Things We’ve Won This Week + More COVID-19 Updates

It’s been another long week, and many of us have felt isolated and scared. But we’ve also won some real victories. Read on for details and more.

Student Life Fee Reduced to $125

Last week we tweeted about the UC Labor Council’s list of demands from the University in response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and the University’s shift to distance-learning for spring quarter. One of those demands was that the University reassess the student services fee for spring quarter. This fee, which is typically $416 per quarter if not subsidized by financial aid packages, supports things like recreation facilities, student programs and organizations, and UChicagoGRAD—facilities and programs that will not be operating next quarter. On Monday, the University announced in an email that for spring quarter the fee will be decreased to $125, a reduction of nearly 70%. Other services included in the student services fee, such as student health and counseling services, will continue to operate during the quarter.

Changes to Student Health Insurance

On Friday, the student insurance office announced via email that effective immediately, the U-SHIP non-referral deductible will be waived through spring quarter. This means that students on U-SHIP insurance will no longer be charged a $50 deductible for seeking medical treatment outside of Student Health and Counseling Services without a referral. GSU has been asking about this since before the admin announced that Spring quarter would be remote, and we’re glad to see this barrier to accessing care removed for the moment.

Have other questions about health insurance, campus services, and navigating the next quarter? Check out the COVID-19 resources page on our website. We’ll be updating the site regularly as we get more information from the University and other Hyde Park organizations, so check in often!

Some University Staff to Continue Receiving Pay during Spring Quarter

One of the big issues we’ve raised, alongside our fellow unions in the UChicago Labor Council, is whether university staff will continue to be paid as dorms clear out and classes go remote. We’re pleased to say that there has been some progress. As we wrote last week, the university reversed its plan to lay off undergrad Resident Assistants after an organized pushback campaign. More recently, the university has announced that contracted food service workers would continue to be paid as dining halls closed, and that many other university workers would have access to additional paid leave.

These are important victories, though they do not meet all of our demands. A particularly worrisome outstanding concern comes from nurses at the Medical Center, who need more personal protective equipment. We’ll continue to organize alongside our fellow unions to address these and other issues.

“Stay at Home” Order and Research

As recently as last Thursday, despite the obvious barriers posed by social distancing, the Provost wrote in an email that, “We expect that our research activity can continue.” This changed abruptly on Saturday, with another email addressing the governor’s “Stay at Home” order, which went into effect that day. With this order, means that all non-essential research activities requiring people to be present on campus have been suspended. Essential research functions have been defined by the administration as:

  • “Critical maintenance procedures to maintain long term laboratory viability and safety. For example, providing animal support and maintaining critical equipment such as computation equipment, deep-storage freezers, incubators, mass spectrometers, and electron microscopes.
  • COVID-19 research that may mitigate the spread of the pandemic.”

According to guidance received from the Vice Provost, faculty supervisors of graduate workers in labs have been instructed “to be creative and collaborative in thinking about tasks that can be performed remotely and still contribute to research in your fields.” He further noted that “Unless you have been designated ‘essential personnel’, you should work exclusively remotely. You should consult with your program directors, chairs, or advisor as applicable to help understand how you can continue your research and progress towards the degree remotely.”

Now, we all know that just because faculty supervisors have been instructed to work with graduates towards a solution doesn’t mean that they have done so. It remains to be seen how much support administration will give to graduate students who have had their lab research disrupted or whether we will have problems with supervisors attempting to either circumvent these instructions or lacking flexibility in creating accommodations for their graduate workers. It also remains an open question whether timelines and funding will be adjusted to support us as we navigate these disruptions, an issue raised in the UChicago Labor Council sign-on letter. If you are being instructed to violate the stay-at-home order for any non-essential research functions or otherwise run into difficulties, please be in touch with your steward or departmental organizer to let them know.

Unfeesible! Petition to abolish the Student Life Fee

Please sign our petition to end the Student Life Fee for graduate students!

During the 2014-15 school year, the University of Chicago will collect a mandatory $1041 Student Life Fee from each of its graduate students, $347 per quarter. Since the 2009-10 academic year, that fee has increased by 45 percent. During that same period, graduate student instructor wages have increased 0 percent. This quarter, a graduate teaching assistant earning $3,000 will pay more than 10 percent of her pre-tax teaching wages back to her employer, the University of Chicago. On top of this cost, students are assessed a $100 penalty for failing to pay the Student Life Fee by its due date. What’s more, students who seek access to Student Health and Counseling Services during the Summer Quarter will be charged an additional $272 fee.

Continue reading “Unfeesible! Petition to abolish the Student Life Fee”

Fees, fees, fees! Town Hall and Rally this January 26th & 30th

Announcing a Town Hall on FEES next Monday, January 26th at 5 p.m. at the University Church, 5655 S. University Avenue

RALLY next Friday, January 30th at 2 p.m. at the Quad

It’s that time of year again —

Time to pay your quarterly bill from the Bursar’s Office. How much are you paying in fees this quarter? Here are just a few of the fees that may show up on your bill: Continue reading “Fees, fees, fees! Town Hall and Rally this January 26th & 30th”

G.E.T.A. gotten; campaign to end AR fees goes on

Graduate Students United is pleased to announce Ryan Long as the winner of the G.E.T.A. (Graduate Emergency Tuition Aid) scholarship lottery, covering his out-of-pocket Advanced Residence tuition for 2009-10.

Over 100 applicants had their names in the GETA scholarship hat last Thursday, March 4, but only one lucky student went home with the prize. We congratulate Ryan Long–and we call on everyone to continue our campaign against AR tuition so that next time around we will all finish the day knowing we’ll have money left for rent and time left to finish our dissertations.

Over 60 people attended the lottery drawing and GSU’s subsequent march to the provost’s office. Considering that AR students (including some 60 of our GETA applicants) are scattered across the globe, and considering that many of us are required to teach during the lunch hour (in yet another instance of administrative disregard for human decency), this turnout shows yet again the importance of ending AR tuition for U of C grad students. Participants in the march delivered “AR Trap” mousetraps to the provost, who however was not present to receive them, because he was meeting with the U of C’s Board of Trustees at the business school’s downtown conference center. The traps were left in his office for him when he returned.

To continue to push for an end to AR tuition:
1) Come to GSU’s next regular meeting, this Tuesday at 5:30 in Haskell Hall room 102, to plan further action.
2) Join GSU or ask your colleagues to join GSU. Only with strength in numbers can we now force a change in the provost’s decision.

What is the history of the campaign to eliminate AR tuition?  Read on…..

Continue reading “G.E.T.A. gotten; campaign to end AR fees goes on”

Response to Provost’s Decision on AR Tuition

On February 25th, 2010, the administration released the “Provost’s Response to Graduate Education Committee Reports”. It is available here. We encourage you to consult the Provost’s Response and read the administration’s decision concerning issues of grave importance to students: unfair AR tuition burdens, teaching eligibility, and (the lack of) increased funding for dissertation writing periods. The Provost’s Response is a reply to a number of student-faculty committees that provided reasonable — though excessively modest — recommendations for improving the graduate student experience and enabling us to continue to produce top-quality academic research.

Graduate Students United is profoundly disappointed by Provost Rosenbaum’s decision to ignore the Advanced Residency and Time to Degree Committee’s most crucial recommendations, including virtually all the recommendations that were designed to ease the financial burden of AR tuition. Over the past year, students, faculty and administrators have dedicated many hours working on the Advanced Residency and Time to Degree Committee, attended open forums to offer helpful suggestions, and took the time to share their deeply personal stories of financial burden and stress. Just this past week over 180 graduate students personally sent e-mails to Provost Rosenbaum, expressing the need for the administration to go beyond the Committee’s recommendations by removing AR tuition entirely.

Continue reading “Response to Provost’s Decision on AR Tuition”

Explanation of Proposed Advanced Residence Reforms

From the AR BLUES FORUM, CO-Sponsored by Graduate Students United and the Graduate Funding Committee

I. Summary of recommendations from the Provost’s Committee on AR and Time to Degree:

The following recommendations were the basis for the open forums in October, and will guide the Provost’s decision:

1.    AR Tuition (reduce it, but don’t eliminate it): The report maintains that AR out-of-pocket tuition allows graduate students to contribute to and access University services in our advanced residency years, and encourages us to finish faster. The report acknowledges that AR tuition rates have increased to a burdensome amount.  They recommend: reducing AR tuition for all graduate students, but not eliminating it (recommendation #1).  They suggest an end to AR out-of-pocket tuition waivers to those who teach on campus and a redistribution of the savings to reduce AR tuition for all AR students (recommendation #2).

Continue reading “Explanation of Proposed Advanced Residence Reforms”

Stuck in the AR trap?

The University of Chicago administration charges advanced graduate students tuition if they do not teach.  It amounts to $2,352 per school year.  Together with mandatory health insurance ($2,045) and campus fees ($714), grad students who choose to focus on writing their dissertations rather than teaching must pay $5,111 per school year to the administration.

GSU believes that this is an onerous burden on students whose scholarly and pedagogical contributions help make the U of C a great university.  Too many students have found themselves in the AR trap, with many taking extra teaching and other jobs when they would rather be focusing on their dissertations.  Currently the only ways out are independent wealth, reliance on a partner’s income, scarce dissertation fellowships, or costly loans.  GSU calls on the administration, and in particular Provost Thomas Rosenbaum, to completely eliminate AR tuition.

GSU is spear-heading a email campaign asking the Provost to do just that.  Thanks to all who have emailed already.  We’ve seen over 130 emails so far sent to the provost and cc’ed to GSU.  If you haven’t yet sent an email to the provost, you can copy the letter located here and send it to provost@uchicago.edu, cjcohen@uchicago.edu (Deputy Provost Cathy Cohen), and cc gsu@riseup.net.

You can participate further in GSU’s campaign to end AR fees by applying for the first (and hopefully last) G.E.T.A. Scholarship (Graduate Emergency Tuition Aid), providing 2009-10 out-of-pocket tuition expenses.  The recipient will be chosen at random from the list of applicants. Continue reading “Stuck in the AR trap?”

Email the Provost: Eliminate AR tuition now!

If you haven’t yet sent an email to the provost, you can copy the following letter and send it to
provost@uchicago.edu
and cjcohen@uchicago.edu
and Cc gsu@riseup.net

Suggested subject line: Provost Rosenbaum: Eliminate AR Tuition Now

Dear Provost Rosenbaum,

As a graduate student at the University of Chicago, I write to you with my concern over the undue burden that Advanced Residence out-of-pocket tuition places on the financial resources and time-to-degree of graduate students. I sincerely hope that your pending decision on the AR system will take my concern and my proposed solution below into account.

As the report of the Committee on Advanced Residence and Time to Degree recognizes, the current rate of AR out-of-pocket tuition at $2,600 is too high. I appreciate your decision to have frozen any increases for the past two years, but I appeal to you to take the step of completely eliminating this burden on AR students.

Continue reading “Email the Provost: Eliminate AR tuition now!”

Statement on Advanced Residence

Graduate Students United – Statement on Advanced Residence – (Sept. 14, 2009)

More than two years ago, after a series of protests led by Graduate Students United, the University of Chicago administration began deliberating over possible reform of the university’s system of advanced residence (AR), whereby tuition is charged to graduate students after their 4th year of doctoral studies. In the meantime, as the reform process drags on, we continue to pay inordinate tuition costs. Although this reform process has been undemocratic from the start, with administrators consulting graduate students but never granting us decision-making or bargaining power, we have taken part in good faith. In spite of this, the administration’s discussions have remained almost entirely secret, and unless we speak forcefully we can only assume that our concerns will fall on deaf ears. For this reason Graduate Students United (GSU) releases the following formal statement regarding the process and potential outcome of these efforts at AR reform. The administration may choose to ignore our words, but it should be forewarned—these words will be backed up by action.

Already in the spring of 2007 Provost Rosenbaum convened a “Working Group on Graduate Student Life in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Divinity,” whose very modest recommendations included lowering AR tuition and eliminating tuition for the first year of AR (see Appendix A). These recommendations have still not been implemented. Following that committee’s report, the provost convened a Committee on Advanced Residence and Time to Degree, which produced a set of recommendations in May 2009. Today, nearly 4 months later, following repeated calls on our part for its release, the committee’s report has been finally made public. While GSU has developed its position on AR independently of the Provost’s committee, graduate students can now read the committee’s report and compare its proposals to our own. They will see that the committee’s report makes some positive but moderate recommendations, along with other recommendations that should be sharply criticized. The report’s positive recommendations, we hope, will finally convince the administration to take positive steps toward reform. But the weakness, vagueness, and misplaced emphasis of these recommendations, coupled with the administration’s continued slowness in acting, bring into relief the need for the following statement from GSU.

We will not dwell on the committee’s report, to which we respond here. Our statement simply restates graduate students’ long-standing grievances; it calls for immediate action commensurate with the urgency of the situation; and it outlines specific proposals for minimal reforms, pending what will be the only viable long-term solution: a complete abolition of AR tuition.

As graduate students, our work constitutes a fundamental part of this institution’s intellectual life. We are fully engaged members of the local, national, and international academic community; we participate in workshops, lectures, and other activities on campus; and, if we can afford it, we travel to engage in debate with members of other scholarly environments: our presence and participation is an essential driving force of intellectual activity at the University of Chicago. Yet instead of receiving just compensation, we are charged for the time we spend here.

Continue reading “Statement on Advanced Residence”