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Campus Report: The University of Chicago
By Andrew Yale

Graduate Students United (AFT/AAUP) at the University of Chicago has resumed organizing this fall after a summer break with a presence at new student orientation and a renewal of membership and cultivation of member-organizers in and across departments and work units. During the summer two organizers attended the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions annual meeting in Montreal. Delegates to CGEU-with dozens attending from grad employee locals throughout the US and Canada-approved a constitution (http://www.thecgeu.org/cgeu-constitution-draft-committee/constitution-draft), formalizing a coalition that has for 22 years already been meeting and organizing in solidarity across parent union affiliations and the US-Canada boundary. Members of GSU ratified the constitution at their fall members meeting. Most of the discussion at this meeting centered on current organizing projects, which include affordable child care, academic freedom and freedom of expression, and the elimination of fees. The parents' issues working group along with University of Chicago's Student Parent Organization continue to lead the call for truly affordable child care on campus, building on successful campaigns that in recent years led to the creation of a parental leave policy and a $500 per quarter child care subsidy. On academic freedom and freedom of expression, GSU joins a campus conversation that has been provoked by the firing of Steven Salaita at the University of Illinois as well as direct action undertaken by the movement calling for the creation of a level 1 adult trauma center at the University of Chicago Hospital. GSU is planning a campaign calling on the administration to eliminate or subsidize the manifold fees that grad students face, including a student life fee that increases 11% each year while teaching wages have stagnated, and a tuition fee imposed on advanced grad students of $2,370 per year (most graduate student teachers in years six and above attempting to finish a dissertation and contending with a casualized academic job system receive a full subsidy on tuition, but the student life fee and health insurance premium together amount to almost half of a teaching assistant's paycheck). In campaigning against fees, GSU joins fellow members of CGEU, who agreed at this summer's meeting to make the campaign against fees a coordinated project in the US and Canada. GSU continues to aim for recognition and collective bargaining, taking as inspiration the organizing achievements of graduate employees at private universities such as NYU, Yale, and Columbia as well as the democratic, social movement unionism practiced by graduate employees at public universities.