Updates

Solidarity Statement With #CareNotCops

GSU stands in solidarity with #CareNotCops. We support their most recent demand for a public meeting with Provost Ka Yee Lee to discuss the disclosing of UCPD’s budget and building student-led Cultural Centers and an Ethnic Studies Department. For seven days now, they have been ignored by the Provost and harassed by UCPD and CPD. As graduate students at the University of Chicago and community members of South Chicago, GSU members are directly impacted by these demands. We admire the courage and determination of our undergraduate colleagues. Tonight at 8pm, they celebrate one week of occupying the 4900 block of South Greenwood Ave, outside the home of Provost Ka Yee Lee. We invite you to join them for this special occasion.

GSU’s Work Going Forward

Dear Members,

As we ramp up our work on forming our newly independent union, we’ll be taking the GSU newsletter on our yearly summer hiatus. But this hardly means that GSU is not working to protect grad workers on campus! You’ll still receive occasional email updates from us to announce important events and news. 
In the meantime, here’s one last update as to what we’re doing as a union going forward this summer. 

Firstly, check out the list of ongoing meetings below that will be occurring throughout the summer. Can’t make these meetings or want to get involved another way? Join our GSU Discord server, where we’re doing plenty of work asynchronously and supporting each other.

Right now GSU is also engaged in a number of broad initiatives. These include revising our union constitution, with special efforts to making our union more inclusive and committing ourselves to anti-racist structures and work; keeping an eye on developments and ways to support our international student population; incorporating political education into our union; developing new DO training procedures; and updating our website, among other efforts. We’d love to have you involved in any of this work–just attend a meeting or join the Discord Server to learn more about how you can plug in!

We’ll be in touch again soon about our next General Members Meeting and with other updates. Until then, enjoy your summer! Solidarity Forever!


Upcoming Events: Last week we posted links to some GSU committees and events but the Zoom links didn’t work!  Here is that information again but with working Zoom links. All committees are open to all members always!
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 join the weekly Zoom call. Meeting ID: 825 3495 0856 Password: 7cWMiY

Steering Committee: Every Tuesday at 6:00PM
Steering Committee is where GSU’s “big-picture” work gets done, including work around GSU’s direction post-disaffiliation, grievances, and more. Currently Steering is working on recruiting new committee members and streamlining its operations, so much of the work Steering has been doing with regard to the shape of a newly independent GSU will be taken up this week in other committees. However, Steering is the place to come if you want to figure out how to get involved! This work is incredibly important, and there is something for everyone at any level of time commitment (synchronous and asynchronous work available!). Current projects include revising our constitution, communications and design, making GSU a more inclusive environment, and worker organizing (including member outreach, mutual aid, political education, and direct actions)! Please feel free to reach out and join the weekly Zoom call: Meeting ID: 542 212 576 Password: 816543

Stewards Council/Organizing Committee: Every Monday at 6:00PM
Interested in getting involved in charting GSU’s path forward as an independent union? Stewards/OC is going to be using our regularly scheduled meeting this coming Monday to hold a Working Groups session where we will consider the future of GSU via small group discussion (topics TBD). We really want to see a lot of union members (not just stewards and DOs!) show up for this, so please try to make it out! Going forward this summer Stewards/OC will be alternating between our normal meeting and Working Group sessions, so if you can’t make it this Monday, we look forward to seeing you sometime later this summer!
Please reach out to Lilly Judge (lillianjudge1@gmail.com) if you have any questions or suggestions for Working Group topics in the future. Zoom link here. Meeting ID: 853 8180 0548 Password: 658126

FORCe (Funding Overhaul Research Committee): Every Wednesday at 6:00PM
This summer, FORCe is focused on preparing for the fight against the coming austerity from COVID-19 budget cuts. This incredibly important work includes building organizing capacity around the university, brainstorming around potential future actions, working with other workers organizing on campus, and more! To get involved with FORCe or find out more, join the Zoom call here. Meeting ID: 602 861 460 Password: 511950

Mutual Aid Committee: Currently deciding on a new time! Email gsu.mutualaid@gmail.com to get the Doodle poll link!
Our Mutual Aid Committee is one of our newest committees, which focuses on building membership and community solidarity through mutual aid. We are currently working on how to build solidarity with local organizations, identifying and compiling local mutual aid networks for members to get involved with, and providing information about the ongoing protests. Join the Zoom call here. Meeting ID: 821 1403 2598 Password: 410160

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 join the Zoom call here.

Joining Solidarity Efforts with #CareNotCops: Open the Books on UCPD

GSU stands in solidarity with campus organizations including #CareNotCops, the Library Activist Network, and other campus workers in demanding that President Zimmer and Provost Lee meet all the demands of #CareNotCops, beginning with disclosing the budget of the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD). As workers on this campus and members of the university community, graduate students need to understand how much has been spent, and is budgeted to be spent, on the UCPD. This information affects all aspects of campus life, especially when there are very real needs felt by campus workers, needs which have only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and recent shocks from changes in ICE’s directives. We fully endorse the Library Activist Network at UChicago’s statement, Open the Books on UCPD, and call on all members of GSU and the university community to sign their petition. 

ICE Regulations Update, Things That Make You Go Hmmm… and More!

Dear Members,
The past week has seen minor victories and increased solidarity across our union. We have some updates on recent events, as well as upcoming meetings and a couple (brief) requests for member feedback. Read this email to find out more!

ICE Regulations Update

As we mentioned in last week’s newsletter, GSU stands in solidarity with all international students affected by ICE’s recent change in regulations, a shock to many members of our union and university community. While UChicago did eventually join in writing an amicus brief alongside Harvard and MIT’s lawsuit and the US government rescinded ICE’s order, the changes of the past week and half reveal how UChicago does not take student voices into account, often leaving them in difficult and precarious positions. We can see this with their stonewalling of our union, their lack of transparency about plans to reopen the university in the fall, and the lack of input from grad workers about fall plans. These decisions affect the health and safety of everyone at this university and in the surrounding community, and graduate workers–the people whose labor makes this university possible–need to have a say in the matter.

CARES Act Funds Survey 

As we reported previously, the University was awarded $6.2 million by the Department of Education as part of the Federal CARES Act, and decided to accept the funds and dedicate the entire amount to student aid. Even with that enormous amount of funding, students reported that they weren’t determined to be eligible, or that their application was denied. In fact, we learned that the university administration not only established eligibility criteria narrower than those stipulated by the CARES Act, but also pre-selected and contacted those they decided to be eligible, leaving many graduate students out of this process altogether. When members raised questions about this, they were turned back and forth between different administrators, to be eventually provided with insufficient answers and silenced. We will not allow that. 

We want to know how this policy’s limitations and lack of transparency has affected members, and especially assess our members’ experiences regarding the funds and application process. 

Please help us do this by filling out the brief survey here. Many thanks to those of you that have already filled it out!

TBT: GSU Disaffiliation Featured in the Hyde Park Herald

Shouts-out to Christian Belanger for his in-depth write-up about our vote to disaffiliate from AFT and strategy moving forward in the June 29th Hyde Park Herald. The article has a great overview of the history of grad worker organizing at private universities, the legal and material struggles that have led to this moment, and GSU members’ visions for what our union could become. If you’re out of the loop and are looking for a good rundown of where GSU is at, this article is a great place to start!

GSU Culture Survey 

As part of our reflection and self-evaluation of our newly independent union, we are looking into gathering feedback from members on various issues, including GSU culture. There are many exciting ways to get involved, but one, short, and very helpful one would be to fill out the anonymous short survey our dedicated working group prepared about GSU’s culture. It doesn’t matter how long or how deeply you have been involved! We want to gather as much feedback as possible in order to prioritize setting norms and values for work, creating structures of accountability. By filling out the survey, you will contribute to making GSU more equitable and inclusive, so we really value your participation. Thank you! 

Things that make you go hmm? Provost call leads to more questions than answers

Earlier this week, on July 14th, UChicago’s provost held a zoom call with the Covid-19 Student Advisory Board, consisting of Grad Council co-presidents and other students. This call highlighted the ongoing need for graduate worker input on Fall reopening plans, the same input that is often not taken into account. 

While there has been an outline for how the university will handle scheduling, with moving to a hybrid plan to the fall, labs and libraries are already open. Workers in those settings have a variety of safety concerns, but are left with uncertainty and a lack of guidance. Similarly, with the sudden shift online last Spring, many workers–both Masters and PhD–lost their work-study jobs. Does the university have a plan to somehow make more remote work or come up with other positions to intentionally make sure that students are able to access the financial support that they need to continue doing the research and education that makes this university possible? 

These questions are all left unanswered. What we need are fewer zoom calls and more deliberate actions taken by the university administration–things that could happen if they just recognized their workers as workers and were willing to bargain with GSU. If you want to help make that happen, here are some ways to get more involved:

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 join the weekly Zoom call.Meeting ID: 825 3495 0856Password: 7cWMiY

Steering Committee: Every Tuesday at 6:00PM
Steering Committee is where GSU’s “big-picture” work gets done, including work around GSU’s direction post-disaffiliation, grievances, and more. Currently Steering is working on recruiting new committee members and streamlining its operations, so much of the work Steering has been doing with regard to the shape of a newly independent GSU will be taken up this week in other committees. However, Steering is the place to come if you want to figure out how to get involved! This work is incredibly important, and there is something for everyone at any level of time commitment (synchronous and asynchronous work available!). Current projects include revising our constitution, communications and design, making GSU a more inclusive environment, and worker organizing (including member outreach, mutual aid, political education, and direct actions)! Please feel free to reach out and join the weekly Zoom call:Meeting ID: 542 212 576Password: 816543

Stewards Council/Organizing Committee: Every Monday at 6:00PM
Interested in getting involved in charting GSU’s path forward as an independent union? Stewards/OC is going to be using our regularly scheduled meeting this coming Monday to hold a Working Groups session where we will consider the future of GSU via small group discussion (topics TBD). We really want to see a lot of union members (not just stewards and DOs!) show up for this, so please try to make it out! Going forward this summer Stewards/OC will be alternating between our normal meeting and Working Group sessions, so if you can’t make it this Monday, we look forward to seeing you sometime later this summer!
Please reach out to Lilly Judge (lillianjudge1@gmail.com) if you have any questions or suggestions for Working Group topics in the future. Zoom link here.Meeting ID: 853 8180 0548Password: 658126

FORCe (Funding Overhaul Research Committee): Every Wednesday at 6:00PM
This summer, FORCe is focused on preparing for the fight against the coming austerity from COVID-19 budget cuts. This incredibly important work includes building organizing capacity around the university, brainstorming around potential future actions, working with other workers organizing on campus, and more! To get involved with FORCe or find out more, join the Zoom call here.Meeting ID: 602 861 460Password: 511950

Mutual Aid Committee: Currently deciding on a new time! Email gsu.mutualaid@gmail.com to get the Doodle poll link!
Our Mutual Aid Committee is one of our newest committees, which focuses on building membership and community solidarity through mutual aid. We are currently working on how to build solidarity with local organizations, identifying and compiling local mutual aid networks for members to get involved with, and providing information about the ongoing protests. Join the Zoom call here.Meeting ID: 821 1403 2598Password: 410160

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 join the Zoom call here.

International Student Solidarity, CARES Act Survey, and More

Dear Members,

It has been a difficult week for many of us. GSU stands in solidarity with international students across the country. We hope that you are all staying safe and well amidst so many confusing changes in the world, and we also hope that this week’s newsletter will provide some context and ways forward for people who either need questions answered or would like to get involved with GSU.


Recent Changes for International Students and ICE Regulations

Earlier this week (July 6), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced stronger visa regulations for international students in the United States. In particular, the policy forces students with F-1 and M-1 visas whose course loads will be fully online to leave the U.S. or face deportation, and it imposes other conditions and restrictions with harmful consequences. This is a reprehensible action that puts numerous students in danger. On Tuesday (July 7), GSU issued a statement condemning these actions and calling for UChicago to use its legal and financial resources to fight this action: “We call on the University of Chicago to denounce these immigration restrictions in the strongest possible terms, and to take all measures necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of its international community.”

Yesterday (July 8), at 8pm, President Zimmer and Provost Lee finally responded to ICE’s changes in a university-wide e-mail, writing, “We firmly oppose this new measure and will work to lessen its impact on the University’s international students.” It is great to have a university that “firmly opposes” actions that put many of its students in danger. However, this statement lacks any indication of substantive support for the students affected by ICE’s regulations (the email mentions the offer of remote classes, in-person courses and “community building” at UChicago’s international campuses in Paris and Hong Kong. As usual, students are being turned to UChicagoGRAD’s resources, including events and workshops for international students, though the email doesn’t explain how these will help the current problems international students are facing).
UChicago has yet to take any substantial action to protect students put at risk by ICE’s order. In contrast, a number of other universities, including Harvard and MIT, have sued for an injunction to prevent ICE from taking this action, or written amicus briefs in support of the lawsuit,. UChicago must similarly take action to protect its international students. 

GSU is currently organizing a town hall with legal experts to help international students and workers to understand how this situation will affect our community. We will also discuss how we can collectively help vulnerable members of our student population. Please stay tuned for an announcement soon.


CARES Act survey

Have you filled out our CARES Act survey yet? We want your thoughts on the university’s lack of transparency and limitations around access to CARES Act funds so that we know how to best address this issue going forward. You can fill out the (very short!) survey here. Many thanks to those of you that have already filled it out!


Protest Etiquette and Safety Guide

Our mutual aid committee has put together a document for members of GSU and our local community to get more information on how to get involved with the ongoing protests. This has suggestions on what to do before going to an action to stay safe, what to do after an action, how to get involved even if you can’t make it to the protests, and more! We will be adding to it throughout the summer and if anyone has any suggestions or would like to get involved with the mutual aid committee, please email us at gsu.mutualaid@gmail.com.
The Protest Etiquette and Safety Guide can be found here.


Things that make you go hmmm…UChicago takes down its plaque honoring Stephen Douglas

In its efforts to build “a stronger, more inclusive University of Chicago,” President Zimmer and Provost Lee announced earlier this week, in another campus-wide e-mail, that the university would remove its bronze plaque honoring Stephen A. Douglas, who was a slaveowner and donated much of the land on which the University of Chicago was originally founded. While purported to be a step of reckoning with the University’s problems of racial bias and inequities, in the same statement, UChicago distances itself from Douglas’s investment in slavery. The e-mail states that “Douglas died in 1861 and had no connection to the University of Chicago that was founded in 1890 as a new institution with a distinct mission.” As the Reparations at UChicago Working Group (RAUC) pointed out, these ties are stronger than the university readily admits. Moreover,  merely removing the plaque does not go nearly far enough toward satisfying the demands made of UChicago’s administration by the members of the University community and South Side community. Some of these demands, such as reparations in the form of affordable housing, healthcare, and education, and others, are much more urgent and stronger actions of accountability than the removal of a plaque,honoring a person to whom the University denies any connection. 

Read more in the paper “A Case for Reparations at the University of Chicago”  written by RAUC.


Call for Participation

As GSU re-charts its path forward post-disaffiliation and continues to monitor the administration’s response to emerging and intensifying crises, we want to heavily encourage our membership to get more involved this summer! This is an exciting time to get involved with GSU and all it takes is hopping on a Zoom call. Hope to see you all this summer!

Upcoming Events:

Last week we posted links to some GSU committees and events but the Zoom links didn’t work!  Here is that information again but with working Zoom links. All committees are open to all members always!

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 join the weekly Zoom call.Meeting ID: 825 3495 0856Password: 7cWMiY

Steering Committee: Every Tuesday at 6:00PM

Steering Committee is where GSU’s “big-picture” work gets done, including work around GSU’s direction post-disaffiliation, grievances, and more. Currently Steering is working on recruiting new committee members and streamlining its operations, so much of the work Steering has been doing with regard to the shape of a newly independent GSU will be taken up this week in other committees. However, Steering is the place to come if you want to figure out how to get involved! This work is incredibly important, and there is something for everyone at any level of time commitment (synchronous and asynchronous work available!). Current projects include revising our constitution, communications and design, making GSU a more inclusive environment, and worker organizing (including member outreach, mutual aid, political education, and direct actions)! Please feel free to reach out and join the weekly Zoom call:Meeting ID: 542 212 576 Password: 816543

Stewards Council/Organizing Committee: Every Monday at 6:00PM

Interested in getting involved in charting GSU’s path forward as an independent union? Stewards/OC is going to be using our regularly scheduled meeting this coming Monday to hold a Working Groups session where we will consider the future of GSU via small group discussion (topics TBD). We really want to see a lot of union members (not just stewards and DOs!) show up for this, so please try to make it out! Going forward this summer Stewards/OC will be alternating between our normal meeting and Working Group sessions, so if you can’t make it this Monday, we look forward to seeing you sometime later this summer
Please reach out to Lilly Judge (lillianjudge1@gmail.com) if you have any questions or suggestions for Working Group topics in the future. Zoom link here.Meeting ID: 853 8180 0548Password: 658126

FORCe (Funding Overhaul Research Committee): Every Wednesday at 6:00PM

This summer, FORCe is focused on preparing for the fight against the coming austerity from COVID-19 budget cuts. This incredibly important work includes building organizing capacity around the university, brainstorming around potential future actions, working with other workers organizing on campus, and more! To get involved with FORCe or find out more, join the Zoom call here. Meeting ID: 602 861 460 Password: 511950

Mutual Aid Committee: Currently deciding on a new time! Email gsu.mutualaid@gmail.com to get the Doodle poll link!

Our Mutual Aid Committee is one of our newest committees, which focuses on building membership and community solidarity through mutual aid. We are currently working on how to build solidarity with local organizations, identifying and compiling local mutual aid networks for members to get involved with, and providing information about the ongoing protests. Join the Zoom call here.

Meeting ID: 821 1403 2598 Password: 410160

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 join the Zoom call

GSU Statement on ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program Modifications

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) just announced that international students with F-1 and M-1 visas whose courseloads will be fully online must leave the United States or face deportation. GSU strongly condemns this policy and demands that the University of Chicago uses its financial and legal resources to act decisively in opposition to this policy. We also maintain that reopening campus is not the solution: it is reprehensible to force students to choose between risking infection to attend courses and deportation, especially when livelihoods and travel are so precarious. The administration of the University of Chicago must do its part to protect graduate students and other members of our community from the harmful policies of the federal government, from the dangers of COVID-19, financial insecurity, and from rising xenophobia and racism in our country. 


International students comprise 25% of the total student population at the University of Chicago. In Spring 2020, 918 undergraduate students and 2998 graduate and professional students were enrolled at the university; all are threatened by this and other xenophobic measures recently proclaimed by the Trump administration. The threat of deportation is a particularly grave problem given safety concerns stemming from the current COVID-19 pandemic. Travel to and from the United States is unreliable, expensive, restricted, or simply closed. International students, already under pressure from this country’s draconian immigration policies and mishandling of the pandemic, are now facing the very real possibility of having their education and lives further interrupted.
Even under the University of Chicago’s hybrid model for Fall 2020, international students on F-1 visas in coursework cannot take an entirely online course load and remain in the United States. Students do not have control over whether their courses will be in-person or online, and the university’s assurances that students with pre-existing conditions or other circumstances that require them to remain in online courses for their own safety can no longer apply to international students. Additionally, students currently abroad can only maintain their visa status if the university offers online-only instruction, which is currently not the case for the University of Chicago, forcing students to return to the United States despite the massive public health risks. If the COVID-19 situation worsens and forces the university to move online, students with visas will be forced to leave the country within 10 days. This would be unacceptable under normal conditions, but it is especially reprehensible during a worldwide pandemic. By leaving the “choice” between in-person versus online instruction to faculty and graduate instructors, the university is abdicating its responsibility to vulnerable students, instructors, and the university community as a whole. This places a burden upon departments to either force their faculty and instructors to risk their safety or to put students in a position to be deported – putting instructors in an impossible position.


Additionally, international students who are currently out of the country will not be able to re-enter the United States, forcing them into an especially difficult and unstable position where they must negotiate how to continue their research and education away from the university. This change comes on top of an already exacerbated situation for graduate students pursuing their degrees under the threat of probation and an already restricted timeline following the university’s recently unveiled funding overhaul program and the university’s refusal to address the unique hardships caused by COVID-19 for graduate students. We have already heard from several students that they have faced difficulties applying for and receiving their visas, an issue that will likely be further exacerbated by this measure. Additionally, it is still unclear how students no longer in coursework would be affected by this policy. Further, it is entirely unclear how this change will affect stipend payments, health insurance, and other forms of university-provided assistance. The university needs to ensure that all graduate students will continue to receive their health insurance, stipends, and other payments in full and on time, regardless of where they are located in the world.  Understandably, this uncertainty is causing considerable distress among students and graduate workers in our community.
We recognize that the best advocates for graduate students and workers are graduate workers themselves, and that the university’s refusal to enter into collective bargaining with graduate students worsens our already precarious position in academia. Quoting from our graduate worker colleagues at Northwestern, the university’s refusal to communicate and bargain with graduate workers “remains a palpable barrier to ensuring international graduate workers have a say over their protection and livelihoods.” 


We call on the University of Chicago to denounce these immigration restrictions in the strongest possible terms, and to take all measures necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of its international community.


In solidarity,
Graduate Students United

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! 

Exciting News for Other Grad Unions, CARES Act Funds, and Getting Involved This Summer!

Congratulations to our fellow graduate workers at Harvard and Brown!

Earlier this week, HGSU-UAW, the union of graduate workers at Harvard University, reached the end of a 19-month bargaining process to achieve a tentative agreement on a contract with their administration. They are currently in the process of their ratification vote! Read more at The Harvard Crimson.
This exciting news comes shortly after SUGSE, Brown University’s graduate student union, won their own contract, which they ratified earlier this week!
This is exciting news all around, and a huge congratulations on these two monumental wins for graduate workers everywhere. But the fight is not over, graduate workers across the United States (including at UChicago) work without their rights recognized or protected by their administrations. This is especially unjust, amidst a global pandemic and increasing austerity at most universities. Temporary band-aids are not enough. We need union organization and labor contracts to protect our rights as workers and students. Read this email to figure out how to get involved with GSU’s fight.

CARES Act Funds – and who’s eligible to them? 

On June 4th, the University announced that it accepted $6.2 million it was awarded by the Department of Education, from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act’s established Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). This announcement came after much deliberation, since the awarding of the funds to the university on April 9th

Accepting the funds has proven politically controversial for elite higher ed institutions, with many deciding not to accept the federal funds (e.g., Northwestern, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Duke, to name a few), and others, like Cornell University, announcing that they would allocate the entire funding they receive to assist students, and not just 50% as the Act requires. The University of Chicago followed suit with the latter, after almost two months of consideration.

GSU is commending any funding that goes to aid students (eligible students may receive up to $2500), but we are concerned about several aspects of the process, including its invitation-only nature, its non-transparency, and the eligibility criteria that the University posed on top of the original criteria stipulated by the CARES Act: According to the university policy, only students with a valid Free Application for Federal Students Aid (FAFSA) on file are eligible to the funds, thus narrowing down the eligible population, especially among graduate students. Moreover, the FAFSA should have been on file as of May 15, although the University announced this policy only on June 4th, meaning that if you hadn’t applied before their announcement, it was already too late! 

GSU is trying to assess 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.

Please take a minute of your time and fill in this short questionnaire!

Get Involved! Get (Re)Engaged! 

This is our first newsletter as an independent union (Yay!!!), since our affiliation vote. And we have exciting times ahead! In the next few weeks, we will develop our shared vision for GSU as an independent union. Our members are invited and encouraged to express their voice and take part in this process – in various ways! Stay tuned for an announcement on an upcoming GMM, and other avenues to participate in shaping GSU vision.

In the meantime, members are encouraged and more than welcome to join and attend our ongoing meetings. There are currently four different committees that members can attend and get involved with:

Stewards Council/Organizing Committee – Meets every Monday at 6:00PM.  Stewards are elected by membership to represent their department in the union.  There are currently openings for stewards in almost every department and this meeting is open to all members. 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!

Steering Committee – Meets every Tuesday at 6:00PM. Steering committee is also elected by membership and is responsible for the day-to-day responsibilities of the union including grievances, overall strategy, finances, endorsements, etc. We currently have vacant positions for divisional representatives in PSD, BSD, SSA, and the Divinity School. We also have openings for communications secretary and financial secretary. If any of these positions sound interesting, feel free to email us, or find the Zoom link in your GSU newsletter.

FORCe (Funding Overhaul Research Committee) – Meets every Wednesday at 6:00PM.  FORCe was formed in response to the funding overhaul announced earlier this year and has since been the driving force behind actions in our union. In FORCe’s short lifespan we have already organized three successful actions:

Funding overhaul petition
COVID-19 petition
June 3rd’s walkout/teach-in

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 on the GSU newsletter.

Mutual Aid Committee – Meets every Thursday at 5:30PM.  Our mutual aid committee is our newest committee which focuses on building membership and community solidarity through mutual aid. During our June 3rd action, members of the mutual aid committee bought and collected food to bring to local food pantries. We are compiling information on how to get involved in the community, protests to attend, how to attend protests safely, and more resources for GSU members to more easily get involved with the Chicago and South Side community. We have worked with the University of Chicago Labor Council (UCLC) to provide protest health and safety training which can be found on their Twitter here.  If you are interested in getting more information please email us or find the Zoom link on the GSU newsletter.

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.