GSU Organizes Boycott of Student Services Fee, Citing Economic Burden

Nearly 500 graduate students have pledged to withhold payment as of Thursday evening.


A GSU sign reads, “Ants are cool / So are unions.”

By Alex Dalton

Nearly 500 graduate students at the University of Chicago have pledged to withhold payment of student services fees in a boycott organized by Graduate Students United (GSU).

Participating students have pledged to withhold payment until the University fulfills a list of demands, including waiving the student services fee of $416 per quarter or reducing it to no more than $125 per quarter for the entirety of the 2020-2021 academic year. GSU has also demanded that the University release more detailed information on the use of student services fee, including the percentage of funds allocated to each University service, and that it notify prospective students of the student services fee in advance of their enrollment.

The graduate student services fee, which was due on Wednesday February 3, is used to “provide and promote educational, social, cultural, and recreational programs and services for all students throughout the year,” according to the Office of the University Bursar. Student service fees also fund student health and wellness programs and Recognized Student Organizations (RSOs). These programs serve both graduate and undergraduate students.

The University had previously reduced the fee to $125 for Spring 2020, but the amount has gone back up for subsequent quarters.

In an email to The Maroon, University’s Assistant Director for Public Affairs Gerald McSwiggan, highlighted University’s inclusion of the graduate student services fee in the cost of attendance for students, which is published annually, and added that “graduate students generally receive notification of applicable fees when they are admitted to the University.”

GSU, which remains unrecognized by the University administration, cited financial strains on graduate students caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“As virus cases climb and many graduate workers and their families are facing lost income due to the pandemic, those hundreds of dollars make a dramatic difference,” GSU members wrote in the pledge.

GSU Media Liaison Laura Colaneri told The Maroon that graduate students should not be charged the same amount for scaled-back services, citing restrictions on library and gym use put in place to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Virtual events simply are not replacing the expense of on-campus events,” Colaneri said.