A Fait Accompli, An Unrecognized GSU: The State of the University

By Graduate Students United, Contributor

The Maroon’s series on faculty governance—or more accurately, the administration’s ongoing trampling of faculty governance—painted a profoundly alarming portrait of single-minded union-busting and disregard for the voices of faculty and grad students alike. We thank the editors and reporters for the vast amount of work that clearly went into their reporting. Among the wealth of material the Maroon uncovered, a few points stick out in particular.

When then-Provost Diermeier announced his plan to overhaul doctoral programs in four divisions, we noted that many faculty were unaware of the changes. The letter from over 100 faculty members (which we’ve heard that other faculty simply didn’t read in time to sign) confirmed that claims that the plan was created collaboratively were “simply not true.” The letter also confirmed that proposed caps would cut the humanities division by more than 25 percent, raising pressing questions for SSD [Social Sciences Division], SSA [School of Social Service Administration], and Divinity, particularly in disciplines and methodologies with longer times to completion. And we are still stunned at the report that divisional deans knew of the plan in the summer but “were sworn to secrecy.” What else is being withheld from faculty, or from us? What confidence can one have in an administration that hides such major plans until they are announced in the media as faits accomplis?

But we have not yet spoken of the debates over GSU (Graduate Students United) and unionization. We were honestly heartened to read of so many faculty members, including some who have not made public stances in favor of unionization, or have even expressed concerns with it, speaking in favor of our basic ability to make decisions about how to organize ourselves as employees. But once again, such voices were ignored or dismissed by the central administration. The Provost seemed to have no compunction about dismissing faculty concerns and even misrepresenting GSU’s conduct in an apparent effort to discredit us.

Some comments from administrators, recorded in the minutes of the Faculty Senate, should raise immense concern regardless of one’s feelings on unionization. We refer in particular to Dr. Diermeier’s dismissal of Title IX amongst issues raised in collective bargaining at other universities that, in his estimation, “have nothing to do with improvements to graduate student life.” Title IX prohibits sexual misconduct, including harassment and discrimination. These are very real issues at UChicago and elsewhere—which is why grad unions emphasize Title IX enforcement as part of “improvements to graduate student life.”

We voted to unionize, and we continue to call for recognition, because we seek a more democratic university where intellectual life flourishes. Faculty governance is a central part of that vision. We invite faculty members to join us in working toward these goals, despite the determined efforts of the administration to take the University of Chicago in the opposite direction.