Graduate Students Untied from American Federation of Teachers

We are excited to announce that our membership has voted overwhelmingly to disaffiliate from the American Federations of Teachers (AFT) and to proceed as an independent union. This decision comes after months of research, conversations among our membership, and a bargaining session with the AFT Academics (AFTA) program lead. Moving forward as an independent union, we are committed to the pillars of base-building, direct action, political education, and mutual aid. We encourage those who are interested in building a 21st century labor movement to reach out and join us.

In January 2020, AFT announced that they were ending their campaign with Graduate Students United (GSU). GSU undertook a months-long process preparing for an affiliation vote. The Stewards Council passed a bylaw that outlined how and when the bargaining process and the referendum regarding affiliation would occur. Two research committees were formed to research GSU’s options, one on AFTA and another on an independent union, and they presented their research at the General Members Meeting on May 20, 2020. On Wednesday June 3rd, we held a 48-hour electronic vote to determine our path forward. The referendum presented membership with two options: re-affiliation with AFT through the AFT Academics program or proceeding as an independent union. GSU members voted overwhelmingly in favor of moving forward as an independent union, a decision we take very seriously.

AFTA is not a union, but a membership program geared towards connecting individuals to AFT’s national media campaigns. AFTA members pay monthly dues of $11.00, an option that would go against our promise to membership that we would never pay mandatory dues until we had a contract. Richelle Fiore, director of the AFTA project, informed our bargaining committee that AFTA’s largest membership “cluster” (as opposed to union local) at this time has only 30 members, and that AFTA did not have a concrete plan to support GSU as an organization. When we asked for our members’ dues to be invested directly back into the work of GSU, Fiore told us “that’s not how this works.” Without exception, each AFTA-affiliated graduate worker that we spoke to, across several institutions, urged us to form an independent union, citing AFTA’s obstruction and hindering of campus action and lack of financial and organizational support. Our bargaining committee is working to ensure that AFT and AFTA will not use data collected through our campaign to contact GSU members.

As an independent union, our members now have the final say in the direction of our union in terms of our goals, actions, and finances. Given the unfavorable terrain of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and our fiercely anti-union bosses, we are re-evaluating our organizing priorities and re-dedicating ourselves to the project of strategically organizing around and winning material gains on our campus and in our community. Fighting for legal recognition via the NLRB has occupied much of GSU’s organizing capacity throughout the course of our campaign with AFT. Rather than waiting for a favorable change in the composition of the NLRB, we will fight for better working conditions and union recognition through direct action.

When we say that we are building a labor movement for the 21st century, we are talking about building a movement that fights for workers despite the lack of National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protections for many workers and despite the lack of courage on the part of business unions to stand up for the so-called “unorganized.” We stand on the shoulders of giants in this regard: the legal protections of the NLRA and subsequent labor laws were hard fought victories gained through protracted labor struggles against both employers and the state throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Going forward, we will continue our fight for dignity and justice by acting in solidarity with our fellow graduate workers here and at other universities across the nation, with other workers at the University of Chicago, and with community and labor organizations across the South Side. Our active solidarity and base-building work will allow us to combat the financialization and corporatization of the university, as well as giving us the collective power to win the living and working conditions that we all deserve. We are committed to strengthening our solidarity and engagement with other unions through the University of Chicago Labor Council (UCLC) and the X-Campus Coalition of graduate workers across the nation, student-led campaigns on our campus, and social justice organizations on the South Side. Given the University of Chicago’s historical relationship to slavery, systematic destruction of black and working class communities on the South Side, and maintenance of the University of Chicago Police Department, GSU believes that the struggle for a more just and democratic campus is inextricably tied to larger struggles against police brutality and racism.

If any GSU member wishes to join AFTA and pay dues to AFT as an individual, they are more than welcome to do so. However, we urge everyone to consider contributing directly to GSU if they wish to support a union financially. Please consider joining our organizing work over the summer. We have a lot of exciting work to do, including: revising and updating our constitution, planning and establishing fundraising mechanisms, expanding our media footprint, organizing for future direct actions, continuing to grow our mutual aid work, and more. To sign up for updates on summer organizing, please fill out this form and we’ll be in touch!

In solidarity,

Graduate Students United

On Undergraduate Solidarity with GSU

Written by Jordan Cooper, undergraduate at UChicago

  1. Undergraduates seem to be, in general, most preoccupied with “getting their money’s worth”. That’s fair enough, but we tend to conflate several contradictory ideas when defining what constitutes the “value” that our tuition covers. Undergraduates have been exposed to this firsthand and in a rather unique manner this spring quarter. Regardless of your position towards UChicago for Fair Tuition and their tuition strike, ask yourself these questions: was this quarter of classes on Zoom worth the full tuition price? Do you think that your education and experience this quarter was the same as in normal quarters? The University has announced that tuition won’t increase for next year: will you be getting your money’s worth in an experience significantly altered by necessary measures against COVID transmission? Even more significantly though, were you really getting the full value of the exorbitant price we pay before COVID-19? Think about how hard it would be to teach if you’re worried about being able to afford rent, or if you don’t know where your next meal is going to come from, or you can’t see the students you’re teaching because you don’t have vision insurance and can’t afford glasses. Especially don’t forget that there are hundreds if not thousands of undergraduates here who are expected to learn and do good work while experiencing the exact same problems. How hard is it for them? How hard is it for you? 
  2. The University of Chicago functions because of undergraduate students who pay tuition and because of the labor of graduate students, faculty, and all of the non-academic staff we rely on to actually facilitate the university’s ‘product’. 
    1. UChicago for Fair Tuition organized a tuition strike to compel the university to meet a list of demands, including a spring quarter tuition reduction. Although that demand was not met, their campaign nonetheless succeeded at forcing the administration to comply with several of them. The university didn’t plan to pay RAs for this quarter, until students organized to demand that they do so; the university didn’t plan to pay furloughed staff for this quarter, until students organized to demand that they do so. We have power because there is strength in numbers. 
    2. Regarding faculty, we also need to demand their active solidarity with GSU. In this regard I remember and am inspired by one of my professor’s last spring, who moved our class session off campus rather than cross the picket line to hold it normally. We should ask all of our professors to do the same, and refuse to cross picket lines to attend class out of principle. Again, there is strength in numbers. Talk to your classmates and organize this with them. 
  3. Graduate and undergraduate students are natural allies with a common enemy: the university administration. This alliance goes far beyond the fact that a significant chunk of our education depends on graduate students’ teaching and grading. When I say that the administration is our common enemy, I mean that the key issues raised by GSU in this walk out–just as in their strike last year–are nearly identical to the issues that undergraduates have also been raising with the administration for years. For instance, one of the primary issues prompting GSU’s action is that, in the past year, the University has implemented drastic funding overhauls impacting graduate workers in the Social Sciences Division, the Humanities Division, Social Services Administration, and the Divinity School. The callous response to this pandemic is going to have a dramatic impact on graduate students’ time to degree and on their financing. It will have that effect on us too. But also, the university has imposed sweeping changes to our academic programs without any consultation or notice, too. We found out about the introduction of latin honors and the complete overhaul of the honors system only when they updated the course catalog. The administration got rid of part time status without student input, and student activists have been fighting to make them bring it back ever since. How many years have we been telling them that SCS was badly underfunded? We’re talking about the same administration who held a townhall on about the damning results of a survey about sexual violence on campus in the middle of the day, so students would be in class and unable to attend. How long have they refused to address the realities about sexual assault on campus? How they let the frats be gaping blindspot? 
  4. Dean Ellison said that “students don’t decide how we assess them” in response to demands for universal pass/fail this quarter, something many peer universities enacted. My question: why don’t we? The university has made it abundantly clear that they view themselves as running a corporation: what other business have you ever heard of that ignores its consumers? I know we just recently began a business economics major, so maybe they can put their thinking caps on and explain this to us. If the university makes changes to everyone’s programs without advising or asking, what precludes us from the realization that most of the things people are running for SG or doing campus activism about things which are also completely tied up with the exploitation of grad labor?
  5. GSU is campaigning for visa support to international students and for a universal $4000 relief check to graduate workers: are these not things that we need too? They’re things that undergraduate activists are talking about too! This university has a multi-billion dollar endowment and yet it is imposing austerity on all of us. None of us should stand for it. United we stand, divided we fall. Undergraduate solidarity with GSU is absolutely imperative, whether you view yourself as an ‘activist’ or not: we want the same things, and supporting GSU is in your direct interest, too. 

GSU Walk-Out/Teach-In on June 3

walkoutteachin_gsu

Dear Friends,

We are excited to have you join us on Zoom for our GSU Walk-out/Teach-in about organizing for racial justice in Hyde Park tomorrow, June 3!

Tomorrow’s teach-in has been organized to explicitly highlight black voices and issues of racial justice within our own community, including speakers from Care Not Cops, the Reparations Working Group, and activists from the campaign for a South Side Trauma Center. Now more than ever, we are especially grateful to be hearing from these much-needed organizations in our community. Political education is an essential tool for liberation and mobilization, and we will be providing information and resources for how grad students can support protesters and local organizations throughout the day, and discussions will focus on how grads at UChicago can work for racial and economic justice at UChicago and beyond.

Without racial justice, the needs of graduate workers cannot be fully met. We believe that supporting GSU also means standing in solidarity with community organizations across Chicago and around the globe. Moreover, the University of Chicago’s historical relationship to slavery, systematic destruction of black and working class communities on the south side, and maintenance of the UCPD, a private militarized police force which was deployed against peaceful protesters in Hyde Park this weekend, means that the struggle for a more just and democratic campus is intimately related to larger struggles against police brutality and racial inequality. Graduate student organization is one of the ways that we can pressure the administration to defund the UCPD and invest in south side community resources. The fight against exploitation in our community is not bounded by campus walls.

There are many ways for graduate workers and allies to participate in the walk-out through actions of solidarity, political education, and mutual aid. We fully support all our members who will be engaging in direct action, protest, and mutual aid on Wednesday, and hope that our teach-in can be another venue for movement building and working towards parallel goals. Wednesday will also be a time for angry and anxious grad workers to come together when so many have been so isolated.

You can find all the information about the walk-out/teach-in, the full schedule of synchronous and asynchronous events, and how you can show solidarity here: http://bit.ly/GSUWalkOutInfo

For those interested in sharing the Facebook Live details, it will be telecast live at our event link here: http://bit.ly/GSULive

We have sent Zoom details in a GSU newsletter sent to your email addresses on June 2. Otherwise, email us at gsu [DOT] riseup [DOT] net. 

Loyola Chicago Faculty Forward Supports GSU’s June 3 Walk-Out and Teach-In

The following is a letter of support from Loyola Chicago Faculty Forward, the non-tenure track faculty union at Loyola University Chicago.

Dear Colleagues,

As the leaders of Loyola Chicago Faculty Forward, the non-tenure track faculty union at Loyola University Chicago, we support the ​walk-out and teach-in​ planned by Graduate Students United (GSU) at the University of Chicago on June 3 and the ​demands​ they are making of the school’s administration.

Even before the start of the coronavirus crisis, working conditions for graduate students, non-tenure track faculty, and staff in higher education were severely deteriorating. Many college and university administrations have abdicated their responsibility of ensuring the well-being of all community members, following a misguided “business” model that focuses on cost-savings without fully accounting for the human impact of these decisions on faculty, graduate students, and staff, as well as the negative repercussions these measures have on graduate and undergraduate education and students. This trend in higher education is part of a wider shift in US and global society of ignoring basic principles of care for other members of society in the name of efficiency and cost-savings.

The coronavirus crisis should have made clear the devastating impact these decisions have made on our society. But too many people in positions of leadership, including the administration at the University of Chicago, are continuing with business as usual, not taking the steps necessary to support all community members. We therefore call on the administration of the University of Chicago to concede to the GSU’s demands, providing graduate students the support they need in this time of crisis.

In solidarity,
Janet Fair-Christianson, Adjunct, Modern Languages Emma Feeney, Lecturer, Biology
Deb Goodman, Adjunct, Dance

Sarita Heer, Lecturer, Art History
Diane Jokinen, Lecturer, Biology
Alyson Paige Warren, Adjunct, English
Matt Williams, Lecturer, Sociology/ Global and International Studies

Statement on militarized police/UCPD

“The UCPD is the one of the largest private police forces in the country, with ninety-five officers, $5.5 million in annual funding according to a 2012 Chicago Maroon article (Sainvilus said the number is not “reliable” but declined to provide any further information), and a jurisdiction that extends from South Cottage Grove Avenue to the west to South Lake Shore Drive to the east, reaching from 37th Street to 64th Street. To the 65,000 people that live in this area—the vast majority of whom are not affiliated with the UofC—the UCPD has become a daily presence.” –South Side Weekly

Graduate Students United stands in solidarity with the Minneapolis uprising demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Finan Berhe. We demand an immediate end to police violence against Black people. We stand with the people rightfully taking the streets in Chicago, Atlanta, Louisville, Oakland, Los Angeles, New York, and Minneapolis. In Hyde Park, this pattern of violent and racist policing has long characterised the planning, actions, and operations of the University of Chicago Police Department. Every day we remain concerned for the safety of our Black community members when the second-largest private police force in the country runs regular patrols across the neighbourhood, routinely criminalises and stops Black community members, and like police departments nationwide, is completely unaccountable to any form of civic oversight. In 2018, the UCPD shot and arrested Charles Thomas, an undergraduate at the University of Chicago who was experiencing a mental health crisis at the time. When a private university police department shoots students and the university adds charges to criminalise and jail its own students with little remorse or sense that anything needs to be changed – it becomes clear that the only meaningful answer is abolition. It has long been clear that the UCPD is an institution fundamentally unsuited for the public health and community safety work that it is charged with.

The people are speaking loudly and clearly right now. Graduate Students United at the University of Chicago stands with them. Defund, disarm, and disband the University of Chicago Police Department immediately. Invest heavily in affordable housing, mental health, and public health resources to help support our community members as demanded by the Care Not Cops Coalition. We proudly stand in solidarity with the Chicago Alliance against Racist and Political Repression; Students Working Against Prisons; the Care Not Cops Coalition; and Black Lives Matter in their righteous demand for justice. Abolition now! Liberation now!

Resources:

Chicago Community Bond Fund: https://chicagobond.org/ 

First Defense Legal Aid: https://www.first-defense.org/ or call 1(800) LAW-REP4

National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Chicago: https://nlgchicago.org/

If you or someone you know has been arrested and needs a lawyer to visit them in police custody, contact the Cook County Public Defender at 1 (844) 817-4448

If you or someone you know has been criminally charged and needs legal representation in court, call the National Lawyers Guild at 773-309-1198

Press:

Care Not Cops Op-Ed on UCPD: https://www.chicagomaroon.com/article/2018/5/31/invest-us-case-carenotcops/ 

Minneapolis public schools to vote on terminating contract with MPD: https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2020/05/29/mpls-school-board-director-proposes-to-terminate-contract-with-mpd/

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:

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

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!

Our Petition, Fair Tuition, Trustee Liaison Endorsement, and the Return of Things That Make You Go 🤔!

Solidarity with UChicago for Fair Tuition

Early this month, GSU circulated the UChicago for Fair Tuition petition for tuition relief in the midst of the current economic crisis. Now we’re excited to announce that our steering committee has voted to endorse their campaign.

The University of Chicago has enough money to support all those who work and study here. That includes funding doctoral students in this crisis, and providing tuition relief to undergrad and AM students, as well as cancelling the hefty fee charged to upper-year doctoral students known as “advanced residency tuition.” The Fair Tuition campaign has been clear that they will not accept tuition reduction at the expense of workers, including grad workers. Such trade-offs are not necessary—the money is there.

COVID Petition: One Member’s Testimonial

Last week we launched our new petition enumerating basic COVID-19-related demands for the University. The petition has already garnered a lot of response, including testimonials from grad workers whose research has been affected by the outbreak. Member Hilary Barker sent us the following:

I was five months into a fourteen-month archival research stint in Rome when I returned to the States in late February for a short visit with my family and found myself unable to return to Rome. My project is entirely formulated around archival work which may not be possible to resume for many months. I was lucky enough to be fully funded for the proposed research period by two external fellowships, one of which is now “on pause‚” and the other one is continuing but obviously contributing to my current at-home expenses rather than funding time in Rome. It’s a serious question when I’ll be able to resume onsite research and whether I will be able to stick to my planned schedule for completion as it will be difficult for me to write significant sections of the dissertation without the archival data from which to draw conclusions. Furthermore, because my trip home was scheduled before the lockdown in Italy began and I had thought I would be able to return, I left nearly all my possessions including books and research materials in an Airbnb there, which I am having to continue to pay for to ensure that the owner does not dispose of my things.

Many of us have been feeling increased work pressure as the pandemic has limited our access to labs, libraries, archives, and field sites—this is why our first demand is an extension of time to degree and funding for all grad student workers.

In the following weeks, we’ll continue to share members’ stories as we work collectively to advocate for COVID-19 relief measures. If you’ve been experiencing issues with your research or work, you can contact us at gsu@riseup.net with your story. Even if you don’t want to share your story publicly, our union is here to offer assistance. Recently our organizing efforts helped a member fight for—and win back—a teaching job that had been offered by the University and then unfairly revoked.

And if you haven’t already, read about the petition on our website and sign it here!

Get more involved!

GSU’s strength is in the work of members. And though we aren’t able to gather in person, that work still continues, in union committees and throughout departments. Cliche as it may sound, the need for organizing in the current may be greater than ever before. So we invite you (yes you, reading this!) to get more involved. This form from last week’s General Members Meeting offers a number of ways to plug in. Let’s come together across social distance to defend our rights as workers. Join in!

Vaughan Collins for Trustee Liaison

This week, the GSU Steering Committee voted to endorse Vaughan Collins’s candidacy for Graduate Liaison to the Board of Trustees. Vaughan is a first-year Masters student in the School of Social Service Administration and served on the Advisory Committee to the Office of the Dean of Students at their previous university. You can read Vaughan’s candidate statement here, and contact them directly here to share your concerns or comments.

The Graduate Liaison serves as a representative to the Board for grad workers, bringing our concerns and recommendations directly to the University Trustees. We’re excited to support Vaughan’s campaign, and to continue building coalitions across the university so that we can advocate for our members, even as we keep fighting for recognition.

Things That Make You Go 🤔

Tuesday morning, we got an email from the Provost that inspired us to dust off the “Things That Make You Go 🤔” feature of this newsletter. With three bullet points proclaiming the university’s financial support, there were only two direct links. One of those led to university web page which linked to other FAQs geared specifically to undergrads; another linked to emergency funding programs from the Bursar that max out at $3,000. Grad workers who might be facing greater expenses were referred to their deans of students—a suggestion that neatly ignores the difference in available resources between departments and divisions. Moreover, whatever the official policy, we’re getting reports that members are being denied assistance.

But the questions really started to flow in the latter part of the Provost’s message. In response to questions about why the admin claims to be unable to reduce tuition, she wrote that “the vast majority of the university’s endowment is legally restricted.” But “vast majority” is a vague term. On its own, the Impact and Inquiry campaign that ended in December raised $5.43 billion. Even if 90% of that were hopelessly restricted, it would leave $543 million. That covers our funding packages MANY times over. And might that be more in line with the mission of the university than, say, subsidizing a neighborhood luxury apartment building? It kind of makes you go 🤔