Compiled by Pranathi Posa
GSU Celebrates Win, Admin Says Legal Fight Continues (October 19)
Graduate students overwhelmingly voted to unionize after years of organization, with 1,103 “yes” votes and 479 “no” votes. After beginning the process of legally certifying the union through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Graduate Students United (GSU) eventually withdrew their petition to formally unionize, citing concerns that the NLRB under the Trump administration would use GSU’s petition to overturn pro-grad union precedents. During former President Donald Trump’s administration, the NLRB floated a rule that graduate students were not employees, but this rule was withdrawn after the Biden administration took office, once again creating an avenue for GSU to seek recognition through the NLRB.
Brothers Timothy R. and Thomas L. Pearson donated $100 million on behalf of their family in 2015 to found the Pearson Institute, which would have hosted research on global conflict prevention. But in February 2018, the Pearson Family Foundation filed suit against the University for the $22.9 million it had already given, alleging that the University had not been meeting its obligations for developing the Institute. Then in April, the University denied the Pearsons’ allegations and filed a countersuit. Pearson family attorneys sent The Maroon subpoenas for documents in the ongoing lawsuit.
The Most Well-Armed Woman in North: Here’s the Story Behind the Crossbow Meme (April 2)
In March, a police incident report was posted to the Facebook group “UChicago Memes for Theoretical Midwest Teens,” detailing that a crossbow had been found in a student’s dorm room in Campus North residential hall. The owner of said confiscated crossbow, referred to in The Maroon as simply “M,” also voluntarily turned over a second weapon she had in her dorm room, a sword she referred to as “Dark Sister.”
University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) Officer Nicholas Twardak shot fourth-year Charles Thomas in the shoulder while responding to a report that Thomas was using a metal pole to break windows in an alley between South Kimbark Avenue and South Woodlawn Avenue. Body camera footage released by the University sparked debate and on-campus protests over Twardak and Thomas’s actions, especially after individuals close to Thomas said he was likely having a mental health episode. The incident led to the creation of the #CareNotCops campaign, which has been advocating for the defunding and abolition of UCPD ever since.
Jewel-Osco Officially Opens in Woodlawn (March 7)
After decades of Woodlawn being a food desert, a branch of the supermarket chain Jewel-Osco opened at East 61st Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue in March of 2019. The first full-service grocery store in the area, Jewel-Osco’s grand opening was attended by former mayor Rahm Emmanuel. The store was expected to create almost 200 full- and part-time jobs for members of the Woodlawn community.
Amid a national scandal surrounding college admissions at elite universities, The Maroon received emails sent in 2016 from a UChicago Career Advancement employee in which another staff member asked the employee to contact students that the office called “Special Interest Cases” (SIC). The messages, sent in 2016, said that “many of [SIC students’] parents are important supporters of Career Advancement,” both financially and by connecting students to organizations.
After a crowded mayoral field was whittled down to two candidates for the April run-off, UChicago alumna (J.D. ’89) Lori Lightfoot was elected the 56th mayor of Chicago, the first Black woman and openly lesbian woman to take the office. Lightfoot defeated her opponent, Toni Preckwinkle (A.B. ’69, A.M. ’77), by almost 50 percentage points.
Trader Joe's Opens in Hyde Park (October 21)
Trader Joe’s took over the space previously occupied by the grocery store Treasure Island, which closed in late 2018. Located at 55th and Lake Park, it was the first Trader Joe’s to open on the South Side. Previous to its opening, the southernmost Trader Joe’s in Chicago was located in the South Loop. The grand opening was heralded by the Kenwood Academy marching band and approval from University and community members, including 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston.
After obtaining documents pertaining to faculty and administrator meetings and communications, The Maroon examined the increased centralization of the University’s administration under President Zimmer. The series covers a range of issues from the University administration’s handling of GSU, to the minimized role of faculty in academic matters, to the loss of dialogue between student government and administrators.
In what went on to become a year and a half of remote learning, University President Robert Zimmer and Provost Ka Yee Lee announced that spring quarter would be conducted remotely in response to a growing number of COVID-19 cases in March 2020. Students living in on-campus housing were to vacate housing by March 22, the last Sunday of winter quarter.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department, UChicago students around the country participated in protests. In the South Side, community groups rallied to support those protesting. Organizations like Tenants United and GSU provided protective supplies and safety training. Experimental Station, a South Side nonprofit, found its community food program in high demand due to a temporary shutdown of grocery stores during the protests. Brave Space Alliance, the first Black-led and trans-led LGBTQ+ center on the South Side, organized jail support for protestors who were arrested, in addition to providing a safe place for protesters who were stranded in Hyde Park after transportation shutdowns.
After a 15-year tenure, University President Robert Zimmer announced that he would be stepping down as president and transition into the role of Chancellor of the University before the start of the 2021-2022 school year. The position of Chancellor has not been used by the University for over 60 years, and according to the email announcing the change, Zimmer’s assumption of the role is not a permanent reinstatement of the position in University governance.
Last year’s cohort of transfer students experienced disorganization and months-long delays in transferring class credits to UChicago, resulting in students being asked to pre-register with little certainty over their transferred credits and with fears of delayed graduation. Many members of the unusually large transfer cohort—75 students, compared to the usual 20—waiting for departments to complete their course credit evaluations found themselves receiving incomplete or missing evaluations.
While students of all class years have been allowed to return to campus, the majority of traditional offerings, including classes, Registered Student Organization (RSO) meetings, and O-Week programming have gone virtual. This has left first-year students facing new challenges, from making friends to finding study spaces. However, they have also taken it as an opportunity to explore campus and the city of Chicago.
Paul Alivisatos Selected as University’s 14th President (February 21)
Nearly six months after University President Robert Zimmer announced that he would be stepping down from his post, Paul Alivisatos, former Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at University of California, Berkeley, was named the fourteenth president of the University. Alivisatos will take office come September 1.
President Robert Zimmer and Provost Ka Yee Lee announced that the University is planning to hold the 2021–22 academic year entirely on campus. This would entail a return to full-service housing and dining, a majority of classes being held in-person, the resumption of study-abroad programs, and in-person academic/career advising alongside virtual appointments. The reopening is, however, contingent on a high rate of vaccination within the University community, continued adherence to precautionary measures in line with government guidelines, and low rates of infection in Chicago.
Off-campus parties and travelling during spring break resulted in the University’s first concentrated outbreak of COVID-19 within residents of on-campus housing. In response to the outbreak, the University instituted a stay-at-home order that lasted from April 7 to April 20 in order to contain the spread of infection. Following the announcement, College Council (CC) released a statement urging administrators to consider repercussions for individuals that had violated the UChicago Health Pact, in addition to creating a renewed push by CC for the University to recognize Greek Life on campus.
The sudden closure of campus in March 2020 due to the pandemic forced many students back home. International students who are learning from halfway around the globe face difficulties with attending synchronous classes and turning in assignments on time while maintaining regular sleep schedules. While individual professors have made attempts towards accommodation, international students’ struggles with remote learning have found little traction among University administrators.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University accelerated its timeline to switch to a nine-week quarter, a change that was originally scheduled to take place in autumn 2021. The schedule change was intended to increase students’ access to summer opportunities that begin in June. However, the switch has been met with widespread dissatisfaction from the undergraduate student body, and in a CC report sent to the University administration, undergraduate student satisfaction with the 2020–21 academic calendar was only 38 percent.