Faculty Deliver Letter in Support of GSU

The letter accuses the university of presenting GSU’s decision to withdraw its certificate of representation without context and of cynically allying itself with the Trump administration.

By Alex Ward

A group of more than 100 faculty members signed a letter criticizing the University administration’s opposition to the campaign launched by the Graduate Student Union (GSU) to negotiate with the University on behalf of UChicago graduate students.

The letter, published on the website of UChicago’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, was delivered to University officials including President Robert Zimmer, Provost Daniel Diermeier, and Executive Vice Provost David Nirenberg on Wednesday, February 21.

On February 14, GSU announced that it had withdrawn its certificate of representation, which was granted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after UChicago graduate students voted to unionize last October. In the announcement, GSU members said that they chose to withdraw the certificate in order to prevent an NLRB board dominated by President Donald Trump’s appointees from using the ongoing NLRB case regarding the position to reverse a 2016 decision that recognized graduate students across the country as employees.

Graduate student unions at Yale University and Boston College also withdrew their certificates for the same reason.

In an e-mail the same day, Diermeier announced the withdrawal and expressed the University’s intent to communicate with graduate students about ways to better support them.

The letter’s authors were critical of the tone in the February 14 e-mail, writing that “Provost Diermeier engaged in careful reputation management, providing no explanation and no context for these events.”

They accused the University of continually refusing to negotiate with or recognize GSU in order to stall for a favorable ruling by the NLRB following the Trump administration’s appointments. According to the letter’s authors, in relying on the Trump administration for a favorable NLRB ruling, “the Zimmer/Diermeier administration cynically chose to ally the University with the most anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-democratic, anti-education administration in modern U.S. history.”