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.