Support for International Students, CARES Act Survey, and More!

Support for International Students   

In the last few weeks, the Trump administration has announced a series of immigration restrictions affecting international academics. These include revoking the visas of many Chinese graduate and postdoctoral workers in STEM fields, and suspending the issuance of H1-B visas, which are often given to foreign faculty members, until the end of the year. In response, graduates in the Biological Sciences Division are circulating a letter of support asking the UChicago administration to publicly denounce these policies—as multiple other universities have done—and to provide tangible support, including town halls and legal representation, for those affected. You can read the full letter here and add your signature here

CARES ACT Survey

Last week in our newsletter, we raised our concerns about how the university is disbursing funds from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act’s established Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Specifically, we have been concerned about the accessibility of funds, since the university implemented an invitation-only process which leaves many graduate students ineligible due to conditions that the university added to the original criteria of the Act.    We are still in the process of assessing the extent to which these funds have been made available to graduate student workers, and how many otherwise eligible students could not apply due to the process and the conditions that the university designed. To help us in our assessment, please take a minute to fill out our short questionnaire!

Things That Make You Go 🤔

Last week, Humanities Dean Anne Robertson sent an email to the division, urging recipients to “reclaim our academic and cultural life” in the wake of recent events, specifically the outbreak of COVID-19 and uprisings in response to the murder of George Floyd. For many members of the community, Dean Robertson’s email, which eschewed the word “murder” when describing Floyd’s killing and referred to the philosopher Boethius’s thesis that happiness comes from within, came across as tone deaf, to say the least. A member in the music department replied, and shared her email exchange, and its effects in her department, with us:

“I wrote back to address three points: the insensitivity of language surrounding the murders of Black folks due to state-sanctioned policing, the unclear state of the university moving forward during the COVID pandemic, and the lack of engagement with the critical texts of Black radical feminists and disregard for the political oppression of peoples in our own time and space. The letter provoked self-reflection in the department with regards to the power dynamics we all face as graduate students. Faculty have responded with unease despite the solidarity and collectivity of the graduate students, showing the complicity to power in the unveiling truth. Graduate students in the department are now organizing response letters, mutual aid funds, fundraising infrastructures for Trans- and Non-binary Black led organizations, and above all community. Instead of finding the happiness from within, we are building a collective of support and care “in relation to.'”
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 find the Zoom link on your GSU newsletter!

Vision Committee: Every Tuesday at 6:00PM Open to all members, Vision Committee is our newest committee and is actively working on the shape of the newly independent GSU. This work is incredibly important, and there is something for everyone on any time scale (synchronous and asynchronous work available!). Current projects include revising our constitution, worker organizing (member outreach, mutual aid, political education, direct actions), communications and design, and making GSU a more inclusive environment! Please feel free to reach out and find the Zoom link in your GSU newsletter.

Stewards Council/Organizing Committee: Every  Monday at 6:00PM This is a place where organizers can hear from each other and strategize going forward.  If you are interested in becoming a steward, either email us or find the Zoom link in your GSU newsletter.

FORCe (Funding Overhaul Research Committee): Every Wednesday at 6:00PM We are currently deciding what kind of actions we want to take over the summer and what we want next Fall to look like. To get involved with FORCe please email us or find the Zoom link in your GSU newsletter.

Mutual Aid Committee: Every Thursday at 5:30PM Our Mutual Aid Committee is one of our newest committees, which focuses on building membership and community solidarity through mutual aid. If you are interested in getting more information please email us or find the Zoom link in your GSU newsletter.

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 find the Zoom link in your GSU newsletter.

Stay Tuned for Summer GMMs! As we continue to determine how an independent GSU will move forward, we are also planning several summer GMMs to hear more about what members want for and out of GSU. The first one should be happening in a few weeks, so continue to watch this space and our social media for more details! 

GMM Next Week, COVID Petition Updates, Zoom Backgrounds, and More!

COVID-19: Petition Delivery, Member Testimonial, and New Zoom Backgrounds

Since the beginning of the quarter, we’ve been circulating a petition with a list COVID-19-related demands for the University. Along with signing, members have been sharing their stories of how the outbreak and the University’s lack of response have impacted them. A few weeks ago, we heard from a member whose research in Rome has been indefinitely interrupted. But even for those of us who haven’t been cut off from access to our research sites, the changes in daily life brought about by lockdown have had drastic effects on our ability to work, as a member in the Divinity School who is also a parent attests:

My partner and I have two children. One is six years old and currently doing schoolwork from home. The other is three (enough said for people in the know). My partner works for the public school system and is adjusting to working from home. I teach online. Though we are incredibly fortunate in a number of ways, the changes in rhythm brought about by this virus—coupled with a number of other priorities/values, such as preparing healthy meals, getting some exercise every now and then, not sitting our kids in front of the TV for hours on end (especially given that the 6yo’s homework is on the computer), having some time at the end of every day for relaxation when the kids are in bed, getting enough sleep, etc.—have caused my dissertation research and writing to take a back seat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still working whenever I can. It’s that the “whenever I can” has shrunk quite a bit, so things are going slowly.

Tomorrow, Friday, May 15, we will be (electronically) delivering our petition to the admin. While the petition will remain active online after tomorrow, we want to have as many signatures as possible before we deliver it—so if you haven’t yet, take a look and add your name today! If you’ve signed, take a moment to urge your friends and colleagues to do so.

We’ve also created two GSU-themed Zoom backgrounds, and we’re asking members to start using them on Friday, to coincide with the delivery of our petition. You can download the image files here.

GMM Next Wednesday

Last quarter we announced that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) would be changing the structure of their support for us beginning July 1, and we formed several committees to research our options going forward. Next Wednesday, May 20, we will be holding a special GMM to discuss a referendum on the future of our affiliation with AFT. Please join us for this important meeting—we want all our members to have a voice in what our union looks like moving forward!

For Zoom info, check the latest GSU email newsletter. Otherwise, contact your Departmental Organizer or email us at gsu@riseup.net

Georgetown Contract

Enormous congratulations are in order for our graduate worker colleagues at Georgetown University, who ratified their first union contract with university administration last week! The over 1,000 workers in the Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees (GAGE) won average annual stipend and cost-of-living increases of $5,000, guaranteed six weeks of paid medical leave for all Ph.D. workers, an emergency assistance fund for graduate workers, dental coverage under their insurance plan, and the establishment of a joint committee to deal with sexual harassment claims outside of Title IX.

Their hard-won success after a year and a half of bargaining is an inspiration for graduate workers everywhere fighting for better conditions in our workplaces.

More Payroll Errors

At the beginning of this quarter, multiple members reported problems that they were experiencing with payroll. Some experienced miscategorization of their payments, resulting in significantly higher tax withholdings, while others had missing paychecks altogether. Unfortunately, we’ve recently heard from members that such errors have been an ongoing issue over the past several weeks.

Almost a year ago, then-Provost Diermeier claimed that the administration was proactively addressing issues of late and inaccurate pay. But it’s evident that these egregious errors continue to happen. With a union contract, we could file grievances over pay errors. Maybe then they’d prioritize paying graduate workers on time and accurately.

Please check your expected payments closely for accuracy, and be sure to be in touch with your steward or DO or contact us at gsu@riseup.net if you find a problem.

Upcoming Events: Happy Hour and Mutual Aid Open House

GSU Happy Hour

Looking to connect and relax with your union colleagues while social distancing? We’ll be hosting weekly virtual happy hours every Friday at 6pm for the foreseeable future. There will be a series of break out rooms where you can chat with other members or play games such as Drawful or Quiplash. Join us!

For Zoom info, check the latest GSU email newsletter. Otherwise, contact your Departmental Organizer or email us at gsu@riseup.net

Mutual Aid Open House

In this moment of crisis, precarity, overwork, and deep, deep uncertainty, it is crucial to build practices of solidarity and care in our community. The GSU Mutual Aid Committee is hosting another Zoom Open House next Thursday, May 21, at 5:30pm. At this event, members of the committee will briefly introduce the history and basics of mutual aid, present on what they believe are the immediate needs of GSU members (gleaned from our last two member surveys and their experiences) and will facilitate break-out groups to start coordinating mutual aid actions. These actions can include peer mental health support, Covid support-check-ins, grocery deliveries, childcare support, peer support and peer mentoring, food delivery and food solidarity actions, mutual aid relief funds, and many, many more.

If you have felt alone and would like some support, please attend and tell us about what you need and we will do what we can to get it to you. You are not alone. If you have felt restless and have been looking for concrete ways to get involved in helping others in our community, please attend and join us!

Join us on the call next Thursday (look for the Zoom details in next week’s newsletter), and write to us at gsu@riseup.net to find out more and get involved!

Mutual Aid Open House TONIGHT, New Interim Co-President of Grievances, and More!

Mutual Aid Open House

The GSU Mutual Aid Committee’s Zoom Open House is today, May 7th, at 5:30pm. At this event, members of the committee will briefly introduce the history and basics of mutual aid, present on what they believe are the immediate needs of GSU members (gleaned from our last two member surveys and their experiences) and will facilitate break-out groups to start coordinating mutual aid actions. These actions can include peer mental health support, Covid support-check-ins, grocery deliveries, childcare support, peer support and peer mentoring, food delivery and food solidarity actions, mutual aid relief funds, and many, many more.

In this moment of crisis, precarity, overwork, and deep, deep uncertainty, it is crucial to build practices of solidarity and care in our community. If you have felt alone and would like some support, please attend and tell us about what you need and we will do what we can to get it to you. If you have felt restless and have been looking for concrete ways to get involved in helping others in our community, please attend and join us!

Join us on the call tonight, and write to us at gsu@riseup.net to find out more and get involved!

Zoom Info:

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Meeting ID: 852 1790 0932
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New Interim Co-President for Grievances

We’re pleased to announce that the steering committee has appointed an interim President for Grievances, Kit Ginzky from SSA! Many thanks to Kit for taking on this critical position in our union leadership. There are still some officer positions that need to be filled after our recent election—please write to gsu@riseup.net if you’d be interested in serving as Communications Secretary, Biological Sciences Division (BSD) Representative, Physical Sciences Division (PSD) Representative, or Divinity School Representative.

Provost’s Email about Reopening Research

Earlier this week, Provost Ka Yee Lee emailed the University community to discuss the resumption of research on campus, despite the extension of the governor’s stay-at-home order until May 30. The Provost has convened a faculty committee to guide the reopening of on-campus research, which should begin happening by mid-May.

Though the email emphasizes that this reopening is meant to be done by implementing safety protocols, we know from experience and our bargaining survey that the potential for safety violations is significant, and that graduate workers have limited recourse when exposed to unsafe working conditions. If you’re a graduate worker involved in on-campus research, you may be asked to return to campus in the coming weeks. Please contact us at gsu@riseup.net if you have concerns about this process, encounter any disregard for your safety, or would like to make your experience heard.

Things That Make You Go 🤔

By now, many of us have probably seen UChicago Professor of Sociology Kimberly Hoang’s op-ed in the Maroon, “Preparing for the Academic Job Market in an Economic Recession.” While it doesn’t explicitly mention unions, the piece uses the same rhetoric that we often find in more blatantly anti-union communications from the admin. After suggesting that grad students think about shifting their research to COVID-related topics and reminding us—especially, for some reason, those of us from working-class backgrounds—that rejection is common in academia, Prof. Hoang ends by urging that we recognize our extraordinary privilege in making more than our colleagues at UIC. We could devote this entire newsletter to pointing out the issues with Prof. Hoang’s advice, but instead we’ll let Dr. Karen Kelsky, author of The Professor Is In book and blog, have that honor.

Funding overhaul petition, COVID-19 relief campaign in the news, and Mutual Aid Open House

Sign the Funding Overhaul Petition Today!

Last year, on May 1, 2019, GSU members joined with nurses, library staff, administrative and custodial workers, and other members of the UChicago Labor Council to stage a march and rally in the quad in honor of International Workers Day. This year, the pandemic and social distancing measures have made such actions impossible—but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to advocate for our rights as grad workers. On Friday, May 1, 2020, we have submitted an online version of our funding overhaul petition to the Provost’s office (Note: you can still sign this petition after 5/1).

GSU in the News!

On campus and nationally, GSU’s organizing is earning media attention. Late last week, the Chicago Maroon reported on our calls for relief during the current crisis, as research is halted, teaching and parenting work increases, and we all deal with the anxiety and stress—and for some of us, grief and loss—of a global pandemic.

That was followed by an article this week in Vox. While focused largely on campaigns for tuition relief (including here at UChicago), this piece also highlighted GSU’s calls for extended funding and deadline flexibility. A GSU representative particularly pointed to the impact on grad workers supporting families, as well as international students facing costs and uncertainty around visas.

Both articles centered on the demands in our Covid-19 relief petition, which you can sign today, and share with colleagues! It’s easy to find at http://bit.ly/GSUcovid.

Mutual Aid Open House

In this moment of crisis, precarity, overwork, and deep, deep uncertainty, it is crucial to build practices of solidarity and care in our community. To this end, the GSU Mutual Aid Committee is hosting a Zoom Open House next Thursday, May 7th, at 5:30pm. At this event, members of the committee will briefly introduce the history and basics of mutual aid, present on what they believe are the immediate needs of GSU members (gleaned from our last two member surveys and their experiences) and will facilitate break-out groups to start coordinating mutual aid actions. These actions can include mental health support, Covid support-check-ins, grocery deliveries, childcare support, peer support and peer mentoring, food delivery and food solidarity actions, mutual aid relief funds, and many, many more.

If you have felt alone and would like some support, please attend and tell us about what you need and we will do what we can to get it to you. You are not alone. If you have felt restless and have been looking for concrete ways to get involved in helping others in our community, please attend and join us!

Join us on the call next Thursday, and write to us at gsu@riseup.net to find out more and get involved!

Zoom Info:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85217900932

Meeting ID: 852 1790 0932

One tap mobile
+19292056099,,85217900932# US (New York)
+13017158592,,85217900932# US (Germantown)

Dial by your location
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
      +1 301 715 8592 US (Germantown)
      +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
      +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
      +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
      +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)

Meeting ID: 852 1790 0932
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kbbWSgzWyf

Special Update: Sign the Funding Overhaul Petition This Week!

As our members said in a recent Maroon interview, COVID-19 could not have come at a worse time for the university and its workers. The University’s unilateral overhaul of the funding structures of the Divinity School, Humanities Division, Social Sciences Division, and School of Social Services Administration, announced suddenly and without any faculty input last October, has brought discussion of enrollment caps and reduced teaching experience to departments in these divisions. These enrollment caps mean that advanced-year graduate students, particularly those who began before 2016 and can’t depend on funding next year, are under threat of being forced out by defending early or are now being encouraged to drop out by their departments as “attrition targets.” In some affected departments, the enrollment caps being discussed might mean cutting the graduate student numbers by a third. This austerity will mean a radical and deeply harmful restructuring of research work at the university away from deep, methodologically varied, and challenging research projects, to only those kinds of graduate students and research projects that are “safe bets.” Given the racial and class hierarchies structuring higher education and graduate admissions, we know well who this will exclude.

Faculty have spoken out against the funding overhaul and how its rollout demonstrates a deep threat to faculty governance at the University. Last week we asked you to sign our petition concerning COVID-19 relief measures from the University. Today, we are following up with an electronic version of our funding overhaul petition demanding clarification and democratic accountability from the governing bodies of the University. We will be contacting the Provost’s office around these issues late this week so be sure to sign as soon as possible. And if you already signed the original paper version of the petition during Winter Quarter, don’t worry—your name has been added to the electronic copy already!

We want to work with the incoming Provost Ka Yee Lee to understand exactly what this funding overhaul entails, especially in this moment of crisis. We want to have input in the decisions that define our conditions of work and research, and we want to protect our most vulnerable members. Please sign and circulate this petition, and reach out to your Department Organizer or reply to this email to get involved!

Election Results, SARS-CoV-2 Mutual Aid Resources, and More

SARS-CoV-2 Mutual Aid Resources

Over the next few weeks, many of us will be spending unprecedented amounts of time at home, as we follow CDC and WHO guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19. This is a stressful time for all of us, but in particular for members of our community who are immunocompromised, who live or spend time with elderly family members, who are missing paychecks or housing insecure, who rely on public transportation to access resources like grocery stores, and others. Fortunately, people in the UChicago community and across the country have been organizing online to create mutual aid networks. If you need assistance with accessing things like groceries, medications, and other necessities, we have collected a number of links to these resources on our website—you can find them here. Likewise, if you are wondering how you can help while sitting at home for the next two weeks, you can donate or volunteer to help with aid collection and distribution. Not in the Chicago area at the moment? Don’t worry—we’ve also got links to national resources. We’ll also be reaching out to members via text over the next couple of weeks, and you can always contact us at gsu@riseup.net if you have questions or need assistance.

UCLC Letter

GSU is a proud member of the UChicago Labor Council, alongside unions of nurses, non-tenure-track faculty, cleaning, maintenance, administrative, library, and other workers across the university and Medical Center. Yesterday the Council released this letter to the administration with a number of demands to ensure the protections of workers, students, and community members amidst the COVID-19 response, and we invite our members to sign on.

Student Services Fee

We’ve been receiving news over the last week regarding the extent that closings and emergency measures due to coronavirus will disrupt campus life. It’s not surprising that the University libraries, recreational facilities like Ratner and Henry Crown, and other elements of student life will be largely shutting down. This is absolutely necessary to reduce the spread of the virus and protect workers and community members from exposure.

However, we’ve also received repeated reminders that most of us are still expected to pay the Student Services Fee (formerly known as the Student Life Fee). Only those living over 50 miles away from campus will be able to apply to have the fee waived. That fee totals $416 per person for this quarter.

At a time like this, when most of the things that the fee funds are shutting down and many graduate workers and their families are facing lost income due to the virus, those hundreds of dollars can make a huge difference. With most campus facilities closed, we are essentially paying the fee only to fund the Student Health Center—on top of our insurance premiums, which already cost $1,522 per quarter.

The letter above from the UChicago Labor Council demands that the administration not assess the Student Services Fee when student services are being drastically curtailed, and also that it ensure that Student Health and Counseling Services do not turn anyone away during this emergency due to inability to afford such fees. Be sure to sign on!

GSU Election Results

Earlier this week, GSU held elections for a number of positions on the Steering and Stewards Committee. Thanks to everyone who voted! Here are the results of the elections:

Steering

  • Co-President (Bargaining): Mike van der Naald
  • General Secretary: Will Kong
  • Divisional Rep (Humanities): Lex Ladge
  • Divisional Rep (SSA): Tadeo Weiner-Davis

Stewards

  • Anthropology: Abhishek Bhattacharyya, Yukun Zeng
  • Art History: Lex Ladge
  • Astronomy: Nora Shipp
  • CompSci: Will Kong
  • EALC: Yueling Ji
  • English: Michael Stablein
  • German: Davd Kretz
  • History: Laura Cremer, Corbin Page, Alyssa Smith
  • Math: Josh Mundiger
  • Music: James Skretta
  • Philosophy: Stephen Cunniff
  • PoliSci: Lilly Judge
  • Psychology: Ben Morris
  • SALC: Zoe High
  • Sociology: Rishi Arora
  • SSA: Emily Ellis, Kit Gindler, Durrell Washington

WOW, THERE’S A LOT HAPPENING. WE NEED EACH OTHER MORE THAN EVER.

Election Nomination Extension

Over the past few weeks the GSU Elections Committee has been accepting nominations for governing positions. The elections committee will be extending the nomination period for Steering Committee and Stewards Council until Saturday, March 14 at noon for self-nominations only. Are you looking to get more involved in our union? Consider running to represent your department as a Steward or your Division as a Divisional Representative! Ready to take on more of a leadership role? Why not run for Co-President? If you’d like to nominate yourself for a position, you can find more information on the nomination form or email gsu.elections.team@gmail.com.

Get Out the Vote

Remember to vote in the Illinois primary next Tuesday, March 17th! The primary will select candidates for President, Congressional Representative, States Attorney, and other offices.

You can find more information on registration (as well as information for voting in other state primaries) here: https://www.uchivotes.com/

Find your polling location here: Chicago Elections: Polling Locations

You can vote early now through March 16th at the locations and hours listed here: Chicago Elections: Early Voting

You can also apply to vote by mail until Thursday, March 12th (that’s today!) at 5pm: Chicago Elections: Vote by Mail

Coronavirus Updates

Tuesday, the Provost announced the cancellation of study-abroad programs as a measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Then last night, the Chicago Maroon published the news that all undergraduate and graduate classes will be conducted via remote (i.e., online) learning for the Spring Quarter. Official word arrived to the campus community this morning via a mass email from the University President. Despite the obvious impact to our work, we as grad workers–along with faculty and staff) were left in the dark until the last minute.

To be clear, we support social distancing for public health. We are concerned for the health of our community, and particularly those who are immuno-compromised or otherwise at risk.

We also have major questions about this news. How will it impact our work? Our financial security? Our progress in programs that have become significantly harsher around time to completion over the past year? And there are even more questions about how this impacts our students, our co-workers, and so many others. Although the President’s email made clear that “students will continue to receive financial aid and stipends,” some details are still uncertain. Will those of us who were meant to teach or TA study abroad courses receive the pay they were planning on? How about those with on-campus jobs that cannot be done remotely? The insistence on referring to our pay as “stipends,” rather than acknowledging that we are paid for our work, only heightens this uncertainty

This news also impacts the undergraduate members of our community, as most are being asked to leave their campus housing by March 22nd. There is a crowdsourced resources google sheet, that you can reach here (on last checking, you need to request permission to edit, probably due to the high volume of traffic to the spreadsheet last night).The Student Government recently announced that they have donated $10,000 to The Emergency Fund, which both grads and undergrads can access. You can find out how to apply for that support at http://facebook.com/ucemergencyfund.

As the situation unfolds, we appeal to all of our members to share stories. What questions do you have? What are your worries? What are you hearing from your division or department?

For the administration to leave us wondering about all of these questions, with no power to bargain on behalf of our members during this crisis, is a stark reminder that we must continue to push for the recognition and respect we deserve.

Have You Filled Out Our 2020 Issues Survey Yet?

This survey, our first in two years, will only take a few minutes of your time (really!), and the information you share will help to provide an up-to-date snapshot of our individual and collective concerns. By now, all of you should have received an email with the subject line “Graduate Students United Survey” providing you with a unique survey link. If you experience any issues taking the survey or have not received a link, let us know at gsu@riseup.net! If you’re interested in checking out the results from our last survey and seeing what has (and hasn’t) changed, you can always view them here.

Petition

Even amidst the coronavirus response, the administration’s proposed overhaul of PhD programs seems to proceed apace. And so too must our organizing for transparency in the changes, and to mitigate their most harmful effects. We continue to circulate an in-person petition to the new Provost, Ka Yee Lee. This is a paper-only petition, so ask for a copy from your DO or Steward. Not sure who that is? Email us at gsu@risuep.net and we’ll put you in touch with an organizer.

Housing, UCSC Strike, and More!

Housing

We’re continuing last week’s discussion on housing this week by focusing on the ways that the neighborhoods around the University are changing, and what the University’s role is in this transformation.

As we discussed previously, over the past several years, the University has been selling off its own affordable housing occupied by graduate workers, leaving us to compete for rentals going for higher rates from private companies—sometimes the same exact units that UChicago just sold off. This, of course, affects the overall cost of housing in the area: as rents for grads increase, we can’t forget that rents for all of our neighbors are also increasing.

Of course, there’s been new housing being built over the past few years—but it hasn’t been affordable. Luxury apartment buildings have dominated: since 2015, we’ve seen Vue53 and three new towers from MAC properties: Solstice on the Park, City Hyde Park, and the new 5252 South Cornell. There’s no doubt that these apartments are not geared towards the typical grad student or renter already living in Hyde Park. Rents for a one-bedroom at City Hyde Park are over $1,800/month; over $2,000/month at Solstice on the Park; and over $2,100 at 5252.

Vue53, however, does market itself towards both grads and undergrads. Its rents are cheaper—in the range of $1,500-$1,700 per month—but still significantly above the average rental price in the neighborhood, and undoubtedly unaffordable on a grad stipend. But curiously, the University has subsidized housing at Vue53 for two years in a row, using it as overflow housing for undergrads and offering $1,500 directly to students to opt to live in the off-campus building.

It’s unclear why the University has sold off its own affordable housing only to actively promote and subsidize luxury housing that costs well above market price. But one thing is for sure: the University’s actions are contributing to increasing rents in Hyde Park, not only making housing unaffordable for grads, but also changing the neighborhood and pushing our neighbors out.

Later this week, we’ll be talking more about the University’s role in gentrification, particularly in Woodlawn around the Obama Center, and how the community has been organizing to keep housing affordable in the neighborhood.

Have a story about your experience accessing housing while at UChicago? Weigh in on the conversation on social media, or get in touch to share your story!

UCSC on strike

If you’re keeping up with graduate labor in the news, you might already know that graduate workers at UC Santa Cruz remain on strike this semester. Facing a crisis in housing costs, the union began the action in December by withholding grades in pursuit of a cost of living adjustment. In Santa Cruz, workers face an incredibly expensive housing market that they simply cannot afford on their current pay. In the past few days, the movement for a cost of living adjustment has spread to other University of California campuses as well. Picketers at UC Santa Cruz have faced threats from the administration and even violence from campus police.

As we know quite well, prestige doesn’t pay rent! Keep up with what’s going on in California through the website https://payusmoreucsc.com/ or the Twitter account @cola4all, and be sure to express your support for our colleagues in the University of California system.

Nominations

As we announced yesterday, nominations are now open for 2020–2021 Stewards and Steering officers. Visit bit.ly/GSUnoms2020 to read more about the roles of the Stewards Council and Steering Committee, and nominate yourself or a colleague by March 9.

GMM next week

The next General Members Meeting will be held next Wednesday, February 19, in the third floor lecture room of Swift Hall. This is an important meeting, as we will continue to discuss our future affiliation options.

The meeting location is wheel-chair accessible and childcare will be available. If there’s anything else we can do to help make the meeting more accessible, please let us know. In particular, if you need ASL interpretation, please contact us at gsu@riseup.net in advance of the meeting so we can hire interpreters.

NLRB

Anti-union comments submitted to the NLRB are still open for rebuttal. As we initially reported a few weeks ago, the NLRB has extended the initial rebuttal period “in order to allow sufficient time for responses to the large number of initial comments received.” We now have until February 28th!

You can set the record straight on some of these comments through AFT’s new portal at https://aftacademics.org/weareworkers/. Once again, the more unique comments we submit, the more work we create for the Board, so take just a few minutes to respond to one or two and remind them that We Are Workers!

NLRB Rebuttals, Faculty Responses to Funding Changes, and More!

NLRB Rebuttal Period Extended

“The collective bargaining process would necessarily insert third parties, whose priorities are economic, not educational, into the learning process. This would have a potentially profound, deleterious impact on the educational relationship among the students, the faculty, and their college or university.” — American Council on Education

“The teaching is part of the training to be a professional, and is compensated as financial aid — the aid is offered to students in recruitment as financial aid, not an offer of employment.” — Anonymous (NLRB-2019-0002-0172)

These are excerpts from some anti-union comments that were submitted during the NLRB comment period that ended two weeks ago. Fortunately, there’s still time to rebut them! Earlier this week, the deadline was extended through February 28th. You can set the record straight on these comments and others through AFT’s new portal at https://aftacademics.org/weareworkers/. Once again, the more unique comments we submit, the more work we create for the Board, so take just a few minutes to respond to one or two and remind them that We Are Workers!

Faculty Also Concerned by Funding Overhaul

Last Thursday GSU hosted a funding town hall to discuss the broad changes that were made to PhD program structures in four divisions last quarter. Members got together to discuss the different ways these changes have affected them, highlighting concerns about how cap sizes would affect their department, changes in their time to degree, and more.

And it turns out we’re not the only ones who are concerned. According to a recent article in the Maroon, over 100 UChicago faculty recently signed on to a letter sent to President Zimmer and outgoing Provost Diermeier, expressing their worries about the effect of the new funding model on the University, and their concern at how it was implemented. The letter calls the new model “a purely top-down, non-consultative imposition of a comprehensive transformation of the structure and substance of academic life in this university.” It also raises concerns about how graduate programs will be able to comply with the new size caps that are being put in place: “Only by pressuring our graduate students to finish or leave in far fewer than 9 years will we be able to preserve the possibility of admitting new students, and thereby preserve the viability of our graduate programs as wholes.” The whole article and letter are worth a read and echo many of the concerns we’ve been discussing among members and on social media since October.

And as we were preparing to send this newsletter today, the Maroon published another article about the University’s response to GSU, with details from minutes of Faculty Senate meetings going back to 2017. Keep an eye out for more articles in this series, and expect a recap in next week’s newsletter.

Revisiting the Issues: Healthcare and Housing

Since we began revisiting some of the major issues identified by our bargaining survey two years ago, we’ve received many messages from members describing how they’ve been personally affected by these problems. Sadly, it seems like everyone knows someone with a negative story connected with our insurance or the Student Health Center. We’ve extended our discussion of healthcare into week four in order to give these members’ stories adequate attention.

We’d like to draw particular attention to problems with mental health services. Several studies have identified that graduate students are disproportionately faced with mental health issues. It’s self-evident that the University must prioritize mental healthcare, providing appropriate funding and resources to support our physical, intellectual, and emotional well-being.

However, as undergraduate student groups have been signalling for quite some time, the University is sorely lacking on providing those services for its students and workers. Long wait times and inaccessibility of services, including the limited hours of the Student Counseling Center, are major issues in the face of high demand. Although undergraduate groups have been leading the fight for improvements, these issues don’t just affect undergrads: graduates also depend on SCS for mental healthcare and face the same problems that impede us from receiving the care we need.

Additionally, for long-term care, SCS often relies on referrals to outside practitioners who, for graduate workers with USHIP, are paid by our insurance. It’s not unusual for graduate workers—who, again, are disproportionately faced with mental health issues due to living in precarity and the stressful nature of PhD programs—to need ongoing therapy or other services. Unfortunately, in the face of this dire need and already inadequate on-campus services, students have also reported problems with the referral process and getting insurance to pay for mental health care.

Mental healthcare, like all other forms of healthcare, isn’t a luxury; it’s an essential, and we need the University to treat it that way.

We’ll be discussing issues with housing next, so be sure to stay tuned and get in touch if you have a story you’d like to share about challenges with finding affordable housing as a graduate worker.

Labor Beat Covers GSU’s Pre-Election Rally and Victory in Union-Recognition Elections on Oct 17-18

Labor Beat, a non-profit CAN TV Community Partner based in Chicago, IL, recently published a video on their YouTube channel covering our pre-election rally and victory in the union-recognition election at the University of Chicago on October 17-18.

The video includes an interview with Chaz Lee and Daniela Palmer, members of GSU and graduate employees in Music and Evolutionary Biology, respectively. In addition, the video includes scenes and some of the speeches by the speakers at our rally on Oct 16: