s organizers or email graduatestudentsunited@gmail.com if you are interested in work at the departmental or divisional level. To receive Zoom links and updates for the meetings below, email us to join the Departmental Organizer listserv. 

  • Mutual Aid Committee – Mondays at 12pm
  • Steering Committee – Mondays at 5pm (new time)
  • Communications Committee – Wednesdays at 2pm
  • Anti-Racism Working Group – Wednesdays at 4pm
  • Department Organizer Training – Biweekly Wednesdays at 5pm (register here!)
  • Organizing Committee – Thursdays at 12pm
  • Worker Action Committee – Meeting on an as-needed basis