April 14, 2016

Letter: IIRON Calls on New Provost to Meet Demands

As representatives of the IIRON Student Network (ISN) at the University of Chicago, we’re writing in response to the announcement of an upcoming transition in the Office of the Provost. Our organization includes the UChicago Climate Action Network (UCAN), Students for Disability Justice (SDJ), Campaign for Equitable Policing (CEP), and Fair Budget UChicago (FBU).

Our collective has a variety of serious issues with policies and practices of this university, many of which will fall within the purview of our new provost, Daniel Diermeier. The role of provost is a powerful one: many student, faculty, and staff complaints regarding a wide range of policies, from sexual assault to living wages, must go through this office. We firmly believe that outgoing Provost Eric Isaacs and Diermeier must be held accountable to the people, whether they are students, faculty, staff, or the surrounding communities, whose lives are shaped by their decisions.

However, administrators such as Isaacs have continually denied our groups the opportunity to discuss such preeminent campus issues as living wages, fair policing, fossil fuel divestment, and better funding for disability services: they tell us that because such issues affect the entire university community, they should not be discussed in private meetings.

In light of these responses, and in hope of launching a more productive dialogue between students and administrators, we’d like to take this opportunity to publicly invite both our current and future provosts, Eric Isaacs and Daniel Diermeier, as well as Dean of Students John “Jay” Ellison and Vice President and Secretary of the University Darren Reisberg, to a public meeting hosted by ISN. The meeting, which will be held in the fifth week of this quarter, will be open to anyone with questions for any of these university officials.

In a recent interview published here in The Maroon, Diermeier said that during his transition into the role of provost, he wants to work to understand the "different points of views, and the various policy debates that are ongoing on campus." Annual or even quarterly appearances at College Council meetings are not enough to acquire a sufficient familiarity with the concerns and needs of this community: real accountability means engaging on equal terms rather than granting token appearances for which the administration sets the frequency, date, length, and agenda.

To be clear, we are asking that the Diermeier and Isaacs attend this meeting, but we are not just asking that the University divest from fossil fuels, expand and revitalize Student Disability Services, end its racist policing practices, and pay its workers a living wage. Those are demands. The Trauma Care Coalition, our own CEP, and Faculty Forward have all shown that great, persistent organizing can and does win huge concessions from this powerful institution. We’re not going away, and we will keep putting pressure on administrators until they respond to the needs of their students, workers, and members of the surrounding community.

—The IIRON Student Network at UChicago

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